Today we are chatting with Bryan T. Clark author of ‘Ancient House of Cards’, ‘Before Sunrise’ and his latest release, ‘Come to the Oaks’. Bryan writes romance novels with an emphasis on moral dilemma. His multicultural characters and riveting plots embody real life, filled with challenges, personal growth, and, of course, what we all desire—love.
Since the book’s release, the world has fallen in love with Ben and Tobias. Can you share with us where this amazing tale came from and what inspired you?
One day I was having lunch with a long-time colleague of mine when that very question came up. My colleague had just finished reading it, and was full of questions about the book. It was funny, because in that moment, I didn’t have a clue where the idea of the story came from.
I thought about it for several days. It kind of rattled me that I couldn’t recall where the idea came from. I think, in some way, I buried it. I had actually written the initial story in 2012, and it took all of about thirty days to write. At that time, it was just over one hundred pages. I shelved it after that because I wasn’t sure what people would think of it. I should also say that at the time that I wrote it, I had no dreams of ever publishing it as a book for the entire world to see. It was just a story.
When I wrote the initial story, I was in a dark place in my own life. I was questioning humanity’s ability to be compassionate to others. I use to think that, as humans we were inherently bad, able to screw someone over for our own self-gratification.
I think I had lost my way, the person who I was, the person who I wanted to be. I was in panic mode, in my head I was crazy. Come to the Oaks is a story about just that, a lost soul. It takes place in 1845 in Antebellum America. The main character, Benjamin Nathaniel Lee, heir to Oak Grove Plantation, has just purchased his first slave. He bids on Mamadou Masamba not because he wishes to perpetuate his father’s plantation legacy, but because the African, soon to be known as the slave “Tobias,” is the most beautiful man he has ever seen. It is a time of racial conflict, and a time where forbidden love has to remain a secret, but Ben is determined to win Tobias’s heart and in turn liberate himself from the moral bondage imposed upon him by plantation life.
I spent countless hours researching slavery and American culture in the late 1800’s. As a country, we were in bad shape, a nation deeply divided and on the brink of a civil war. In 2015, for the development of the book, my family and I took a trip to Louisiana. As part of the trip we made arrangements to stay on a plantation. One night, my husband and I left our room with a bottle of wine and walked down to the slave quarters. We sat on the stoop of one of the cabins and in silence, and we just listened and felt the spirits come alive. It was surreal for me, a moment I will never forget. It’s sad if you look at the current affairs today, and how divisive we are as a nation. One can see how history repeats itself when you’re foolish about the very history of this country.
In the book, Ben is a quiet soul, a person on the right side of humanity, but weak in his conviction. It took something as extraordinary as love to push him to do the right thing. I think there is a little bit of Ben in all of us. I believe both Ben and Tobias are pieces of me, who I am, and who I’ve been in the past as a person. Even though the book is fiction, there is a tiny bit of truth in it.
I remember clearly, when I was writing the initial story how fast and natural the characters were developed. I couldn’t write the story as fast as Ben and Tobias were revealing who they were. It was illusory. I remember once thinking that they were real, two souls that were communicating to me so their story could be told. I don’t know if this is my best work out of the three novels that I’ve published, but I can say that it changed me. As Ben developed a sense of who he was, and what he was capable of, I did as well.
Today, I believe our life is a journey; a story that is unfolding right before our own eyes. I now know that things in life don’t always have to make sense, because that part of our story has not come to pass. Patience, and one day it will all make sense.
When you read Come to the Oaks, remember it’s a story about love, not just of finding love, but understanding to accept and love who you are, and the value of who you are as a person. Only through a book, can someone be carried to another place and time, and experience something as illustrious as the imagination.