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Five Questions with Author Piper Huguley-Riggins

March 2016

March marks the beginning of the English Club’s first campus-wide book club reading featuring "The Preacher’s Promise," a scintillating historical romance set at a historically Black college written by Spelman College Department of English professor and author, Piper Huguley-Riggins.  Visit the event page for more details.

Piper Huguley-Riggins 1. What can campus readers expect to experience in your novel "A Preacher’s Promise?"
"A Preacher's Promise" falls under the name of a genre some call "edutainment."  Readers can expect to learn something of the lives of the formerly enslaved in the wake of the Civil War. At the same time, I hope they will be entertained by the love story of two opposing forces of nature.

2. How has being a professor at a HBCU impacted, influenced, and/or inspired your creation of the fictive Milford College, an HBCU that serves as a central setting in many of your novels?
When I attended Founders Day ceremonies, I wondered why no one was telling the story of how HBCUs were founded. Then, when I did some research on my own and discovered the role that educated Black people played in coming to the South to teach the formerly enslaved, the idea really began to take shape. These are parts of our history that people assume are being told, but really aren't.

The Preachers Promise3. How do women in your novels speak to Alice Walker’s definition of womanism presented in "In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens?"
Amanda speaks to the first part of the definition that Walker brings forth as "willful" or as I see it, as not being held in check by anyone. She was raised  free in Ohio, so she has been free to live her life as she wanted.. Her father encouraged that in her, much to Virgil's displeasure. The relationship between Pauline and Amanda and the role that they share in shaping young March speaks to the second part of Walker's definition. These women become great friends when such a relationship would have been impossible a few years before. I think that the story charts the course of Amanda's coming to realize love of herself and her people. She comes to understand she has a great deal that she must share, and finds her life's purpose that way.

4. Why is historical romance so widely read among African-American romance readers?
What are the benefits of the historical setting? How does it benefit the writer in creating an enveloping experience for the reader? Well, I'm not so sure that historical romance is that widely read among African -American romance readers. There aren't a lot of writers who write this way. There's only been one writer who has done it over the past 20 years. So, what I write is pretty new.  A lot of African Americans, not ones that attend and support the HBCU experience, are still very much ashamed of their history. They think it's strange to see African-American history discussed in this way. I'm hoping that by writing these stories, it is possible to show that the ancestors had an inner life. I want readers to see the ancestors as whole people who fell in love with one another or else we wouldn't be here. To me, the benefit happens whenever readers tell me they were afraid to read my novels because they believed there would be pain there, but instead they found inspiration and resilience in the story.

5. What projects are you currently working on? What should we look out for coming from author Piper Huguley-Riggins in the future?
I'm working on the next book in the Home to Milford College series, "The Songbird's Stand,” which is the love story of March, the little girl in "The Preacher's Promise."  Right now, I'm looking forward to writing the stories of how Milford College grew and came to be. We have a proud and rich history to tell and I want to get that across to as many people I can, in whatever way I can.

About Author Piper Huguley-Riggins

Piper Huguley seeks to make new inroads in the publication of historical romance by featuring African -American Christian characters. "The Lawyer’s Luck" and "The Preacher’s Promise", the first books in her “Home to Milford College” series, are Amazon best sellers.  "The Mayor’s Mission",", published in Winter 2014.  The next entry in the series, "The Representative’s Revolt," will publish in spring 2015. She is a 2013 Golden Heart finalist for her novel, "A Champion’s Heart"—the fourth book in “Migrations of the Heart.” The first book in the series, "A Virtuous Ruby," was the first-place winner in The Golden Rose Contest in 2013 and was a Golden Heart finalist in 2014. The first three books in the “Migrations of the Heart” series, which follows the loves and lives of African -American sisters during America’s greatest internal migration in the first part of the twentieth century, will be published by Samhain Publishing in 2015.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

For more information, visit piperhuguley.com

About "The Preacher’s Promise"

1866 – Oberlin, Ohio

Devastated by her father’s death days after her triumphant graduation from Oberlin College, Amanda Stewart is all alone in the world. Her father’s unscrupulous business partner offers her an indecent proposal to earn a living. Instead, to fulfill a promise she made to her father, she resolves to start a school to educate and uplift their race. Sorting through her father’s papers, she discovers he had carried on a mysterious correspondence with a plantation in Milford, Georgia. She determines to start her teaching work with the formerly enslaved. However, when she arrives, the mayor tells her to leave. There’s nowhere for her to go.

Virgil Smithson, Milford’s mayor, blacksmith and sometimes preacher man with a gift for fiery oratory, doesn’t want anything to do with a snobby schoolteacher from up North. On top of everything else, the schoolteacher lady has a will hard enough to match the iron he forges. He must organize his fellow formerly enslaved citizens into a new town and raise his young daughter alone. Still, his troubled past haunts him. He cannot forget the promise he made to his daughter’s mother as she died—that their child would learn to read and write. If only he didn’t have secrets that the new schoolteacher seems determined to uncover.

To keep THE PREACHER’S PROMISE, Amanda and Virgil must put aside their enmity, unite for the sake of a newly-created community in a troubling age, and do things they never imagined. In the aftermath of the flood that was the Civil War, God set his bow upon the earth to show love and understanding for humankind. To reflect God’s promise, these combatants must put aside their differences and come together--somehow.

About the Spelman College English Department

By equipping students with an extensive knowledge of the English language and vital critical thinking skills, the English major provides a platform for success in more than just literature.  “We are increasingly innovative,” says Tarshia L. Stanley, Ph.D., department chair. “We want to figure out who our students are, what they need, and how they are going to be able to compete in the 21st century.”

For more information, visit www.spelman.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/english.
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