Piper G. Huguley will make her historical fiction debut in June 2022 with By Her Own Design: a novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register (William Morrow Publishing) who was the Black fashion designer of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress. She is also the author of Sweet Tea by Hallmark Publishing and the author of two historical romance series: “Migrations of the Heart”, about the Great Migration and “Home to Milford College. She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.
1.) Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a professor at Clark-Atlanta University where I teach U.S. and World Literature. I write Black historical romance and I have one contemporary romance published with Hallmark publishing. I live in Atlanta with my husband and son.
2.)Tell us what By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register is about.
Few people know that the woman who made one of the most famous wedding dresses in history, that of Jackie Kennedy, was designed by a Black woman named Ann Lowe. By Her Own Design is about her climb to becoming a fashion designer for the haute couture.
3.) What inspired you to write this book?
My editor put out a call on Twitter for someone to write Ann Lowe’s story. I had long planned to make the move to writing biographical historical fiction about unheralded Black women. I had a list of folks in my mind, but when I saw this call, I saw a way to get a foot in the door. When I read Ann Lowe’s story, I knew I could write that novel.
4.) What was the most challenging obstacle you faced writing your novel?
Finding resources and research is always challenging, but it is especially challenging to find sources about Black women because people have never bothered to keep our historical records.
5.) Tell us about the research involved in writing this book.
I knew one of the main resources was a thesis by a young textiles scholar named Margaret Powell would be key for me to obtain. I arranged a trip to Washington D.C. to see it where it was kept, but I had not emailed the library in enough time for them to pull the record for me. So I put the request in and went home, vowing to make another trip. The next week, they sent it to me so that I didn’t have to go back. Part of her early life was easier for me to know about because she came from a part of Alabama that I knew well from my family and my husband’s family. I’ve also taken trips to be able to see the works of art, the dresses, that she produced for her clients.
6.) What was one thing you learned while researching Ann Lowe that blew your mind?
That she was a child bride who married at the age of 12. So I had to create a reason why she would enter into such a marriage at such a young age and how she came away from that.
7.) What is one thing you learned about yourself while writing your first book?
I’m meant to tell these stories.
8.) Why did you choose the historical fiction genre?
Because these women must be restored to the historical record in some way. Historical fiction entices potential historians to follow up and do the biographical work that must be done to broaden the historical record.
9.) Describe your book in one line.
By Her Own Design tells the story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman born in 1898 in rural Clayton, Alabama, became a fashion designer to the wealthy class in New York City.
10.) Now that you’ve published your first book, what’s next for you?
More historical fiction books about undiscovered Black women and adapting my stories for screen/tv so that more people will know more about this amazing woman.
11.) Where can readers buy your book?
Wherever books are sold. Make sure to patronize your independent book stores!
12.) Where can we find you on social media?
13.) Please share your website with our readers.
Watch Piper’s interview on Between the Reads!
Audra Russell is a blogger, freelance writer, and published author. She holds two undergraduate degrees in journalism as well as a Master of Science degree in Education. She also completed the Wesleyan University online Creative Writing Specialization course series.
She is an avid reader and writer’s advocate. Her passion for promoting the works of up-and-coming authors inspired her to create her podcast, Between the Reads, as well as her website, Read It Black to Me. Her debut novel, BLOOD LAND, was published on August 29, 2020, as her fiftieth birthday gift to herself. She lives in Maryland with her husband of more than 20 years, her 3 amazing children, a 12-year-old perpetual puppy, two dueling cats, and her lone surviving chicken of 8 years who she affectionately renamed Gloria (she will survive!)