Book Review: Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister

girl-in-disguiseWith no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My Thoughts:

The Pinkerton Agency is widely known for their pursuit of Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. What is not commonly known is the agency hired the first female Detective-Kate Warne- in the U.S. during the mid-1850’s. The founder Allan Pinkerton immigrated to Chicago from Scotland in the early 1840’s and joined the Chicago police department and soon after opened the first Pinkerton Agency. Before reading, Girl in Disguise, I had not known about Kate, so I was delighted when I discovered this book on NetGalley.

Kate Warne is an extraordinary woman-especially someone as independent as she was in the 1800’s. During those times it was unheard of for women to do what was considered a “Man’s job”. Allan Pinkerton was hesitant-if you will-to hire her but in his knowledge of undercover work, he knew that often times it was not easy for males to gain access to the people they were pursuing. With strong intellect and determination, Kate quickly proves herself to be invaluable and gains the trust of Pinkerton.

Kate’s talent for gathering information is well displayed in this story and gives you great insight into detective work and I found this highly fascinating to read about. As the story developed further, the Pinkerton Agency flourished and you really get a sense of the character’s will to fight for justice.

The second half of the story focuses on the American Civil War and the agencies role. This is where I learned some new things about the agency I had not realized before. I did find a few scenes disjointed and there is a brief romance that just seem to appear and I was not sure-at first- how that would play out in the story. In the end I believe it worked and really helped Kate’s motivation for the actions she took. I do question Kate’s ability to travel freely on her own while the war was raging and I’m not sure that was believable to me. Nonetheless it did not entirely distract me from enjoying the story.

After finishing the story, I tuned to the author’s notes and I was glad I did. I developed a deeper appreciation for the story from having read it and I highly recommend that readers take the time to do so.

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with Best-Selling Author C.S. Harris

me-iiI’d like to welcome C. S. Harris today to talk with me about her new release, Good Time Coming, novel of the American Civil War. C.S. is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series and the standalone historical Good Time Coming. Under her own name, Candice Proctor, she is also the author of seven historical novels and a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution. As C.S. Graham she writes the Tobie Guinness contemporary thriller series.

A Former academic with a PhD in European history, Candice has also worked as an archaeologist at a variety of sites around the world and spent much of her life abroad, living in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans with her husband, retired Army intelligence officer Steve Harris, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

Hi, Candice! Thank you for talking with me today about your newly release novel, Good Time Coming. It is a true honor to be talking about what I think is the most important work of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year and in a long time. Please tell your audience about the premise of your story?

c-s-harrisHi Stephanie, thanks so much, and thanks for having me! Good Time Coming is the story of Amrie St. Pierre, a young girl forced to grow up fast in Civil War-torn Louisiana. This is a side of war we don’t often hear about—the struggle faced by the women and children left alone to survive in the face of starvation, disease, and the ravages of an invading army. War looks very different when seen through the eyes of a child learning hard truths about personal strength, friendship, and the shades of good and evil that exist within us all.

Rarely do I hear people talking about what the women endured during this war. I believe many are uncomfortable talking about it for many reasons. Neither do many people realize the starvation that was taking place because of the blockades and soldiers taking food for their own needs. You really touched on this and I am glad you did. Were there any moments while writing about this that you thought that it might not be well received? Also, what were your own emotions about this while writing your story?

When I first started thinking about this book, I simply wanted to tell a story about a dramatic, compelling aspect of the Civil War I felt had been neglected for some strange reason. (Yes, you can call me naive!) I’d never lived in the South until I moved to New Orleans shortly before Katrina, so I had no idea just how horrible the war was for the women and children of Louisiana until I started reading their surviving letters, diaries, and memoirs. Although I’m a historian and therefore should have known more than most about the brutal realities of warfare, I was frankly stunned. I was also disturbed to realize just how effectively the truth has been glossed over and hidden.

