Today, I have a guest post from Ken Toppell. First though, here’s the book info. Second Cousin Once Removed is due for release on the 8th September
Henry Atkinson’s boring life as an attorney comes to a screeching halt one day when idle research into his own family tree results in the discovery of a distant relative-with a criminal record. Henry suddenly finds himself on the run from this mysterious cousin, wondering who he is, what he wants with Henry, and whether Henry himself will survive to see the next day.
When my granddaughter became a teenager, I started thinking about what I could give her. I didn’t know if she was into perfumes or jewelry, especially since her idea of getting dressed up was a pair of jeans with holes in them. She’s the youngest in the family and, as the oldest, I realized I could gift her with family memories.
That was the impetus for creating our family tree. Although our extended family no longer lived nearby, I could remember aunts and uncles and which cousins belonged to whom. I soon branched out into which cousins were married and if they had any children of their own. From there, it sprouted limbs and branches to include siblings and offspring.
To accompany the tree, I wrote a booklet with stories and family folklore. I knew secrets (not all of which I could share) and, of course, not every name was famous. They were like the rest of us, making a living, building their own families, loving each other, and fitting into the world as best they could.
There were some names that came up that I had never heard before. Children of cousins that I didn’t know. I hadn’t even seen them at weddings or funerals, graduations, or any other family gathering. As the oldest in the family, there weren’t many relatives that I could ask. Who were they? What was their story?
I finished my project by joining online genealogy sites, tracing my family, in-laws, and my son-in-law’s family. I found pictures on Facebook and was able to populate the tree with pictures of ancestors, gravesites, and some of those unknown people.
After creating the tree and booklet for my granddaughter, I was on a roll. It was at that point that I decided to turn some of the stories I heard over the years into a book.
I fabricated experiences and wove gossip and rumors into the truths they become with frequent telling. I even created a character and slotted him into the tree and plugged it into the largest online site in the country.
I shared the same great-grandparents with this character, and his father was my second
cousin, making him my second cousin once removed. I loved that connection. I never really knew a great-great-grandchild, so I just made one up.
About the Author
Ken Toppell, author of Second Cousin Once Removed (releasing from Brown Books Publishing Group on September 8, 2020), attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill during a tumultuous time, the start of the sit-in campaigns, the onset of the civil rights movement. He graduated with a degree in History and Political Science before he went on to Emory University School of Medicine and postgraduate training in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Over the next forty-eight years, Ken did his writing on medical wards and in intensive care units. As the years passed by, Ken had some time to give lectures in American History and begin to try a new kind of writing. He now lives in Plano, Texas, where he reads, writes, and enjoys life with his wife of fifty-four years.