Released today, this book takes you inside the family of a black young man shot and killed by a white man, who uses the controversial stand your ground law as his defense. What's unique about this story is that Murray shows both sides of this tragedy. The heartbreak and pain of Janice Johnson, Marquis's mother, flows from the pages and right into your heart. There are moments in this book where you will weep. I'm talking ugly cry. Janice is torn on the public protests surrounding her son's death. What is a mother to do when she's hurting and the public wants her to speak out?
On the other side of the coin is the Spencer family. Meredith Spencer is married to the shooter, a wealthy white man who claims he was defending himself against Marquis. But Meredith knows more than she is brave enough to say about the deadly encounter. The Spencers have a team of lawyers who do everything to demonize the Johnsons and their son.
Law and Order often boasts that its episodes are ripped from the headlines, but this book is well written and sad reminder of the headlines we see every day.
Stand Your Ground is a don't miss novel!
After reading this book, I had questions for Victoria and the writing process of this novel. I knew if reading it changed me, I could only imagine how writing it changed her.
Stand Your Ground takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster. Tell me what it was like writing this story?
I'm an author, yet, I don't think I have the words to describe what it was like writing this story. Everything that the reader experiences -- tears, fear, anger, sadness, grief...and even a few moments of joy, I went through over and over again. I went through it when I wrote the words the first time, I went through those emotions through each draft, and every edit. I was drained when I finished the book, but more than being drained, I was changed. After writing this book, I want to always write "important" books. I want to write books that have meaning. I hope from now on that I will write books that will do more than entertain.
Did writing this book change you or your views on these types of tragic events?
The only change I think I can say that I experienced is that I did my best to write this book from both sides. I had to force myself to see the victims on the other side. That was a stretch for me at first, but then the journey became real and I could really see how both sides are affected. I just can't imagine being married to a man who killed someone -- even if he says it was self defense.
How did your prepare yourself to tell this story?
I didn't have to do much preparation. We'd all been living the events of these kinds of tragedies over and over and over and over...the only way I needed to prepare myself was to calm down. Seriously, over the past few years I'd become an Angry Black Woman, something that I'd never been. But I was so angry after hearing about how another person got away with murdering an unarmed teen boy. So, I had to take my emotions out of this and just "write the right story."
No one was perfect in this novel. Do you think that when events like this happen that the media expects the victim and his or her family to be perfect for the public to support them?
Hmmm...that's an interesting question. I would hope that folks know that no one in this world is perfect. And I love writing about flawed people the best. People who are just like me. :-)
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Well...I said I wouldn't do it, but I'm gonna do it. One of my all time favorite novels of the over twenty that I've written is Joy. Joy was my second novel and it touched my life in so many ways. And what was best was that it touched a lot of readers. I said I would never write a sequel...but I am. I don't have the title for the follow up yet, but it's told from two points of view -- a white man, a black woman who are connected by a child that was conceived during a rape. Now, the man is out of jail (he spent seven years in prison) he's having a difficult time reentering society. But he knows he has this daughter out there and he thinks getting to know her may help to make his life better. And then, the woman, Anya...she and her husband have never told their now fifteen-year-old daughter that she is the product of a rape. So once this man enters their lives once again....well...you can imagine the story. There are actually twenty states that allow parental rights to rapists -- can you believe that? I can't wait to really explore that story.
What's next for Victoria...
One black teen...one white man...one gun....