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Interview with Derek R. King

Interview with Derek R King

I have the honor today to interview Derek R. King, author of The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard. Thank you for joining me! Let’s start with some history then. What got you started as an author?

Derek: I've always been a writer in some form, lyrics and poetry from an early age, and music. The author journey really began through a fascination for the 1960’s and, reading and researching key events in that decade.

I came across the name Clyde Kennard quite a few times but there was never much information on him, maybe a couple of paragraphs or pages at best. That piqued my interest back in 2007.

Ah, thus Clyde Kennard! What made him stand out to you?

Derek: Yes. To begin with it was really the lack of information about Mr Kennard that drew me in. I became intrigued as why that should be when many others of the civil rights movement of that time have received more attention, or so it seemed to me.

And so one thing led to another, the more I researched and discovered about Clyde Kennard, the more determined and passionate I became about the telling of his journey and how his efforts inspired others many decades later.

You’re like a history detective haha

Derek: History detective - I like that lol

To understand that journey it was pretty essential to place it in the context of the times in which it occurred, quite different from today in some respects.

Consider it your new title! That's really cool. So, were you able to conduct any interviews? What was your primary research method for the material?

Derek: No interviews as such, I did find the Oral History project file of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History extremely useful. Quite a lot are available as mp3 files so I listened to them in the car on long journeys. They gave me a feel for those times from folks on both sides of the debate, hearing those voices from the past bringing history to life. In addition, I've accumulated a private library of 104 books as well as various periodicals from the 1950 and 60's together with other research materials from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. So over the period of this project my initial six pages of notes on Clyde Kennard grew into the book I have today.

Bookwise I read pretty much all I could get my hands on, from the likes of Myrlie Evers, Hodding Carter III, Neil McMillan, John Dittmer, Juan Williams, among others and authors on the other side of the debate, segregationists Carl Putman, Judge Tom Brady  and Erle Johnston to name a few.

WOW! That's an impressive collection! So, if you could summarize your book to a single message that you want your potential readers to draw from this book, what would that be?

Derek: In terms of Clyde himself, his utter determination and unflinching belief that he would be admitted to MSC, the inspiration he provided to others who followed him and how he continues to inspire over five decades later.

So, shifting focus to your publishing process. I see that you used Lulu. What made you choose indie vs traditional? And what made you choose Lulu vs the other self-publishing services?

Derek: Indie vs Traditional?- that's straight forward for me - I took the pragmatic view that

1) I had written about someone few people had heard of

2) this is a niche book in a niche market

3) I wanted to get Clyde's story out there, first and foremost.

The likelihood of Traditional publishing route for this type of book I reckoned had a limited chance of success so rather than waste time I moved on the indie route.

Lulu vs the other self-publishing services? - I'd checked a few indie publishers out over the years the book had taken, Lulu seemed best able to offer what I was seeking at a pricing point that suited my budget. In essence I was looking for a one stop shop I could pass the manuscript over to for full editorial, right through the whole process to end product widely available.

So, are you currently working on any other projects? Any future stories you want to get out there?

Derek: Ten years on one book is a long time. I've written a couple of short stories since, which I've really enjoyed, and surprised myself in the process. I'm also being encouraged to bring some of my poetry together into collection. Longer term project, another human story, The Highland Clearances (in Scotland) is something I've become more interested in recently, so I may well do more research on that.

You weren't kidding when you said you were always writing haha

Derek: I can't help it - it's in the DNA!

Any advice that you can give to other writers, researchers, or those just starting out on the path to becoming an author?

Derek: I'm not sure I'm best placed to give advice, but I will say. This there will be great highs and great lows along the way but don't be put off doing what you really want to do. And if you have rejection letters come your way just remember this Faber and Faber turned down Orwell’s Animal Farm, Heller’s Catch-22 was rejected as “not funny” and le Carré‘s Spy Who Came in from the Cold also rejected. Just to add to that, some poor individual at Decca records turned down The Beatles. So there IS always hope.

Awesome advice! Thanks again for agreeing to the interview!

Derek: Many thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Find Derek R. King here:

Review on Literary TItans:

Professor Steven A Drizin - Clinical Professor of Law at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in Chicago

“I approached Derek King’s book on my client Clyde Kennard with scepticism. Could a white Scottish man be entrusted with the story of an unsung hero of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement?

Yes, King’s book is a revelation. Read it. Learn. Never forget.” 

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