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“The Davenports is the story I wanted to read.” An Author Interview with Krystal Marquis

Krystal Marquis happily spends most of her time in libraries and used bookstores. She studied biology at Boston College and University of Connecticut and now works as an environmental, health, and safety manager for an online retailer. A lifelong reader, Krystal began researching and writing on a dare to complete the NaNoWriMo Challenge, resulting in the first partial draft of The Davenports.

Krystal's debut Young Adult novel; The Davenports (inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family) is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love. The Davenports hit shelves at the end of January and has already received glowing reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

What inspired you to move into writing after working in environmental health and safety?

I am still working in environmental, health, and safety and consider myself very lucky to be able to turn my love of stories and this wild dream into reality. Writing began as a hobby, and after being stuck in a terrible reading slump, I thought about the type of book I wanted to read. The Davenports is just that, a triumphant family story full of romance, high society, and love triangles, set in a time with a cast that has been overlooked. As I was writing and researching, I hoped others would be interested in novels like this too. I’m so happy it’s out in the world, and I can share it with readers.

Speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to write a historical romance with a Black cast and specifically centering young Black women?

There are few novels set in the early 1900s, fewer still that are historical romances with a Black cast for young adults. For me, it was a bit like writing what you know—followed by what I wanted to know. I am a fan of YA literature and history. The pacing of coming-of-age novels and the window into the past draws me in every time. I’m naturally curious, wondering what life would have been like for wealthy Black Americans at the turn of the last century, especially young women.

What kind of research did you do to write a historical novel based on a real family? What was that like?

Most of the information I found about the Pattersons was in articles on C.R. Patterson and Sons Carriage Company. They focused mostly on the business and the incredible fact that it was the first and only Black-owned automobile company. The photo of his son in front of one of those automobiles eventually lead to my discovery of the women in the family, which sparked the first ideas for the novel. My local libraries and the Chicago Public Library’s online offerings provided information about the period, customs, and prominent figures who helped flesh out the city and inspire other characters. I felt like I was pulling on a thread, letting it take me on a journey through American history.

The Davenports highlights a Black experience that is not commonly taught in U.S. schools. What are your thoughts on representation in literature for children and young adults (especially in smaller subgenres like historical romance)?

I am so excited for the increased focus on stories heralding the Black experience and works by Black creators—and those of other marginalized groups. Seeing diverse titles on shelves brings me joy. That said, I recognize there is so much more that can be done to highlight the Black experience across all decades throughout the year. While there is disproportionate representation in schools and the literature available, there will continue to be children and young adults without a clear picture of American history. If they don’t see it, how do they know it happened? In smaller subgenres, I think diversity promotes all that we have in common, like a love of history, Arthurian legends, or futuristic space odysseys. At the heart of all of them is the human experience and the power to inspire empathy.

If they don’t see it, how do they know it happened?

What do you find to be the most difficult part of creating books for young adults today? What is the most rewarding?

The most difficult part of creating books for young adults is finding the right balance for the romance. For the characters of The Davenports, they were all falling in love for the first time. Each young woman has their own idea of what that would look like, especially as they struggle to maintain control over their futures, so conveying that in an authentic and relatable way had to be handled with care. The most rewarding part is adding to the stories available to young readers to fill in the gaps I knew existed when I was that age.

What was your favorite childhood book?

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. At first, it was the brightly colored illustrations and silly situations Alice stumbled into that caught my attention. It was full of adventure. Who wouldn’t be curious where a rabbit with a watch was heading to or around flowers that could talk. Later, I identified with the young girl trying to make sense of the world around her when playtime is over and growing up is just around the corner. Despite Alice’s opinion about books without pictures or conversation, it’s still one of my favorites.

We know you’ve just debuted your first novel, but are you working on anything else now? What’s next for you?

I am working on the sequel to The Davenports, which picks up a few weeks after the events of the first book. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The Davenports is the story I wanted to read. I hope that readers are encouraged to share their own stories and rediscover parts of America’s history that have been overlooked.

Diverse BookFinder would like to thank Krystal Marquis for her time and input.

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Checkout more great author interviews at the Diverse BookFinder.

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