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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

TAKE TEN: Tracie O'Neil Horton, Author of K3

by Cyrus Webb

We live in a world of uncertainty, but the good news is that there are always people and situations that remind us that all is not lost. That is definitely a message that presents itself in author Tracie O'Neil Horton's book K3. She is able to show us how the world COULD turn, but it also reminds us that as long as people are shining a light and making a difference we can overcome any challenge. 

Welcome to Take Ten, Tracie.  First of all, congratulations on K 3.  This is your first novel. What has it been like for you to see the response?
The response to K 3 has been overall very positive.  I was unsure of what to expect, due to the sensitive nature of racial issues in this country, but so far, everyone who has read the book has loved K 3.  Readers have likened K 3 to 1984, Divergent and Twilight (for the wolves)! Many readers have told me K 3 is going to make a great movie!

The book has many layers, dealing with topics that are definitely ripped from the headlines.  What gave you the courage to tackle race and class the way you did in your debut?
What gave me the courage to tackle race?  I would have to say my children. Someone has to address racial tension in this country, and it might as well be an average Jane like me!  I am not the only mother, who, after reading stories in the papers or watching stories on the news, wonders what the future is going to be like for my children if this already heated racial climate reaches a boiling point.  At the time of initially writing K 3, there were so many hate crimes happening. I was thankful my child wasn’t involved. That was in the 90s. Look at today. I don’t know what’s going on with our police force and race, and now good people are afraid to be in law enforcement due to retaliation.  Now I worry about my grandchild’s future. I wanted to see racial conflict stop in this country, so I came up with the idea of the divided states. The KKK seemed like the logical entity to accomplish that goal.

I think there are qualities of many of the characters that readers will be able to identify with or even root for along the way.  Was that part of your aim, to entertain but also get people talking?
I want readers to identify with everyday people in the United States.  Samuel Johnson, for example. A gruff fellow with his mind set in his ways, Samuel lives in an all-black community.  When a white butcher, Joe moves into town, Samuel resents him. Samuel is not racist he just has a hard time with change.   Samuel and Joe are so much alike, they can’t help but become good friends. Those are the kinds of relationships you want to root for.  Also, the relationship of the four girls in high school: Mikela, Alex, Lexi and Elena. We all had our best friends in high school. I wanted to capture and express the importance of building close relationships that last through the years after high school. 

The character of Brian Phelps, the bully is an important one. One never truly knows what goes on behind closed doors. Brian exemplifies so many young Americans who express their anger based on what their home life is like. Brian is a mean-spirited bully, and he is that way because of his father’s abuse.  It is only when he is saved by one of his victims that Brian starts to realize the importance of integrity and honor.

I didn’t want K 3 to be a history lesson. The entertainment aspect is important to not losing your audience. I find River’s character very entertaining. His moods, his looks, his appeal to female readers young and old is important.  The fight scenes are action packed and will appeal to everyone. The sexual tension between Mikela and River is quite entertaining as well. The reader wants the two of them to get together. Beau, Wahya and the wolves are also quite entertaining at times, during play and during battle. They endear themselves to the reader with their love, courage, and playfulness.

One of the most powerful accounts in the book is what happens to Jose and Esperanza’s family in K 3.  Really heart-wrenching to read, but it definitely reminds you of what we have been hearing about in the news recently.  What was it like for you to put yourself with your characters that way and experience what they were experiencing?
Jose and Esperanza are a loving family.  Their children are their hearts, and that is obvious as you read how Esperanza cares about her children’s welfare in school and at home.  Jose loves his daughter, Gabriella, but he has a special bond with his son, Emilio. Racism does not discriminate between adults and children.  It is unfortunate that children are often the silent victims. I cried my eyes out as I watched this scene unfold in my head. A family is stunned and shocked and told they should have been packed.  They had to move. To Esperanza it wasn’t real. The President of the United States couldn’t really make families uproot and move, could he?

My heart went out to this family, to lose this dear little boy just because they didn’t move fast enough, because Jose was trying to defend his family.  As a mother, I don’t know what I would have done in that instant when the shot was fired, and Emilio lay slumped on the floor. An innocent little boy caught in the middle of racial upheaval. My heart would break.

I am an optimistic individual, Tracie.  And though the book is dark at times, K 3 does have its bright spots, mainly because there were those who were willing to stand up for what they believed.  Do you think that is the key to things turning around in the real world for the better?
Standing up for your beliefs is the key for turning things around.  It just takes one person. But Cyrus, people are afraid. In an overly politically correct world, people are afraid to do what they feel is right.  It takes guts to stand up for what you believe in. Mikela is like that. She endears herself to the reader for her guts, her honesty, her desire to do things right.  There are many Mikela’s out there, but I think they are afraid to act.

Faith has an interesting role in your book.  How has your own faith impacted the way you approach life?
Faith is what keeps a person going.  To believe in a higher power, to put your faith and trust in the hands of the One you believe will help you make the right decisions, to guide you, to protect you, has always been important to me.  I grew up going to Church, to Sunday school. When faith is torn from the people of the United States, the people were even more lost in mind and spirit after the separation of the Races. People adapted.  People learned to worship on their own, in the privacy of their homes. But the concept of people coming together, to celebrate their faith with each other, is lost. That is a very lonely concept. I believe in God with my heart.  I have not been to Church in a while, but I have daily conversations with God. I would be lost if I didn’t have him to talk to.

You and I have stayed connected on social media since I read your book.  How as Facebook and Instagram in particular helped you to spread the word?
FB and Instagram are important tools.  I use these tools a lot to post excerpts from the book and pictures of K 3.  The feedback is positive, and the word is spreading. 

Have you thought about what you want to tackle next in your writing?
Many people have asked me to do a sequel to K 3.  The lives of people after unification would make a good story.  I have some children’s books I have already written. I just need them illustrated.  Maybe that is something we can talk about in the future?

What advice do you have for other aspiring storytellers out there?
Cyrus, I would tell aspiring storytellers to not give up.  If you believe in yourself, keep pursuing your dream, accomplish your goal.  My circle of acquaintances are also my worst critics. They don’t sugar coat things for me, and I respect them for that.  So, when people tell me K 3 is a well-written, believable story, I can accept that as truth. Many literary agencies are wary of unknown names and won’t give you the time of day.  Don’t let them bring you down!

Thanks again for your time, Tracie.  How can readers stay connected with you and get the book for themselves?
I am on Face Book as Tracie O’Neil Horton and on Instagram.  K 3 is on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. K 3 can also be bought in paperback from Outskirts Press for $15.41 at

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