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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Victoria Christopher Murray on why she wrote Stand Your Ground

Victoria Christopher Murray is a prolific writer, publisher and all round amazing person. This month, Victoria will release a book that is ground breaking and an emotional tour-de-force.

She explains to readers why she wrote this book in an open letter that makes you want to buy the book right now. Stand Your Ground will be released on June 30th, by the way.


"Not again," were words that kept reverberating through my mind on February 15, 2014. We were just a few weeks away from the second anniversary of Trayon Martin's murder and as I watched the verdict come down in the first trial of Michael Dunn (the man who murdered Jordan Davis) I felt like this country was taking giant leaps backwards.
It had happened again. While Michael Dunn had been found guilty of attempted murder, the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the murder charge for Jordan Davis's death.
Of course my social media timelines blew up. People were upset and rightfully so...though, I didn't understand the specific reactions. People attacked the men and women of the jury, and then, there were those who were once again calling for America to boycott one of its own states. "Nobody go to Florida!" became the social media mantra.
That confused me -- I didn't understand how people could get upset with Americans who had not only stepped up to fulfill their jury duty, but who were following the law. And it was even more confusing that people wanted to boycott Florida when two dozen other states had some version of the same law. So what...were people going to boycott every state? Were they going to boycott the states where they lived?
I couldn't make sense out of what I thought was nonsense. I couldn't understand why people were attacking juries and attacking states, and not going after the real culprit. Why not make this a political rallying cry? Why not register thousands of people to vote? Why not go after the law?
Yes, people are behind the law, but not the people who would suffer under a boycott. And not the people who fulfilled their civic duty by serving on the jury.

It was that night and those reactions that started the seed of this novel to grow inside of me. I so wanted to get people to understand that the law was the problem. I wanted people to understand the law better, I wanted people to know that Stand Your Ground is not a defense in itself, it is part of self defense. And though I had never been through anything like this myself personally, I wanted people to really think about the families in these situations. Maybe all of that would get us to finally stand our ground...stand up and do something. Do something that would matter, do something that would count.
And while this idea began to brew inside of me, one of my friends on FaceBook said, "Victoria, you should write a book about this." Others agreed, saying they believed that I could teach something. That was when I knew that I did have a platform to reach thousands of people about this -- I could do it through entertainment; I could do it through a book.
It was my editor who challenged me to add layers to this story and to show both sides of this tragedy. It was my publisher who gave me the title.
And so it was on and I was ready.
But then, I wasn't as ready as I thought. When I sat down and thought about these women in Stand Your Ground -- the mother of the victim and the wife of the shooter, it became such a difficult book to write. Of course, the emotions that I had to write for the mother were clear and obvious. What I didn't expect was to feel for the wife of the shooter. These were two women who were suffering -- in different ways -- but still, they suffered. And as I lived with both of them in my head for all of those months, I suffered with them.
Another thing that surprised me a bit about writing this book was the language. I always believe in being true to my characters, but to this point, profanity hasn't had any place in my novels. Not that there is much inside of Stand Your Ground; but I'm sure you can imagine that the N word -- a word I abhor -- comes up a time or two.

But if I wanted to write the truth, which I always try to do, if I wanted to speak to the two opposing sides of Stand Your Ground, I had to speak their language -- especially the language they would use in this particular situation.
So, I went with my characters. And I took this journey. Never before can I say that a book I've written has changed me. But writing this one did. It wasn't writing this book alone that changed me -- it was that I was half-way through writing this book when Eric Garner was choked to death in New York, and then Michael Brown was executed in the streets of Ferguson. I wrote this novel while those incidents and the aftermath played as background music in my mind.
And I changed. I wrote and I changed. I wrote and I became an Angry Black Woman. My prayer, though, is that I will channel that anger in the right way. I was able to work
some of that anger out in the pages of this book. Now, I hope that I'll be able to work that anger out in a way that will help to change America -- for the better.
And that begins with repealing Stand Your Ground. We must know the facts. We must never forget.... 

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