In his new book "Friends But a Possession: Just the Way It Was," Woods tells the story of Buck Inman as he lived through the Civil War despite his opposition to both owning slaves and the war as a whole.
"I started writing it about 30 years ago. I wrote a page or two and stopped and wrote a page or two and stop. I decided about two or three years ago to really get serious about it. I have all these stories running through my head that I've heard through the years and I decided to incorporate them into one story with one main character," said Woods.
Woods said he has always been interested in history and most of the stories in the book are true.
"I've been interested in history all my life and I minored in history at Delta State. I've always talked to older people both black and white and so a lot of the stories in the book are true and handed down over the years. Others I've heard through the family. The war period in the book is actually my grandfather and great-grandfather's war story," he said.
Woods said he feels it's important for students and readers to better understand the war and Mississippi History.
"My second career was administrator of schools and I always took one period to teach Mississippi History because I just like it and wanted the kids to know it.
One goal I had was to show that people back then aren't very different from today. They don't have a lot of control over the events in their lives. I was trying to show this man who opposed the Civil War and opposed slavery he was in the war; that's just the way it was. When they say you go fight, you go fight.
"I also wanted readers to understand that Southerners at that time, very few owned slaves. Slavery was one of the issues but it wasn't the driving issues; if you're invaded you fight," he said.
Woods wrote about a black man who said he was asked why he fought for the Confederacy when everyone in the Union was trying to free the slaves.
"His answer was 'when they're coming to burn your house you don't care whose side their on, you'll fight,'" said Woods.
The book has several threads running through the story including the struggles of Christianity during the time period.
"How can you be a Christian and own slaves? They built balconies for slaves to sit in and baptized them but they were still slaves. I also hope they'll have a better understanding of the South as it really was back then. Today there is so much hype about everything but the average person back in the South didn't own slaves. Only the elite, maybe 10 percent of people actually owned slaves. Land back then sold for maybe $10 an acre and a slave would go for $1,000," said Woods.
He added the Mississippi Delta was where the 10 largest slave owners were because of the amount of land and the need for labor.
"Blacks also owned slaves. A man named Williams down in Natchez, he owned slaves and he was well enough off that he loaned money to the white people. It was a different era that most people don't have a clue about," said Woods.
Woods also wanted to show the relationship between blacks at that time and whites, and also that the same relationship went on during Woods' childhood.
"You get to be like family. Can you imagine if you lived on a plantation three or four generations with both whites and blacks, and they were so interwoven, you can imagine that living together like that for so long. You take care of one another," said Woods.
In the story Buck, the main character, inherits his father's land including all of the slaves on the land. Buck then must decide what to do with the slaves.
"He gave them a choice. He freed them but allowed them to stay and worked out a sharecropping system," said Woods.
Woods said as he wrote he pretended he was telling a story to his grandchildren and then chose to self publish once the story was finished with a company that specializes in self-publishing and marketing.
He also said the cover for the story came from an actual photo.
"We used to live on a plantation called Mount Holly. This photo is of Larry Davis and my youngest son. Larry was working with us to prepare for my daughter's wedding and he just loved my youngest son. The cover comes from a picture of the two of them standing in front of Mount Holly," said Woods.
Woods also said much of the setting for the story came from Mount Holly and the Lake Washington area.
Woods will be at Cotton Row Bookstore signing on June 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information about the book or the signing call 662-843-7083.