'Good fortune' - SCHS grad and Harvard freshman releases debut novel

Tue, 01/12/2010 - 2:57pm
By: Michael Boylan

When Noni Carter was a young girl in elementary school, she would write short stories and poetry. She had collected so many writings that she put them together in a collection for her family when she was eight years old. Four years later, after hearing her aunt tell a story about her great, great, great great grandmother watching her mother get sold into slavery on the banks of the Mississippi, Carter began writing a story that would change her life.

“It was originally supposed to be a short story,” said Carter. “But it went from 25 pages to 50, then 100 and ended up at 300 pages.” That story, after a long journey of editing, revision and the search for publishing, became “Good Fortune,” Carter’s debut novel released by Simon and Schuster last Tuesday.

Carter has always been fascinated with the topic of slavery in America and had even written a story about a slave who escaped when she was nine years old. “Good Fortune, ” a historical fiction novel for young adults, focuses on the life of a girl who was a slave and escaped and a large part of the book focuses on what freedom would mean and what the life of an escaped slave would be like.

“The storyline and the essence are the same from when I wrote it” Carter said, explaining that there have been many changes in the dozens of revisions that have followed. She and her editor, Alexandra Cooper, had a number of decisions to make in the final revisions and Carter admitted that it was tough. “I had to let go of some things I loved from the early editions, but each time through it got better and better.” Carter added that she found it interesting that as she was growing up and changing, from 12-18, the novel was changing and maturing as well.

The book found its way to Simon and Schuster in a rather unusual way. Carter and her parents had been examining self-publishing for a while once the book was complete, but they never made a final commitment to one company.

“My mother kept saying that something just didn’t feel right,” Carter recalled. One day while at an event with her sister, she was working on a revision on her laptop and Kwame Alexander, a published poet and author that Carter refers to as her mentor asked her what she was doing. She told him about her book and he encouraged her to get it published, either by herself or professionally. Carter and her father took galleys of the book to the Book Expo of America and handed them out to numerous publishing companies with little response.

“My father and I decided to change our tactics and the company we decided to practice on was Simon and Schuster,” Carter said. “The man we spoke to was the Vice President of the company and the energy between us was good. He set up a meeting the next day and they picked up my book.”

Since the book was completed, Carter has handed the book out to some friends and family, even her African American Literature professor at Harvard and the response has been good.

“One of my friends called last week after reading it and said ‘I wouldn’t expect a person I go to school with to have written this’,” Carter said, adding that there was a time she was nervous about publishing the book, wondering if it was good enough.

The goal of ‘Good Fortune,’ according to Carter, is to get her readers to understand the scope of the struggle that the slaves faced and African-Americans have faced since slavery was abolished.
“The book is about freedom, but freedom from mental bondage as well as physical bondage,” Carter explained. She hopes that the book finds an audience and understands that the book may be bigger a few years down the line as word of mouth spreads.

Having a release date around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month could certainly help find readers sooner rather than later, but Carter is staying humble and open to whichever way the journey continues.

Carter is in the area until Jan. 23 and the publicity push for the book will start in the south. She will speak about the book and sign copies at a church in Memphis, where she will also play piano at the service. There will also be signings and discussions at a number of places in the county and the Atlanta area.

On Friday, she will sign copies of hr book at the Fayetteville Barnes and Noble and on Monday, Jan. 18, she will have a display and will sign copies at the Fayette County Branch NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Observance Program at Sams Auditorium.

Soon, Carter will return to Cambridge to go back to school where she focuses on history and music. She is interested in post-colonial cultures in Africa and Latin America and social anthropology.
She hinted towards work on a second novel but offered nothing concrete.

“I intend to write about a lot of different topics and experiment with different things,” said Carter, who offered this advice for aspiring authors, “stick with your goal, stay immune to criticism and praise and don’t let fear get a hold of you.”

Carter heeded her own advice while getting her novel published and if she continues to have good fortune, ‘Good Fortune’ could help towards her tuition at Harvard.

login to post comments