Q&A with Kereen Getten

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1. Why did you decide to get involved with Scholastic’s VOICES series?

I wanted to be involved because I just loved the idea of telling unknown stories about black and brown people that are rarely told. I wanted to be part of a series that a shine a light on unsung heroes who were in the UK. Stories that readers may not have known about.

2. Did you do any historical research before writing TWO SISTERS? And, if you did, what was the most interesting thing you found out?

I did a lot of research because not only did I want to get the facts right, but I also wanted to immerse myself in that time so I could have a small understanding of what my characters were going through. The most interesting thing I learnt was about the tavern in London that I included in the story. I knew that men, women and children were brought to England from plantations in Jamaica, but I didn’t know they had this tavern in London that they would escape to. It was a place just for them where they played music, danced, drank and conversed. It was where they felt safe from the world they had been forced into.

3. If you could invite three historical figures to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?

What a great question! I think it would be Ignatius Sancho, who wrote a series of letters about his journey from slave to author, shop keeper and abolitionist in 17th century England. Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who set up her own hospital in the Crimean war, and Nanny of the Maroons who helped men and women escape slavery in Jamaica then led a war against British soldiers that ended in a treaty because the British couldn’t beat them. What a conversation they would have as such notable figures of their time! What stories they would tell!

4. What was the hardest part about writing TWO SISTERS?

The hardest part for me was having to research slavery in detail. I really wanted to put myself in the girls shoes so I read everything I could find including diaries from Plantation owners and that was tough. There were times when I just didn’t want to write anymore because of the things I read, but I knew it was an important story and that was what kept me going.

5. What do you want young readers to take away from this story?

I want young readers to know about black people who were in this country way before Windrush. I want them to have a deeper understanding of British history and how it was shaped by black and brown people and I hope it encourages them to find more stories like those in the Voices Series.

6. What are your top tips for aspiring authors?

Read, read and read some more. Read all genres, read from new authors as well as established ones and read from stories around the world. Also write regularly. It doesn’t matter what you write, even if its your diary or a gratitude journal just get into the habit of writing, and lastly, save everything. The paragraph or chapter you wrote may not work for the story you have now, but it may work for another story later on. You will thank your past self for keeping it.

7. What’s your favourite book?

I am currently reading A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr which is the most beautiful and tender story I have read in a long time, so that may be my new favourite.

Two Sisters by Kereen Getten is out now.
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