Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, an educator and now first-time novelist, I grew up among ultra-conservative racist and homophobic attitudes during the 1950s and early 1960s and saw first-hand the corrosive effects on individuals who were different because of their skin color or sexual orientation. Two events in particular provided the tipping point in my education—the suicide of a friend at the University of Florida in 1958 during the state's purge of gay and lesbian students and teachers, and "Ax Handle Saturday" in August of 1960 when white supremacists with baseball bats and ax handles attacked young black activists engaged in a sit-in. These two events influenced the next thirty years in my personal development and to the writing of my novel, The Sin Warriors.
What do you think makes your genre special?
Historical fiction is like a lie that can lead to another version of the truth. I like challenging my imagination in a way that puts a human face on the historical facts.
What do you think makes a great story?
Interesting characters engaged in conflict, either internal or external and how they do or don't resolve the conflict.
What is your latest book called and could you explain to us in 20 words what it is about?
The Sin Warriors was inspired by a state sponsored witch hunt in Florida during the fifties and sixties which sent 300 gay students and teachers into personal and professional oblivion.
[Thats actually 27 words...]
[Thats actually 27 words...]
Which kind of reader do you think will enjoy your book?
Readers, gay or straight, who are intrigued by the past and the possibility of the past not repeating itself from lack of awareness.
Is it a standalone, or part of the series? If it's the latter, how long do you think will it go on?
This is a one-time story based on incredible events that for reasons mentioned in the Afterword to the novel have largely been forgotten.
What influenced or inspired you writing it?
When thee Florida senate investigations imploded, the records were sealed off from the public for twenty-nine years. By the time they were opened, the purge had largely been forgotten. I wanted to give a human face to the events. As one philosopher has warned: those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.
Why did you choose especially this title? Was it your first choice?
The corrupt politicians who engaged in the witch hunt wanted to cleanse Florida's universities of what they considered moral deviants. History is filled with people who think they know best what is morally right and wrong for everyone else.
What was the hardest part for you working on your book?
The events that frame the novel actually occurred over a nine-year period, most of which were conducted in secrecy and involved blackmail, coercion and intimidation. The challenge was focusing the narrative on a brief time-span in order not to lose the reader but at the same time to provide the broader context of the probes as a human rights issue. I wanted to give a face to the individuals and to do justice to what they went through, not simply to presents tragic facts. I wanted to create characters that were not mere victims but people affirming their self-worth in spite of adversity.
Was there a scene that you didn't want to add or remove in your finished work?
The book also speaks of racial injustice of the same period. There was a scene in which a young black man returns from the war having defended his country and is forced back into a segregated society. The brief scene introduced a new character that would have required additional character development which was already explored in other black characters in the book. It’s really difficult to cut material you like.
Do you already know what to do next?
I've begun fitful starts on a second novel called Families and other Strangers. The Sin Warriors took three years to write. I'm hoping that I've learned something about the craft that would bring the second one to fruition sooner.
Where can we find more about you and your books?
My web site www.JulianEarlFarris.com; on Facebook and on my author's page at Amazon.com. The novel is also available wherever books and e-books are sold.
Any last words?
I'd like to hear from readers and writers alike. They can reach me through my web site. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the book.
The Sin Warriors
Fifty years ago across the Sunshine State, three-hundred gay teachers and students in Florida's universities and schools were driven into professional and personal oblivion—coerced, entrapped, blackmailed and persecuted for who they were. The Sin Warriors was inspired by those actual events.
It is the fifties and early sixties. It is the last gasp of the McCarthy era. Student David Ashton after years of denial has found acceptance through a gay professor at the university. But a backwoods state senator is determined to take them and others like them down. Lives will be lost, careers ruined and families torn apart. A story of the abuse of power and the sacrifices made to affirm self-worth in spite of it.