All nations mythologize their past, but I have a sneaky suspicion Americans do it more than most. The brutal realities of our Civil War don’t fit well with the stories we Americans like to tell ourselves, so we tend to ignore them—or try to. Slavery was a vile institution, and anyone who tries to excuse it (as some, amazingly, still do) by saying most slaves were well treated hasn’t read the numerous extant journals and letters of the period, or the Slave Narratives from the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project. The simple truth is that slaves worked because they were whipped. Full stop. And because a statistical percentage of any population has sociopathic tendencies, any institution that allows one group of people absolute power over others is a recipe for sadism. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the North did not go to war against the South to end slavery. Their war aim was to preserve the Union, and their motive was the same one that led to the Mexican-American War and the virtual extermination of the Native Americans. The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

But breaking that taboo and telling a story that portrays what really happened is dangerous for a writer. I knew the book would probably provoke discussion; I didn’t realize it would be so controversial that it would be hard to get published. As for its effects on me, writing this book was a wrenching, highly emotional experience. It’s a powerful story and I still cry when I reread it. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and I am not the same person I was before I started it—it was that life altering.

good-time-coming-ii

I believe you have truly captured the diversity of people and social standings and showed different views of the war in a concise way. The attitudes of the war and government were so complex. It wasn’t as straightforward as people would like to believe. Without giving too much away will you tell your audience a little about how you portrayed people’s attitudes during that time?

I carefully studied the people who were living in St. Francisville and Bayou Sara before the war and made a determined effort to be true to their profiles (many of the minor characters in the book are real historical figures). A surprising number of residents were recent immigrants either from the North or Europe. There were a few wealthy, large plantation owners, but most people were small farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen who owned no slaves. Some, inevitably, were eager for war (as was the case at the outbreak of WWI, most people assumed the war would be over quickly and their side was sure to win). Many were swept up in a patriotic fervor that sounds eerily similar to that of the Revolution. Others, like Amrie’s father, opposed secession but felt compelled to step forward and defend their homes and families. And some, like Amrie’s uncle, a West Point graduate, made the agonizing decision to remain in the Union army and fight their own people.

And then there’s the fact that a huge percentage of the people in the area were enslaved. The antebellum South was also home to over a quarter of a million gens de couleur libres or “free people of color.” Louisiana, especially, had a large population of free African-Americans. Some owned plantations and slaves themselves. Some formed units that fought for the Confederacy; others formed the Corps d’Afrique and fought for the Union. As the war continued and more and more slaves walked off the plantations, those numbers increased.

The longer the war went on, life became increasingly desperate, and society simply broke down. What happened to the people of the area during those years had repercussions that lasted for generations. For many decades after the Civil War, the Feliciana Parishes (in Louisiana, the civil administrative districts known elsewhere as counties are called parishes) had by far the highest murder rate in the country—higher even than the wild, wild West! To be frank, in a very real sense I don’t think it has recovered yet.

What are some emotional triggers for Amrie and her mother and how do they act on them?

One of the things that made the war particularly hard on Southern women was the fact that nineteenth-century Southern culture really did treat women differently—and expected them to behave differently. For example, it was not unusual for women in the North to become schoolteachers and nurses, but that was not true in the South; in fact, it was powerfully discouraged. So when the men all marched off to war (and died at a shocking rate: something like a quarter of the male population) it was even more of a stretch for their women to take over the farms and start running shops. Amrie St. Pierre is what we would today call a tomboy, while her mother defied expectations as a young woman by attending medical lectures in New Orleans (women were allowed to attend lectures even though they could not be licensed as doctors). Yet despite these advantages, they still face enormous hardships in an increasingly dangerous world. And of course one of the truths this story confronts is the reality of rape in war and how Southern women handled that. Two important themes are women finding strengths they don’t know they possess, and the bonds that can form amongst a community of women undergoing hardship together.

Please tell us a little about the supporting characters.

One of the most interesting characters for me to write was Amrie’s mother, Kate St. Pierre. At the beginning of the book Amrie sees her the way all children tend to see their mothers, with little understanding of the hardships and strains Kate is facing. But as the war goes on and Amrie grows up, their relationship subtly shifts, and Amrie begins to realize just how much there is to admire about her mother—and the ways in which they are and are not alike. The mother-daughter dynamic is always a powerful one, and when it is played out against the strains of war and extreme hardship, it’s fascinating.

