I’m always honored to feature a fellow GLAWS (Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society) member here on No Wasted Ink. Marva has published only one book, but I’m certain that it will not be her last.
I am Marva Washington, a proud member of a whimsical national club called Marvalous Marva. Don’t worry-I don’t take that description seriously. Our name simply lends itself to that word of course with one changed letter. I am originally from South Carolina but for the past thirty plus years, I have resided in the Los Angeles, CA area. My work, however is Carolina based because I have lots of childhood memories and unique stories. Bid Whist at Midnight is my first comprehensive and published work, but I hope it will not be my last.
When and why did you begin writing?
I fell in love with the written word after my eighth grade teacher discovered that even though I could read well, I did not comprehend and mentally process what I read. She worked with me for one full year and the light went on. During the summer break following that year, I “discovered” the public library and began to lose myself in great works. In ninth grade, another teacher discovered not only did I read well, but I could write as well. Thus began my limited writing “career”. My genre at that time was science fiction. I loved the Twilight Zone and that influenced my writing style. I wrote a short story a month. Most were only four pages of long hand, but my “fan” club eagerly awaited each new episode. I think they really liked the little romantic interludes thrown in with the science.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As stated above, my teachers always played an encouraging part and when I began to get “A”s on written assignments and when some of them were chosen because of their originality to be read aloud for the class, I began to believe in my talent.
Share a little about the book, please.
The social changes of the 1960s wouldn’t have been possible without the support of college students and grassroots activists taking up the charge. Bid Whist at Midnight delivers a coming-of-age story of four young women caught up in the enormity of the Civil Rights Movement. It takes readers on a trip through time, back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and forward in time 20 years when three of the four women reunite and revisit one of the worse nights of their lives-the night of the Orangeburg massacre. What they find is that they are still haunted by guilt, but their reunion reminds them of the power of their friendship, allowing them to come to a place of forgiveness, love and a long-awaited farewell to a friend.
Bid Whist at Midnight is a strong romance novel in its own right, but it gains its legs in its social commentary looking back at the ‘60s and the cultural concerns facing black people at the time. It is a historical and sociological study of a volatile period in American history that provides a view and a voice not previously written.
What inspired you to write the book?
In February 1968, a significant year because of the instability in the United States, a civil rights demonstration led by black college students attending South Carolina State College and neighboring Claflin College, turned deadly and resulted in what is known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Two years later, a similar demonstration erupted in Ohio that simply became known as Kent State. To this day, a lot is known about Kent State while the Orangeburg Massacre still occupies an obscure branch in history. Since writing the book, there has been increased awareness and interest in the massacre. Making this incident known was a great part of what inspired me to write the book. We learn from the past so that we will hopefully not repeat mistakes in the future. If the Orangeburg Massacre was not covered up, Kent State may not have happened.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My goal is to write with clarity so that the reader will have a wonderful experience following the story and complexities such as time shifts and multiple story lines which is characteristic of this book. Characters sometimes create unplanned paradigm shifts, but those simply challenge the author to delve more deeply into character development and enrich their stories.
How did you come up with the book title?
That was the easiest part. Bid Whist is a card game that was extremely popular at State. As explained in the book, entire social cliques were created around the game and it bonded the characters originally during their school days. So their reunion is built around the game. It had to begin at midnight because of extenuating factors which are revealed in the book as they play.
Is there a message in the novel?
As alluded to previously, many readers expressed great surprise upon learning about the Orangeburg Massacre. Others are learning about unique sociological and cultural complexities surrounding Afro-Americans. The book transcends racial lines in that readers of all ethnicities have recognized universal traits that have no racial boundaries. Similar to what the Bill Cosby Show did.
Are the book experiences based on actual people or events?
I am a “product” of the 1960s so have personal knowledge of events and a real feeling for the era to include prominent social movements and of Viet Nam from a military perspective. The characters are composites of people I have known over the years. Places are real but the circumstances are purely fiction. The massacre is a historical event, but the stories and interactions of the characters on that evening are fictional.
What authors have most influenced your life?
My school teachers including my mother and my faith had the most influences on my life. As far as my writing, I love works by certain authors and hope to emulate their talents. I enjoy and admire James Michener, Sheldon Leonard, Earl Stanley Gardner, Margaret Mitchell, Toni Morrison and Rod Serling.
What writer would you have chosen as a mentor?
I wish I could have been mentored by James Michener. He was a prolific writer and I have read most of his fictional epics. He incorporated history into all of his works and did a massive amount of research prior to writing. He included lots of background information and grew into his stories slowly while pulling the reader along as he built each plot and scenario.
Who designed the book cover?
The publisher has an in-house graphic arts department, so they designed the cover and did the art work.
Do you have any advice to other writers?
Do your homework first. Either read books or take classes that can guide you through the entire writing process. Before you begin consult outside sources which can help you make wise decisions on everything from the genre to your choice in a publisher. It does not mean that you will not make mistakes; it just means that you may make less expensive ones. You must be self-motivated because there is no “boss” looking over your shoulders urging you to fill those empty pages. Commit to it and take it seriously. This is your profession and it reflects you even if you are writing at the behest of family members who simply want a history or for the public at large because you have something bigger to relate. Do not insult your reader with shoddy work. Believe in your work as you face nay-sayers and non-supporters. Tell yourself that others have undergone this process, so can I. Most of all have fun. Holding your bound completed copy provides the greatest satisfaction on Earth.
Are there any final words you’d like to express to your readers?
These two simple words cover a lot of ground-Thank You!! You gave me the confidence to move forward and put the work out to the public. You have given me countless referrals to readers and book clubs who are now beginning to read the book and you continue to stick by me giving me the inspiration to attempt another future publication. Thank you for all of it.
Los Angeles, CA