A Q&A with Krystal Marquis, Indies Introduce Author of the January/February Kids’ Indie Next List Top Pick “The Davenports”

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Krystal Marquis, author of The DavenportsKrystal Marquis is the author of The Davenports, a Winter/Spring 2023 Indies Introduce Kids selection as well as our top pick for the January/February 2023 Kid’s Next List.

Krystal Marquis happily spends most of her time in libraries and used bookstores. She studied biology at Boston College and University of Connecticut and now works as an environmental, health, and safety manager for the world’s biggest bookseller. A lifelong reader, Krystal began researching and writing on a dare to complete the NaNoWriMo Challenge, resulting in the first partial draft of The Davenports. When not writing or planning trips to the Book Barn to discover her next favorite romance, Krystal enjoys hiking, expanding her shoe collection, and plotting ways to create her own Jurassic Park.

Kaliisha Cole of Whitelam Books in Reading, Massachusetts, served on the panel that selected Marquis’ debut for Indies Introduce. “Prepare to be captivated, entranced, and inspired by these four memorable young women,” Cole said of the book. “This novel exceeded all of my expectations as we follow their individual journeys of love and independence.”

Here, Marquis and Cole discuss The Davenports.

Kaliisha Cole: How did you gain an interest in writing about the Patterson family dynasty for your book?

Krystal Marquis: I read an article about the Patterson family dynasty at a time when I was going through a horrible reading slump. What I read fascinated me. Charles Richard Patterson was born into slavery in Virginia in 1833. After relocating to Greenfield, Ohio, he found early success as a blacksmith in a carriage company, bought out his partner and renamed the company C. R. Patterson & Sons in the span of twenty years. When his son, Frederick Patterson, took over, the business was converted to an automobile manufacturer. It’s an incredible part of American history.

KC: What was the moment that confirmed for you that this historical story of four young women navigating romance is essential for young readers?

KM: I think it was right after I learned Mr. Patterson had daughters! All my research until that point discussed the business’ legacy. C. R. Patterson & Sons. Three generations of the first and only Black-owned automobile company. This new information set the wheels in motion — ha! I wondered about the rest of his family — about his daughters. Few articles made mention of them, fewer still shared their names: Dorothea (Dollie), Mary, and Kate. I wondered, what was life like for women in their position? Would they still be expected to marry for money and security? The societal pressures experienced by the four young women in The Davenports is my answer to those questions. Their journeys to find, or evade, love matches allowed them to learn a lot about themselves and what they wanted from their relationships and for their futures, which I hope is relatable at any age.  

KC: The Davenports has four different POVs, but not all of the characters are of the Davenport family; what prompted this decision?

KM: There was so much I wanted to say. The different POVs featured a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and experiences. I wanted this story to reflect and highlight the struggles and triumphs of the time, when the successes made possible by the Reconstruction Era and not yet undone by Jim Crow practices, were being realized in communities across the country. Each character provides readers with that glimpse into the past, through the lens of their unique histories and difficult choices. It is the type of representation I wish I had as a young reader.

KC: Whose perspective was the most enjoyable to craft?

KM: Ruby Tremaine, without a doubt. Ruby’s journey was a lot of fun to write and her character had wealth and notoriety without the responsibilities of being a Davenport. She’s passionate, rebellious, and her struggle to follow her heart and fulfill her parents’ wishes was a far cry from my first outline. When I began writing The Davenports, Ruby and Olivia were rivals, competing not only for social standing, but also for the attention of eligible bachelors. The rivalry never felt natural so I rewrote the first few chapters. They went from frenemies to best friends and that was the best decision. Their relationship is one of my favorites in the novel.

KC: What is the most important lesson in The Davenports that you hope that readers will take away?

KM: I hope my novel encourages readers to explore parts of America’s history that have been overlooked.  Following Reconstruction, Black Americans, both free-born and formerly enslaved, carved their own paths, some enjoying successes that are rarely taught. They made major contributions to industry, medicine, and education. Madame C. J. Walker built a hair care empire and inspired my creation of Amy-Rose. Traits of other prominent Black leaders lend their backgrounds to various characters and forgotten Black Wall Streets were the foundation for thriving Black communities and businesses. I hope books like The Davenports and the small glimpse of history it shares are just the beginning.

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis (Dial Books, 9780593463338, Hardcover YA Fiction, $19.99)

On Sale Date: 1/31/2023

Find out more about the author at krystalmarquis.com.

ABA member stores are invited to use this interview or any others in our series of Q&As with Indies Introduce debut authors in newsletters and social media and in online and in-store promotions. Please let us know if you do.