Today is a special day for multiple reasons.
I am beyond excited to share the cover and title of my second book with you, but I am also honored to give my late father, Larry Starks, his author debut, with stories that he told me growing up. Although he is no longer with us, I know that he’s with me in spirit and that he’s just as excited about this special day as I, my mom, and my sisters are. Not to mention that today would have been his 61st birthday!
When I think back on my dad and his legacy, I realize that he came from a long line of strong, resilient, and inventive people. And when I think about my dad’s home community of Horsepen, I know that this book was meant to be.
Horsepen is a small community in Mississippi. It’s not an area that stands out or has any major attention drawn to it – as a matter of fact; I’m sure many people have passed it on their way across the state. However, to those who live and have roots there, it’s truly a special place.
How did my family get to Horsepen? That story actually starts with my dad and granddaddy. My granddaddy Rufus Starks and my dad’s family lived on land owned by a white man and essentially were sharecroppers. My dad was a HUGE history lover, especially went it came to war history, so as a kid, he would go out in the cow pasture and re-enact the battles he would read about. One particular day, the landowner saw my dad out playing and didn’t like it. So, he went to my grandaddy and told him that they would have to leave because my dad was “scaring his cows.” This incident motivated my grandaddy to work hard to purchase his own land so no one could tell his children where or how they could play.
That’s how they wound up in Horsepen. And that’s how this book came to be.
My dad was a quiet man, but he also had a great sense of humor and loved to joke around. He was also a writer, which is where I get my passion from. As a kid, it’s easy not to understand why your family has to visit this small country area, but my dad made sure that we visited our family stomping ground and understood why it was so significant. His desire to help us appreciate Horsepen is the origin and inspiration behind this book.
I’m not sure how or why he started, but one day my dad just started telling stories about things that started in Horsepen and how it used to be a bustling town many, many years ago. Where the stories true? Of course not (with the expectation of one, which we were all shocked by – you’ll have to buy the book to find out which one)! Where they entertaining? Definitely. And he just kept telling them, even up until his passing.
Dad and I had plans to publish these stories together, and when he was diagnosed with Leukemia, we planned to get right to work as soon as he recovered. Unfortunately, he passed away a month before my first book, The Lynching Calendar, was released. However, I am thankful that he did have a chance to see the book before he passed away.
Although he wasn’t healed the way we would have preferred, I can honestly say that he is truly healed now and in the best place he can possibly be. He doesn’t have to worry about the crazy pandemic, go to work, pay bills, or do any of those trivial things. I know he is in Heaven, playing checkers with my grandaddy and probably boxing my Uncle Cornbread (he’s also mentioned in the book).
But, if you’ve read this far, I know you’re ready for me to finally reveal the cover of this book, LOL!
Take a guided tour through Horsepen with Jessica and Larry as you learn about the rich, slightly true history of a small, southern community. With colorful stories galore, Larry and Jessica go on an adventure that you never thought you needed! Laugh, cry, and be amazed at these tall tales weaved by a father seeking to see his daughter smile and a colorful history lesson sure to help everyone appreciate where their family comes from.
If you read my first book, The Lynching Calendar, you know that this book already is a lot lighter of a topic! But I’m still really excited to share this with you! I aim to show my readers a different side of me, writing-wise, and encourage them to possibly trace their roots and start to appreciate where they come from too! I was lucky enough that my mom encouraged my dad and me to record these stories, or else I wouldn’t have had these to remember my dad by. This is something that I can pass on to my niece and nephew and any future descendants!
Special thanks to Morgan Souter, a fellow native of my hometown and an amazing artist! I just told her my ideas, sent her a photo of my dad and images I had of Horsepen, and she worked her magic!
I also know you’re wondering about the spaceship and flag in the cover – those are hints! You’ll have to buy the book to find out what they mean!
Speaking of buying the book, it is now available for pre-order! Pre-ordered copies will be released in June in honor of Father’s Day, and the books will be available to the rest of the world on July 3, 2021!
I really hope you love the cover of Strolling With Stories: Tales From Horsepen, and I hope you will love the stories and the messages inside! Click here to pre-order!