A very different character is Adelaide Dunbar, Amrie’s grandmother. Adelaide is a hard woman who has done some terrible things in her life (Amrie discovers just how terrible as the story progresses), and yet she has an inner grit that can’t help but inspire respect. She forms a distinct contrast to Castile Boudreaau, a freed slave who serves as something of a mentor to Amrie. He’s an evolved soul who has already lived through so much pain and hardship that he has the calm and wisdom that Amrie lacks—and sorely needs as the war progresses. I could go on and on, talking about Finn, Amrie’s childhood friend, and Hilda Meyers, the enigmatic German shopkeeper; they’re all so real to me that since I’ve finished the book I find I miss them the way you miss friends you haven’t seen in a while.

For those who are not familiar with Civil War battle sites like Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, and Camp Moore, could you talk a little about that?

It’s hard to overstate the strategic importance of the Mississippi River in the Civil War. The Union knew that if they could take the river, they would effectively cut the Confederacy in two and stop the influx of cattle, horses, and other vital supplies coming into the South from Texas. Once New Orleans fell, the last two Confederate strongholds on the river were Port Hudson and Vicksburg, which became the scenes of horrific sieges. The once prosperous town of St. Francisville and its port, Bayou Sara, lay in between the two, so they suffered grievously from the depredations of Union troops trying to overrun both those two fortifications and Camp Moore, an important Confederate training ground that lay just to the east. The entire area was constantly raided and burned, and guerilla attacks on Union supply lines led to brutal acts of retaliation against area civilians. The things done to the women and children of Louisiana were abominable.

This is a big leap from your Regency England St. Cyr series. What prompted you to write this story and will there be any more like this from you? I hope so!

One of the hazards of keeping a series going for years and years is that there’s a risk of the writer becoming complacent or bored working always with the same characters, setting, and types of stories. For a while I was also writing a contemporary thriller series (under the name C. S. Graham), but I’m a slow writer and it almost killed me trying to keep two series going at the same time. So for me, standalones like this are a better solution.

I’ve actually wanted to write this book for over a decade, ever since I wrote a historical mystery set in occupied New Orleans (Midnight Confessions: currently out of print but due to be reissued soon under my real name, Candice Proctor). That’s when I first learned something about how hard the war had been on the civilian population of Louisiana, and I started thinking about looking at those events through the unblinkingly honest eyes of a child. Then Katrina hit, and one of the ways I survived those first horrible months of living in a devastated city was by reminding myself of how the residents of other destroyed cities throughout history pulled together to survive and rebuild. And that experience put a new spin on the story I wanted to tell.

I’m currently writing a novella set in Kent during World War II that will be part of an anthology by four authors called The Jacobite’s Watch. This is a new venture for me in two ways: it’s a time period I’ve never tried before, and I’ve never written a novella. I do think it’s important for a writer to keep challenging herself.

How would your characters describe you?

Ha! That’s an interesting question. I guess it would depend on the character. Amrie and I have much in common—she has a lot of my faults along with a number of characteristics I’d like to have but don’t. Ironically it wasn’t until I was reading the galleys for the published book that I realized Amrie’s mother is in many ways a blending of my own mother and grandmother with parts of me, too. I suspect all writers do this—put parts of themselves in their characters, including parts they don’t have but wish they did.

How much time and research did you spend on Good Time Coming and what was the process in getting a publisher to take it on?

I researched this book for years. I read hundreds of letters, memoirs, and journals, along with countless histories on various aspects of the war. I visited the historic sites that are important in the story—Port Hudson and Camp Moore, Jackson and the site of the vanished town of Bayou Sara. I even bought a weekend house not far from St. Francisville, between Jackson and Clinton! I went to Civil War battle reenactments, toured plantations and slave quarters, and spent days and days in dusty museums learning everything I could about how things were done and what objects actually looked like. And then I sat down and wrote the manuscript in five months in a white heat of eighteen-hour days, seven days a week. I’m normally a painfully slow writer, but this book just came pouring out of me.

