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Interview with CD Harper, author of And Face the Unknown


As Levy clings to a tree high above a river and tries to catch his breath, he doesn’t know what to do next. He has been a slave for Mr. Willoughby since he was little boy, and now things are changing. Unsure of what year it is, Levy escapes the jaws of slavery on the cotton plantation. He is a runaway slave without a plan.

As soon as he sees a boat floating in the river, Levy knows what he must do. With Mr. Willoughby on his tail, Levy boards the boat and hides behind the big wheel. As he somehow eludes capture, he begins a journey with a colored captain at the helm who works for none other than Levy’s former owner. As the captain takes Levy under his wing and they travel down the river, Levy finally learns what it’s like to be a free man with choices and the ability to make decisions for himself. But danger lurks around every curve, and Levy soon finds that his journey to independence will not come without challenges.

In the second installment of this historical tale, a Lincoln-freed Colored risks everything in order to realize the sweet taste of liberty and justice for all.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

Actually, the title comes from a popular song. I think the lyric is: I’ll go my way by myself to face the unknown. And facing the unknown was the experience all ex-slaves had to face when the 13th amendment was passed.

What is your writing environment like?

There is the tick tock of an old school room clock is a constant background sound. Then there is the sound of jazz or blues; sometime coming from the Internet, but most of the time from my own collection. So I can manage the mood, the color, the beauty of the music. Then there are the books, which remind me constantly of my chosen obligation to write books for reader and thinker. And finally when I look out of my window there are the Hemlock trees that flow down to the bay and the golf course and then the homes on the beach and finally the ocean! Sometimes I write with my laptop on the kitchen counter or sitting on the deck. In each case I’m looking at a beautiful scene on the Central Coast of Oregon. I love it!!!

What are some of the best tools available today for writers?

The best tool is ones own imagination and the courage to let it go, be free. Then there is the computer and all the available programs, some are designed to assist the writers in some profound ways and others are designed to assist the writer in some basic and mundane ways, like grammar, style, vocabulary.

What inspires you to write?

There are so many rich experiences in American slavery that are waiting to be explored as fictional opportunities. These stories are experiences most Americans aren’t aware of. That is my inspiration! The richness in characters and stories opening up a more inclusive and expansive view of the people of that time, both slaves and slave owners, male and female.

Did you learn anything while writing this book?

Yes, indeed! The most significant is there is so much more to be learned about the impact of slavery on the American character and culture. The stories about the people who suffered, slave, slave owner, ordinary white citizen, male and female and so many others in support of building a new nation is yet to be fully explored. History tells about the battles fought during the War of Independent and the Civil War but very little is known about the cultural and political and religious and social experiences that the ordinary people had to endure.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

My favorite qualities are my thoughtfulness, empathy and inclusiveness! Then there is my commitment to writing each day! It is the telling of stories about the people of American slavery that must reflect those qualities.


CD Harper is a retired professor and arts administrator who holds degrees from the University of Illinois and St. Louis University. His first novel, Covenant, began the story that now continues in And Face the Unknown, the second installment of an intended trilogy. He and his wife reside in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

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