After dreaming and studying and visiting battlefields for nearly thirty years–not to mention writing approximately 140,000 words–it’s happening.
Tomorrow, May 7, 2019, THE YANKEE WIDOW, my new book, will be released in hardcover and as an audiobook.
Like any author, I hope my ‘book baby’ will be well received, but, basically, seeing these long-cherished characters come to life, sharing their joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures, is a huge reward in and of itself. I lived with these people for decades, remember.
Lots of people have asked me why I wanted to write about the Civil War in particular, especially when I’m known for my western romances–I love those, by the way, and plan to continue to write them–and I think there are many answers to that question.
I don’t remember studying the subject in high school history (I didn’t get around to attending college); we covered Abraham Lincoln, I’m sure, but only in a fairly superficial way. (I didn’t begin to understand this amazing man until a few years ago, when I read Doris Kerne Goodwin’s marvel of a book, Team of Rivals.) And then there were those episodic stories on Walt Disney World–I loved them, especially the series about Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, but I’m not sure the Civil War was ever depicted. (If it was, the actors would have been too well-scrubbed, with clean, combed hair, very white teeth and spotless uniforms, both blue and gray, for all concerned.)
The truth was considerably less glamorous, of course–Union soldiers were supplied with uniforms, boots, weapons and decent rations, at least early in the war. The Confederates, on the other hand, showed up to fight in whatever clothing they happened to have–the spiffy gray uniforms belonged primarily to the officers, though some of the troops wore them, too.
Nobody–and I mean nobody–was clean, at least by today’s standards.
Frankly, my dear, I strongly suspect that my original inspiration was Gone With the Wind, first the book, then the movie. The spectacles: epic battles, with casts of thousands, smoke and cannon–Atlanta in flames–and dear, obnoxious Scarlett, foolishly pursuing the wrong man when Rhett Butler–Rhett Butler for heaven’s sake!–clearly loved her. Still, she kept her little band of friends and relations alive in the midst of utter disaster, and that, as we say out West, took some doin’. Scarlett might have been stubborn, selfish, and sneaky, but she had grit, all right.
I didn’t set out to recreate Scarlett–that would have been impossible, of course–but the idea of a great nation tearing itself apart certainly stuck with me.
I became an avid student of American history, largely self-educated; there were questions buzzing around in my head, the main one being: how could a country founded on such profound principles of freedom tolerate so abhorrent an institution as slavery? Words like ‘liberty and justice for all’ were a mockery, obviously, when one human being could own another–or many others.
Clearly, the whole subject is complex, and one blog entry isn’t going to change that. I’ve studied this war and its many causes for years, and yet I know so little.
So, the quest continues.
There is so much more to learn, to understand, to know.
Expect more books.