An avid student of history, Carole Eglash-Kosoff is a native of Wisconsin. After graduating from UCLA, she spent her career in the apparel industry and teaching fashion retail, marketing, and sales at the college level. Her first book is The Human Spirit. She has also established the …a better way!Scholarship program, which provides money and mentoring for worthy high school students for both their first and second year of college. Carole Eglash-Kosoff lives and writes in Valley Village, California.
Her latest book is When Stars Align.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Carole. Can you tell us what your latest book, When Stars Align, is all about?
It is a historic fiction novel, the story of a forbidden bi-racial love affair set during the Civil War and Reconstruction. It is set around Moss Grove, a Louisiana cotton plantation and illustrates the enormous progress made by ex-slaves after the war until the Election of 1876 reverses all racial gains.
Thaddeus is born from the rape of an 11-year old slave by, Henry, the teenage son of the plantation owner. He falls in love with Amy, a white girl who comes to live at the plantation during the war. When she asks him whether they will ever be together, his answer is ‘when our stars align.’
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Both. Several actual historical figures mingle with the fictional characters, such as Stephen Douglas, James Longstreet, who had been a Confederate General, leaders of White Superiority groups, Congressional leaders and the President of Howard University.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I usually know where I want to take my characters but as I write some of them take on their own personality.
Q: Your book is set in Louisiana. Can you tell us why you chose this locale in particular?
Cotton played a huge role in the economics of the war and little has been written about battles that abutted the Mississippi River.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Yes, plantation life usually was not as extreme as described in Gone With The Wind or Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Moss Grove’s owner begins to plan a meeting of all nearby plantation owners and set a common course of action against approaching Union troops.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
The setting sun drifted across the rutted dirt road grooved from repeated attacks of rain, hooves and wagon wheels. Small huts lined one side erratically, grey plumes of smoke stretching skyward from them, anxious to leave the noxious odors and poverty that gave birth to their temporal existence. The main house, the Master’s home, Moss Grove, was another hundred yards away, concealing itself from the squalor that was so necessary for it to function.
Rose’s body ached as the small buggy lurched first one way, then another, seeking purchase from the mud and slurry that slowed its journey. Her strength still wasn’t up to the six hour trip so soon after giving birth. She nestled the unfamiliar tiny breathing mass in her arms…a baby boy, blue-eyed with soft downy mocha skin. She hadn’t stopped staring at him since she gave birth four days ago. Born from so much pain and shame it was almost as if God was apologizing for the anguish he’d bestowed on her. She wanted to hate that part of the child she recognized in the father, the long fingers, the arched strong eyebrows, but most of all those electric blue eyes that stared at her in an unnerving fashion from the first moment they opened and looked into her eyes. She would never forget being thrown onto the ground, her legs being pushed apart and staring into the icy blue eyes of Henry Rogers. Only a few years older than her, he was strong and arrogant, as he forced himself into her. He was also white. She tried to scream but he slapped her. Seconds later he let out a gasp, stood and smiled as he climbed back onto his horse. He left without a glance or a word while she lay there, crying at the pain and frightened by the blood and dirt spotting her thin cotton dress.
Rose had been away from Moss Grove for more than a month. Massa’ Rogers, Moss Grove’s patriarch, had ordered that she be sent away to have this child that was such an embarrassment. She would have preferred to stay in her small cabin in Moss Grove’s slave quarters. She’d be with people she knew but no one asked nor cared about her preferences. She had been put into a wagon and taken to the home of Massa’ Rogers’s kin near Baton Rouge to bear him a nigger grandchild, for Lord’s sake. The servants there had treated her kindly. They set her in a room of her own in the back of the house. It was clean and dry and even had a real glass window. It was more than she’d had her entire life and when it was time for the baby to come out they fussed over her as if she were their own kin.
As the small buggy and its cargo rode closer to the house it pulled to a stop. Two women waited at the side of the path. Rose recognized the slightly taller one. It was Sarah, Moss Grove’s house Mammy. The other, a slave woman that Rose had seen but never met, was a little shorter, a little more bent, stood next to her, head and shoulders cloaked in a shabby black wool shawl. Both women looked grim as their sad eyes tracked the buggy’s slow approach. The last embers of the day were the only light illuminating the scene.
“Rose! How you feelin’?” Sarah asked gently, moving closer.
“I be fine, I guess. I’m not sure what to do with this little package the Lord Jesus brung me.”
“Ain’t no need to worry, youngster. Hand him to me,” Sarah said, reaching her arms up.
“I don’t wanna let go of him. He a part of me. He look at me and he knows I is his mama.” Rose’s voice began to quake as words and tears mingled in her throat.
“Rose, just give me the baby. You too young to even produce milk for him. He need a strong teat and someone who know how to care for a new born.”
“I learn, Miss Sarah. I learn quick. You know ‘ah is bright.”
“You’ll have more. Big, strong ‘uns. When you’re older and you’ll have the baby’s daddy to help.”
“But I carried this un’. This ‘un is mine….mine,” Rose pleaded.
“Rose, go back to your cabin and forget this baby. Massa’ Jedidiah has other plans for him.”
Sarah nodded to the driver. The man stood and with a gentle firmness he took the baby from Rose’s grasp and passed him to Sarah. He hated being involved in these women’s troubles. All that cryin’. The infant began to wail at the events he shared but would never comprehend. Rose’s body shook, every nerve electric, unable to catch her breath. Her new son was being taken from her. She thought she might die giving birth and now she was almost sorry that she hadn’t.
Sarah stared back at the young black slave girl. She understood what Rose had gone through to bear this child but she had her instructions. She passed the baby to the woman who watched silently and would act as a mid-wife and surrogate mother and whose breasts would nourish the infant.
The wagon turned and headed back toward the slave’s quarters. Rose watched the two women trudge slowly away from her toward the house, holding her son against the evening’s chill and muffling the cries that grew more muted each step away from her.
A horned owl left its perch, disturbed by the noise below. As it soared over the trees seeking an evening meal, its mournful sounds blended into a plaintive duet with the infant’s sobs.
Soon the wagon stopped and the driver ordered Rose to get down. The young girl was inert, unable to move.
“Get’cha self down, ah has to get up early and head back to Baton Rouge,” the driver said.
The young girl obeyed as if in a trance and squatted on the ground where she landed. Her body hung motionless in the black moonless night as her soul screamed with the maternal hunger of eons. She had lost her first born child.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Carole. We wish you much success!