Because I’d never written anything like this before—a coming-of-age story told from the first person viewpoint of a young girl—I was more than a bit apprehensive about my ability to do the story justice. But I honestly believe it is the best book I have ever written, and my agent was so excited when I sent it to her. Then she sent it out, and we received the most glowing, lyrical rejection letters ever penned. The problem was the subject matter—the effect of the Civil War on Southern civilians, plus, oddly, the issue of rape. New York editors were afraid to touch it. There’s a reason this book was published in England.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

As a professional historian, I find it frightening how little so many people know about the past. History has so much to teach us, not only about past events but also about human nature. As the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme (a truism attributed to Mark Twain although he actually wrote something slightly different). For those who may not enjoy reading nonfiction histories, well-researched historical fiction offers an accessible window to the past.

Who are your influences?

I’ve long believed that the books we read as children influence us the most, and as a child I read Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Alexandre Dumas. Plus we lived in Europe when I was young, and our weekends and summers were spent crawling around crumbling castles, abbeys, and Roman ruins. So it’s no surprise I grew up fascinated by history, and that when I started writing I gravitated to historicals.

Other writers that undoubtedly had an influence on this book are James Lee Burke, both because of his insight into human nature and his lyrically beautiful prose, and of course Harper Lee. It’s impossible to write about a young girl coming of age in the South without consciously or unconsciously referencing Scout.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration?

I’ve never been one of those writers who makes collages with photos of characters, houses, clothes, etc. But I do like to go to the places I’ll be writing about and look at objects—a Civil War surgeon’s instruments, for example, or a real nineteenth-century homemade bow (I was so excited when I actually found one hanging on the wall of an outbuilding of a St. Francisville plantation house; they were common in the South in the years after the Civil War because former Confederate soldiers were not allowed to own guns).  I tramped all over the extensive battlefields of Fort Hudson, waded through the swamps of Cat Island, and stood in St. Francisville’s churchyard to watch the annual reenactment of what they call the Day the War Stopped (a commemoration of the time Federal and Confederate Masons joined together to give a Union captain a Masonic funeral). When I sit down to write, those are the things I draw on.

What is your writing process and how much time during the day do you write?

I do the bulk of my research before I start writing because I find my plots and characters grow out of what I’m reading and learning. I’ve heard some authors say they plot first and then research only what they need as they’re writing, so they don’t “waste time” learning what they’ll never use. The problem with that approach is that it risks turning history into mere window dressing. When I’m writing, if I come upon something I need but don’t know, I will stop and look it up. I’ve spent half a day chasing down information to get one word right—it’s the hazard of having been a history professor.

Ever since Katrina (when I had no choice) I’ve learned to love writing my books by hand in a legal pad. Recent studies have shown that there is something about holding a pen that stimulates the creative parts of your brain, so I’m not just imagining it. When I finish a chapter, I type it up, print it out, then find a comfortable chair to reread and edit. I constantly go back and edit the chapters I’ve written, so that by the time I finish a manuscript it is virtually in its final state. Yet I have a good friend who composes entirely on her computer, never edits until she’s finished, and never prints out her manuscripts. À chacun son goût.

As for how much of my day I spend on writing, I feel as if I’m always working, that I’m never free to just relax the way someone with a 9-5 job can. The problem with working for yourself is that you feel as if you should always be working. And yet because you’re operating on this long deadline—in my case, usually a year to write a 440-page manuscript—it’s all too easy to waste time, to tell yourself you need to think more about your plot or that the article about sociopaths you want to read is “research.” And then there’s the Internet. Publishers push their writers to be active on Facebook and Twitter, but I think it’s a mistake—soooo many writers I know are now locked in a constant battle against the distraction of social media. It’s a huge time sink.

There was a time I was rigorously self-disciplined. Now, not so much.

What is up next for you?

The twelfth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, Where the Dead Lie, will be out in April 2017, and I’ve almost finished #13 (which unfortunately still doesn’t have a title). Then I’ll be moving on to #14, which does have a title: Who Slays the Wicked (love that title!). The anthology with the World War II novella I mentioned will probably be out in 2018. And I’ve also been revising four of my out-of-print historicals; they should all be available early next year.

Where can readers buy your books?

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is available in virtually all outlets in the States and online elsewhere. Good Time Coming is available in hardcover and e-book through various outlets online and can also be ordered through independent bookstores.

