She was born rignt next door in Kentucky but didn’t have time to get too attached. “Being an army brat,” writes Sarah McCoy, “I didn’t stay in the Bluegrass State long enough to wear a Derby hat or sip the whiskey. By two years old, Edelweiss was my lullaby in Frankfurt, Germany, and so my gypsy life began.”
Sarah’s traveling from her current home in El Paso to the Southern Festival of Books to share her new book, The Mapmaker’s Children. The Mapmaker’s Children is based on the true story of abolitionist leader John Brown’s daughter, Sarah, who became instrumental in helping slaves on the underground railroad. A modern day woman named Eden living in suburban Washington, D.C. finds a porcelain doll in the root cellar of their home, and her quest to learn about the doll leads her into the past – and Sarah’s life. From the Washington Post: “McCoy deftly intertwines a historical tale with a modern one… lovingly constructed… passionately told… The Mapmaker’s Children not only honors the accomplishments of a little-known woman but artfully demonstrates how fate carries us in unexpected directions, no matter how we might try to map out our lives.” This sounds like great book club material to me!
What do you like to do on a rainy Saturday?
They come so infrequently and pass so quickly in El Paso, Texas, that my husband I will like to stand outside under the porch, breathing in the watery smells. Rain in the desert is a thing of awe.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Faux fur. I’d add it to nearly every garment if it weren’t for the guilt.
What household chore do you secretly enjoy?
Skillet cooking and eating over the stove.
Is childhood or adulthood more fun, and why?
Adulthood, unquestionably. I’m glad to be free of coming-of-age hormonal angsts. It’s much more fun to be old and not give a hoot about being cool to anyone other than yourself. Bring on the cowboy boots and pajama pants!
What was your favorite book as a child?
Anne of Green Gables. I dreamed in raspberry cordial colors and puffed sleeve delights.
Did you ever read books you weren’t supposed to? If so, which ones?
I read an erotica western novel from the church giveaway pile (ironically) that blew my young adult mind clean off its hinges. My momma found it tucked under my mattress and made me burn it on our charcoal grill. In my mind, burning books was the 11th Thou Shalt Not commandment. It was traumatic – all brimstone and hellfire, quite literally. The title has been incinerated from my mind.
Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows.
I’ve never told anyone about that western bodice-ripper read… hadn’t thought of it in decades! So that’s a story no one else knows.
How old were you when you decided to be a writer?
Pretty much since I can remember. I was always much better at English and writing than any of the other academic disciplines. So I figured, where I was getting my A’s was where I’d earn my bread and butter eventually.
What is the first story you wrote, and at what age?
At five-years-old, I wrote a “book” about an enchanting house surrounded by a garden of tulip friends. It was a piece of craft paper folded in half with a crayon-colored cover and the story scribbled inside. My momma is a primary school principal so she treasures up stuff like that. She pulls out my “first book” when I visit home in Virginia to show my husband that she had an idea, even then, of what my calling might be. She’s sweet like that.
Who are some of your favorite authors (no more than 3)?
Too many to list here and I’d feel wretched not listing so many amazing friends. But I can tell you one of my tops is Ann Patchett.
What is the most unusual thing you have ever done?
As a college kid on break from my study abroad program, I left my school’s supervisors on the “I know a guy” recommendation of a Zagreb hotel owner, trained through Croatia’s land-mined countryside, sailed on a freight boat to the island of Bol, and rented the flat of a cousin of a stranger’s family home. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Looking back, I understand why my parents were upset (to put it mildly) at their only daughter’s series of unusual decisions.
Where do you live, and what do you like most about it?
El Paso, Texas. It’s sunny 360 days of the year, got the best chile peppers in the world, and wearing cowboy boots is the fashion standard. What’s not to love?
Tell us about your pet…
I have a 10-lb Coton de Tulear named Gilbert (Gilly) who suffers from Fur Napoleon Syndrome and runs our house like it’s his personal Nation de Gilly. My husband and I are merely his peasants.
Do you love games, or not so much? Any game you especially love or hate?
Yes! But I never seem to find the time to play. My favorites are Boggle, Scrabble, and The Game of Life. I’m also partial to a bit of old-school Nintendo Mario Brothers.
Who or what makes you want to scream?
Snoring. Most notably from my husband, but pretty much any snoring makes me want to scream… if only as a helpful measure of keeping the individual alive. Ahem. Apnea can kill, y’know.
What brings you contentment?
Being at my home with my husband and dog watching the Franklin Mountains turn red at sunset. Simple blessings.
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You can hear Sarah at the Southern Festival on Friday, October 9, 2:00-3:00 pm, Room 29, Legislative Plaza.