Q&A with Ray Shepard


Get to know 2018 Festival speaker Ray Shepard, author of Now or Never!…

If you could make everyone in the world read one book, which would it be?

The 1845 American classic, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

What is your favorite aspect of participating in book festivals?

Meeting authors whose books I’ve admired, and listening to authors of books I want to read. A book festival is to a writer is what the Final Four is to a basketball fan. I’m both, but haven’t been invited to the Final Four yet.

Which other speakers are you excited to see or hoping to meet at the Festival?

All that I can, but especially Garnette Cadogan, Kima Jones, Kevin Young, and Deborah Heiligman

Which part of your book are you most proud of?

I’m proud I was able to tell a story that helps readers, young and old, understand the Civil War as a three-way fight between: (1) those that wanted to break away from the United States and establish an independent slave empire, (2) those that wanted to save the Union by maintaining the status quo with regard to slavery, and (3) a group that was willing to die trying to establish what the world had never seen—an interracial democracy. The tragedy of this conflict is that the second group had more in common with the first and after victory abandoned the third. Today we are still dealing with the debris of this conflict.

What are you working on next?

I’m in the beginning research stage for a group biography of the African Americans who attacked Harper’s Ferry in 1859.

In the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, Ray Shepard will participate in Telling True Stories: Nonfiction for Young Readers on Saturday, March 24.