Author Links:

Website

Twitter:  @csharris2

Facebook

Amazon

 

 

 

A War So Terrible and The Reconstruction of the South

me-iiOne of the writing projects I am working on is an historical thriller that takes place in the present and the past in Atlanta and Madison, Georgia. The story of the past centers around the town of Madison and two families shortly after the civil war, continuing through the new century. This era is known as the Reconstruction of the South. The present story is of a young woman who lives in Atlanta and is connected to those two families of the past in more ways than she could have ever imagined.

My research has not only taken me to the Reconstruction era but many years prior to the civil war. The deeper I go the more I am discovering about how this war is so much more complex than many have ever explored.

Though my story is a work of fiction, I will have many themes and content in the story that are factual. Often times those themes will be uncomfortable but one I am hoping will bring to light to the many attitudes of that period that people today do not want to face or talk about. My research is to understand and my writing is to explore the motivations and the human condition during the hardships from all of the people. 

The books below are the current research books I will be diving into this week.

the-woman-of-the-south-in-war-times-by-matthew-page-andreasWomen of the South in War Times by Matthew Page Andrews

It may truly be said of the Southern women of 1861-1865 that the simple narrative of their life and work unfolds a record of achievement, endurance, and self-sacrificing devotion that should be revealed and recognized as a splendid inspiration to men and women everywhere. The stories contained in this volume depict the life of the Southern people, particularly the women, within the lines of the Confederacy during the four years of its turbulent existence.

when-i-was-a-slave-memoirs-form-the-slave-narrative-collection-edited-by-norman-r-yetmanWhen I was a slave (Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection) Edited by Norman R. Yetman

In an effort to provide unemployed writers with work during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States Government, through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), funded the Federal Writers’ Project. One of the group’s most noteworthy and enduring achievements was the Slave Narrative Collection, consisting of more than 2,000 transcripts of interviews with former slaves, who, in blunt, simple words, provided often-startling first-person accounts of their lives in bondage. This book reprints some of the most detailed and engrossing life histories in the collection. Each narrative is complete.
Thirty-four gripping testimonies are included, with all slave occupations represented — from field hand and cook to French tutor and seamstress. Personal treatment reported by these individuals also encompassed a wide range — from the harshest and exploitative to living and working conditions that were intimate and benevolent.
An illuminating and unique source of information about life in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, these memoirs, most importantly, preserve the opinions and perspective of those who were enslaved. Invaluable to students, teachers, and specialists in Southern history, this compelling book will intrigue anyone interested in the African-American experience.

on-the-threshold-of-freedom-by-clarence-l-mohrOn the threshold of Freedom by Clarence L. Mohr

In this enlightening study, Clarence L. Mohr follows the demise of chattel slavery in one state of the Confederate South. Like the slavery regime itself, Mohr’s story is biracial in character, embracing the perspectives of both blacks and whites as they struggled to comprehend the approach of black freedom within a framework of attitudes and assumptions shaped by decades of mutual exposure to Georgia’s peculiar institution. By exploring in detail the changing patterns of black-white interaction that preceded legal emancipation in 1865, On the Threshold of Freedom defines central tendencies within Georgia slavery and suggests important links between antebellum life and the events of early Reconstruction.

Announcement! Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

me-iiI have an interview with bestselling, award-winning author C.S Harris that will be posted on December 1st here at Layered Pages! We will be discussing her upcoming novel, Good Time Coming. This story is the most important works of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year. Harris gets real about the complexities of the what southern women and children endured during the war. Mark your calendars! You won’t want to miss this!

****Be sure to check out my review of Good Time Coming below****

Writing is a time honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.

The art of writing a good review is to build a bridge between the book and the reader.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

**********

good-time-coming-ii“A powerful tale of the survival of the women and children left behind during the American Civil War by the author of the Sebastian St Cyr mysteries.”

It’s the beginning of the American Civil War and the Union army is sailing down the Mississippi, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
The graceful river town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has known little of the hardships, death, and destruction of the War. But with the fall of New Orleans, all changes. A Federal fleet appears on the Mississippi, and it isn’t long before the depredations and attacks begin.
For one Southern family the dark blue uniform of the Union army is not the only thing they fear. A young girl stops a vicious attack on her mother and the town must pull together to keep each other safe. But a cryptic message casts doubt amongst the town s folk. Is there a traitor in the town and can anybody be trusted?
Twelve-year-old Amrie and her family have never felt entirely accepted by their neighbors, due to their vocal abolitionist beliefs. But when Federal forces lay siege to the nearby strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the women and children of St. Francisville find themselves living in a no man s land between two warring armies. Realizing they must overcome their differences and work together to survive, they soon discover strengths and abilities they never knew they possessed, and forge unexpected friendships.

