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Stephanie M. Sellers describes her hobbies as “country.” She enjoys gardening – including growing hemp and raising “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas” Bronze Breasted turkeys – caring for dogs, hiking, and horses. Everything she likes, except writing, she says, involves getting dirty. In the summer, she can go through three outfits a day.
Sellers has been writing since she was seven years old. In addition to historical fiction, she has written young adult short stories.
She is the author of The Exsanguination of the Second Society and is the next author to be featured in my interview series focusing on historical fiction and historical romance authors.
Sellers on Writing
What is your writing process like?
Sellers: My writing process is like sewing: measure, rip, sew, repeat. I believe that the ideas drifting from connections and reflections are as important as the research they inspire because without the first dab of wonder, nothing would transpire.
What was your biggest publishing struggle or lesson learned?
Sellers: The biggest challenge is marketing on a budget. Because this work has significant historical value, I have reached out to universities and instructors to share the research, which is handy to have in one big glob. As an advocate for North Carolina’s Tuscarora, the work’s main goal is to spread awareness, and help locals easily learn about their history.
Part of the work of an advocate is helping to create better opportunities for the marginal group and this work, in the hands of ethical instructors, will propel the narrative and may get a few sales along the way.
How much research do you do for your novels?
Sellers: For this work, I acquired 237 pages of testimony, FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] documents, interviews and scholarly research. I lived in a constant state of historical consumption until I was satisfied that there was enough evidence to prove to anyone from anywhere that Robeson County, North Carolina’s Tuscaroras are the original natives who deserve reparations beyond compare of any other tribe.
How do your novels teach readers about the past?
Sellers: The old adage that no man is an island is one of the lessons that I hope people learn through historical fiction. Most everything we do will affect someone at some point in time, from a choice of how we speak to another to how we manage our lives and sort our recyclables. I say recyclables because I believe souls, through DNA, return to live as we pass and others are born. Some call this psychohistory.
Concerning this work, The Exsanguination of the Second Society, the largest element people need to know about is how one group of people from over 300 years ago, helped destroy the future of another group through the use of derogatory language, greed, corruption, and unjust laws. These Tuscarora living in Maxton, North Carolina are like living ghosts. When I conducted interviews at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke there were instructors and students who did not even know these Natives lived in this college community and this college was founded by N.C. Tuscaroras, but it is oppressed by the large state recognized Lumbee Tribe which dominates the college at every level.
Tell me about your latest release.
Sellers: My book’s description reads: It is always “riot season” in Robeson County, NC, where 65,000 state recognized Lumbees oppress 4,000 NC Tuscarora. During the wild summer of 2020, Bruce Black’s life turns from moonshine to wine when he learns the truth about his heritage, and he ends up fighting for his life and four thousand others who grew up believing the lies. A grassroots movement to educate the masses on the area’s true native history, to lift the oppression, expose the unscrupulous and find the stolen proof of ascendency, leads to a powerful explosion when outsiders rush in to help Bruce Black.
The Exsanguination of the Second Society is a book within a book, set in rural North Carolina in the year 2020. Each chapter has a shadow chapter, i.e., Chapter 1, The Vexing Now, Jake’s present life, is shadowed by Chapter 1, The Vexing Then, Jake’s past life, which is a draft of a collaborated book with a librarian written out of desperation. Psychohistory binds the chapter versions while a love story propels the reader to learn if Jake Wilkes “bakes an apple pie” for his proposal as a love triangle’s roots are exposed and a tribe is threatened with extinction.
The Lumbee Tribe recently “shadowed in” NC’s Tuscaroras as a “splinter tribe,” without their consent, thusly oppressing their heritage and efforts for reparations.
This shadow-chapter method works to serve as a demonstration of human behavior in how political decisions are made. It demonstrates how time has changed the region’s culture thusly affecting perspectives during adaptation periods while it also highlights what does not change. This method highlights the region’s endangered vernacular as a social language that binds community. During interviews, as people grew relaxed with me, both Lumbees and Tuscaroras used more of the region’s vernacular.
Most importantly, it highlights the endangerment of the factual history of NC’s Tuscaroras, early victims of colonization in forced removal from their own lands. It draws attention to how the People have been victimized by colonization’s limited scope of preservation, by land swindlers, by political persuasion, and widespread bias and oppression, much of which has been culminated from false narratives, ultimately fulfilling the original white philosophy of “kill the Indian, save the man.”
Seventy-five annotated references are within the body of the story. From an instructional aspect, the presentation of the facts provokes curiosity in learners: It encourages research. The Then chapters are designed to attract young readers and serves as a relief from the Now chapters which are heavier with facts. The shadowing methods demonstrates how behavior patterns within different eras transcend timelines.
If I met a stranger from the Midwest who had no idea what a Tuscarora was, I would tell them to imagine the natives portrayed from the “Dances With Wolves” movie, wearing blue jeans and tees who always had a pocket knife, deep thoughts, and strong resentments toward outsiders because all they have ever known is betrayal. When a N.C. Tuscarora is your friend, it says something about your character and I feel blessed to have made a few, but it was not easy.
What’s next for you?
Sellers: Comic relief – I am bushed! With America reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic impact and restrictions, and the destruction of so many cities from citizens who we once passed on regularly basis and considered, “neighbors” who are now frightening figures and strangers among us, there is a need for comic relief and I am crazy enough to deliver some wild stuff.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Sellers: Oh, Wally Lamb is one of my favorites. Lamb takes us into the character’s heart and we can’t escape the experience in the story. We can’t shake it and don’t forget it. It’s a real talent to write like that and I aspire to write like him when I am “in character” and talking out their lines. His work I Know This Much is True still haunts me.
Sellers on History
What is your favorite historical era and why?
Sellers: Right now, the 1700’s [are] my favorite, but if I was able to time travel, I would have to be a male because they’d either cut off my tongue or hang me as soon as I reached puberty. I am all about equal rights and when I was a young teen and full of spit-fire, was a bit much to handle and would have run away with the first handsome native that smiled at me. I love the idea of living off the land and communal living, the reverence of elderly and how natives treated the land and family. Oh, and the horses, there were Appaloosas and Mustangs.
What historical figure would you like to spend a day with and why?
Sellers: Benjamin Franklin has been a longtime favorite character. He was an inspirational writer, inventor, and worked toward the good of all instead of just for his own benefit.
Name three historical events you’d like to witness if you had a time machine?
Sellers: 1. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
2. The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. The moment when N.C. Tuscaroras first realized that early explorers (British soldiers) were planning to steal their land.
Do you enjoy genealogy? If so, what’s the most interesting story you discovered in your family tree?
Sellers: Yes, genealogy is interesting, and the oddest thing I’ve learned [is] that on a prairie trail, a relative’s young husband died and the young wife was pregnant, so before entering the next town, it was decided she should marry her father-in-law to prevent rumors.
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