Grissom’s novel visits Suffolk

Published 8:18 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

Kathleen Grissom’s second book follows the character Jamie Pyke who finds himself traveling through the Great Dismal Swamp.

Even though Grissom is the author, she didn’t know ahead of time that her story would have her researching the Great Dismal Swamp and parts of Suffolk.

“The way writing comes to me is a spiritual gift,” Grissom said. “I follow along with my pencil and these characters present me with the story. Jaime was a secondary character in the first book, and I thought I was finished with him. He insisted that I tell his story next.”

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The novel, released in 2017, begins in 1830, where the main character is living in Philadelphia passing as a white man, and the story takes him back down south to help another slave to freedom.

Grissom’s two books center around slavery, and she came to learn about the topics after a move into a new home. She found something in her attic with the words “Negro Hill” and she was obsessed with finding out more.

After copious amounts of research, the characters found her and she began writing her novels.

“I set the stage with my research, and my characters pick and choose from what I’ve researched,” Grissom said.

The first novel follows a young Irish orphan who works as an indentured servant on a tobacco plantation. The subject matter of both of her novels has allowed her to research the life of slaves in the 1800’s.

Writing novels was not Grissom’s original path, but that was because she did not know that was an option for her. So, Grissom opted to be a nurse instead.

She quit nursing 30 years ago and found writing as a profession, but it has been a long road to publishing her two books.

Her first book, “The Kitchen House,” took 15 years to research, write, edit and publish. Some of the time was spent trying to find an agent, but once she did it was only a year-long process to get the book published.

The second novel was easier to publish because she already had a contract. It took roughly four years from the beginning to publish.

Becoming an author hasn’t changed Grissom, and she’s happy it hasn’t.

“I don’t think it has changed me at all. I think that’s a good thing,” Grissom said. “I knew what was in my heart, and I did what I felt I had to do.”

Grissom is already working on another novel, but it will be a few years until it is published. The research and the writing is a process that she doesn’t rush.

While she is happy for the success of her novels, she never imagined this being the path her life would take.

“Not in a million years did I think I would be here,” Grissom said.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, Grissom now spends her day with her husband at the home in southside Virginia.