As the violence in the area intensifies, Amrie comes to terms with her own capacity for violence and realizes that the capacity for evil exists within all of us. And when the discovery of a closely guarded secret brings the wrath of the Federal army down on St. Francisville, the women of St. Francisville, with whom Amrie and her mother have shared the war years many deprivations and traumas, now unite and risk their own lives to save them.

**********

Good Time Coming constitutes far more than a work of fiction. It is not often talked about- the southern women’s struggle during the American Civil War. The shelling of towns, churches and homes, burning, destruction, plundering, murder, rape and sheer terror commented by the union soldiers against women of the south. Not only that but the starvation they experienced. It’s not a comfortable subject and most of the time no one wants to be honest and open about it, but it is a reality that needs to be told. Women and children (black and white), poor and rich were unprotected, brutalized, starved and often left homeless. More times than not, they received no mercy from the union army. That is a fact. The story, Good Time Coming focuses on many of these things and what a telling it is! Harris has meticulously researched for this story and has brought to life, the voices of the past.

I feel so connected to the characters and their life. This story has touched my soul and impacted me in such a way that has taken me to an era gone by. There were so many emotions running through me while reading this story.

Harris truly captures the diversity of people and social standing and shows different views of the war. Her prose is often times lyrical and she really brings you to the heart of these characters and their plight.

I want people to realize how important stories like this are and how we need to openly talk about what really went on.

An American novel of the war between the states everyone should read. This by far is the best book I have read this year and the best of C.S. Harris work.
Rated this book five stars.

c-s-harrisAbout C.S. Harris

Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham, is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series written under the name C.S. Harris, the new C.S. Graham thriller series co-written with Steven Harris, and seven historical romances. She is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of the French Revolution. Her books are available worldwide and have been translated into over twenty different languages.

Candice graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Classics before going on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in history. A former academic, she has taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University in Texas. She also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson’s Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. Most recently, she spent many years as a partner in an international business consulting firm.

The daughter of a career Air Force officer and university professor, Proctor loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad. She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, her two daughters, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

C.S. Harris Website

Review: Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

Good Time Coming IIA powerful tale of the survival of the women and children left behind during the American Civil War by the author of the Sebastian St Cyr mysteries.”

It’s the beginning of the American Civil War and the Union army is sailing down the Mississippi, leaving death and destruction in its wake.The graceful river town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has known little of the hardships, death, and destruction of the War. But with the fall of New Orleans, all changes. A Federal fleet appears on the Mississippi, and it isn’t long before the depredations and attacks begin.

For one Southern family the dark blue uniform of the Union army is not the only thing they fear. A young girl stops a vicious attack on her mother and the town must pull together to keep each other safe. But a cryptic message casts doubt amongst the town s folk. Is there a traitor in the town and can anybody be trusted?

Twelve-year-old Amrie and her family have never felt entirely accepted by their neighbors, due to their vocal abolitionist beliefs. But when Federal forces lay siege to the nearby strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the women and children of St. Francisville find themselves living in a no man’s land between two warring armies. Realizing they must overcome their differences and work together to survive, they soon discover strengths and abilities they never knew they possessed, and forge unexpected friendships.

As the violence in the area intensifies, Amrie comes to terms with her own capacity for violence and realizes that the capacity for evil exists within all of us. And when the discovery of a closely guarded secret brings the wrath of the Federal army down on St. Francisville, the women of St. Francisville, with whom Amrie and her mother have shared the war years many deprivations and traumas, now unite and risk their own lives to save them.

