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Friday, 17 February 2012

All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann

The story was inspired by actual events, specifically the U.S. Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 1842. I first learned about it when I was doing freelance copyediting for a book about Supreme Court justices. The case appealed the conviction of a bounty hunter from Maryland  (Edward Prigg) charged with kidnapping Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color living in Pennsylvania who was alleged to be an escaped slave. The court case focused on state's rights, and the ruling represented the first time a major branch of the U.S. government made a proslavery stand. But I was most interested in Margaret and what became of her.

My original goal was to write a biography, and I spent about three years researching her life -- or, at least, attempting to research her life. The sad truth is that Margaret and her fate were irrelevant at the time. The issue for most people in the mid-1800s was much bigger than one woman's fight for freedom. Yet, to me, it was all about Margaret. When I realized I didn't have enough facts to write a biography, I was devastated and grudgingly packed away my research.

Then my mother-in-law loaned me a book, a fictional biography about George Washington, by Mary Higgins Clark. It was an entertaining read, and it gave me the idea that a fictional biography might be the only way I could tell Margaret's story and really do it justice.

That's how my novel was born. Tons of secondary research went into the book. I devoured reference books, diaries, slave testimonials, newspaper archives -- anything I could get my hands on to help me better understand what the average person experienced on any given day in that era. That research provided the factual framework of the novel, and I filled in the blanks based on what my mind, my heart and my gut were telling me as each scene unfolded.

What really happed to Margaret Morgan? No one knows. What I do know is that she suffered a great injustice. And it was a similar injustice suffered by thousands of other women just like her -- wives, mothers, daughters -- during that dark period in U.S. history. That fact is what propelled the fictional story I ultimately wrote.

The history books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.

All Different Kinds of Free is available in trade paperback and e-book from Bell Bridge Books. Learn more at the official website

Buy the book from your local bookseller 
or from Amazon US


Helen Hollick said...

Looks very interesting - wishing you good luck with this, a novel that should be read, I think

Holly Weiss said...

I was fortunate to read All Different Kinds of Free as a pre-release. I think Jessica McCann's research is impeccable. She masterfully created her main character, Margaret.
This is a must read.
Congratulations, Jessica!

Deborah Swift said...

Hello Helen and Holly, thanks for visiting the blog. This looks like the sort of read that should be snapped up by book groups. Best of luck with it, Jessica.

Barbara Anne Waite said...

I think this would be a terrific bookclub experience. I read this book and it lingered in my mind, the tragedy and also the triumph of this woman's spirit. Jessica did a an amazing work in giving this story depth. Highly recommended.
Barbara Anne Waite- author

Jessica McCann said...

Thanks, Helen, for the well wishes and, Deborah, for featuring my book on your blog. Holly and Barbara Anne, your support and kind words mean the world to me. Thanks all!