My Thoughts:

Good Time Coming constitutes far more than a work of fiction. It is not often talked about- the southern women’s struggle during the American Civil War. The shelling of towns, churches and homes, burning, destruction, plundering, murder, rape and sheer terror commented by the union soldiers against women of the south. Not only that but the starvation they experienced. It’s not a comfortable subject and most of the time no one wants to be honest and open about it, but it is a reality that needs to be told. Women and children (black and white), poor and rich were unprotected, brutalized, starved and often left homeless. More times than not, they received no mercy from the union army. That is a fact. The story, Good Time Coming focuses on many of these things and what a telling it is! Harris has meticulously researched for this story and has brought to life, the voices of the past.

I feel so connected to the characters and their life. This story has touched my soul and impacted me in such a way that has taken me to an era gone by. There were so many emotions running through me while reading this story.

Harris truly captures the diversity of people and social standing and shows different views of the war. Her prose is often times lyrical and she really brings you to the heart of these characters and their plight.

I want people to realize how important stories like this are and how we need to openly talk about what really went on.

An American novel of the war between the states everyone should read. This by far is the best book I have read this year and the best of C.S. Harris work.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Rated this book five stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas DiLorenzo

One of my current writing projects is a thriller based historical events that take place during the Reconstruction of the South in Georgia. I have always been interested in the American Civil War (War between the States) and have always wanted to go further in-depth with my research. The American Civil War is so much more complex than many people realize. Much of my research takes me back much further than I expected to go. All the way back to our Founding Father’s-whose sacrifice and passions forged a great nation. A nation for the People. Anyhow, to get back on what I was saying before-My story’s setting I’m working on takes place in Atlanta and Madison, Georgia. I won’t go into great detail about it just yet but it does take place in the modern times and reveals families in the past torn apart by war, betrayal, and murder while trying to put their lives back together during the Reconstruction.

One of the books I came across on my research Journey is The REAL Lincoln. I am thoroughly intrigued with this book and the authors perspective. Take a look at the book blurb. If you are an enthusiast of American History, I highly recommend this book.

 Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Real Lincoln

A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Most Americans consider Abraham Lincoln to be the greatest president in history. His legend as the Great Emancipator has grown to mythic proportions as hundreds of books, a national holiday, and a monument in Washington, D.C., extol his heroism and martyrdom. But what if most everything you knew about Lincoln were false? What if, instead of an American hero who sought to free the slaves, Lincoln were in fact a calculating politician who waged the bloodiest war in american history in order to build an empire that rivaled Great Britain’s? In The Real Lincoln, author Thomas J. DiLorenzo uncovers a side of Lincoln not told in many history books and overshadowed by the immense Lincoln legend.
Through extensive research and meticulous documentation, DiLorenzo portrays the sixteenth president as a man who devoted his political career to revolutionizing the American form of government from one that was very limited in scope and highly decentralized—as the Founding Fathers intended—to a highly centralized, activist state. Standing in his way, however, was the South, with its independent states, its resistance to the national government, and its reliance on unfettered free trade. To accomplish his goals, Lincoln subverted the Constitution, trampled states’ rights, and launched a devastating Civil War, whose wounds haunt us still. According to this provacative book, 600,000 American soldiers did not die for the honorable cause of ending slavery but for the dubious agenda of sacrificing the independence of the states to the supremacy of the federal government, which has been tightening its vise grip on our republic to this very day.

You will discover a side of Lincoln that you were probably never taught in school—a side that calls into question the very myths that surround him and helps explain the true origins of a bloody, and perhaps, unnecessary war.

Book Description from Amazon.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Dennis Anthony

Dennis Anthony BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Dennis Anthony to talk with me today about his book, Debunker. Dennis has been a newspaper reporter, sailor, military officer, television news producer, public relations executive and publishing company owner. He and his wife live in Pensacola, Florida, but try to spend as much time as possible at their cabin on Lookout Mountain in Alabama.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I learned from numerous sources that the B.R.A.G Medallion enjoyed a reputation for recognizing quality efforts by self-published writers.

Please tell me about your book, Debunker: Independence Day.

Debunker: Independence Day is the first book in the Debunker trilogy. The other two are Debunker: Psychic Storm and Debunker: Scream of the Valkyrie. When I wrote it, I assumed it would be a standalone novel, but thanks to positive feedback from readers and my own interest in the story-line, I wrote two more volumes. As a result, I look back on the first book with a different perspective than when I wrote it. It was the first book I ever wrote and it suffers from “first-book-itis,” problems I see every time I read it. I made beginner mistakes, like too much backstory. It doesn’t bother readers though. This book seems to be their favorite.

The protagonist, Francis Trecy, is pulled into participating in a ghost hunting reality program where he serves as the skeptic whose role is to find “normal” explanations for seemingly paranormal events. But Francis soon discovers that he has a gift for seeing dimensions of reality not visible to most people. His evolution in this book takes him from skepticism to uncertainty to something like a believer.

Along the way he deals with deception, infidelity, embezzlement and murder. Nothing, Francis learns, is quite as it seems.

Even if you’re not on a ghost hunting show, I think most people can understand dealing with the struggle that comes with change. At some point we have to decide if we’re strong in our beliefs, or just stubborn. That’s at least one of the themes contained in Debunker: Independence Day.

Interesting premise! What inspired you to create a paranormal reality program?

I’ve enjoyed watching the various ghost shows on television and, like Francis, I’m still dealing with a possible change in my beliefs. I can still hear my mother saying “there’s no such thing as ghosts!” Now I’m not so sure.

There’s another reason I picked the reality show as a focus. I’ve had some experience in television work and it was fun to imagine how I would handle production of a ghost hunting show like this. The paranormal aspect provides a pretty large canvas on which to paint my story.

DEBUNKER BRAG

I am really big about solid character development in stories. Please tell me about Francis and a challenge he faces.

The biggest challenge Francis faces is reconciling his natural skepticism with a world that he slowly begins to believe is far more complex and inexplicable than he ever imagined. He questions what he sees. He questions the people who try to explain it to him. And he tries to understand how the woman, Marion Guest, who becomes his obsession, fits into this world. Book Two expands his relationship with the woman and the larger reality. In Book Three he comes to a realization of who he really is, and resolves his powerful and unique relationship with Marion. I was out of breath by the time it was over.

Why did you choose the Civil War in America as part of your story-line?

I’ve always been a student of the American Civil War. The Gettysburg battlefield, where the climax takes place, is one of my favorite places to visit. In addition, it has a long and well-documented history of paranormal events. It was a perfect match for my story.

Although it’s a mixed-genre work — which makes marketing tricky — I always saw it as a paranormal thriller. Surprisingly, some of the people most interested have been history buffs, so I started marketing it as historical fiction as well.  There’s a lot about the Civil War and the battles, Civil War re-enactors and … to tell you more would spoil it. I guess you’ll just have to read it.

Please tell me a little about your research for this book.

I read books written about and by paranormal investigators, tried to watch most of the television ghost hunting shows I could stomach (some I couldn’t), and for the Civil War aspects, dug into my personal library and used Internet research to fill in the blanks. It’s easy to become seduced by the research. Sooner or later, you’ve got to start writing.

Will you please share an excerpt?

“I want to know about Samuel,” Francis said. “Where’d he come from? Why does he know things?”

“Yes,” the old woodcarver said. “Where does he come from? Why is he here? How does he know about . . . ?”

Francis’s face burned. “He talks about being in the battle – the original battle. He seems . . .” Francis stuttered. “. . . well, a rather simple-minded man. Yet he knows details about the battle that surprise me.”

“Perhaps he’s a student.”

“I don’t think so,” Francis said. “He told me he remembered all these things after meeting with you. Did you put those memories into his head?”

For the first time, Mr. Cobb began laughing. The swell of sound was quickly muffled in his belly and his eyes twinkled again. “Now why would I do something like that, even if I could?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then . . .”

“So how could this unschooled, half-literate man-child know so much about the Battle of Gettysburg?” Francis asked.

“Because he was there,” the old man said. “I helped him remember what he lived through.”

Francis was struck dumb for the moment. “Let’s pretend that’s true,” Francis said.

“Pretend away,” Mr. Cobb said.

“Assuming it’s true, then, how could he get so many facts about the battle so wrong?”

“Like what?”

Francis paused in his own mind to consider the absurdity of this exchange, but he continued. “He said the rebel soldiers during Pickett’s Charge broke through and routed the Union troops. He said General Hancock was killed. Those things never happened.”

Mr. Cobb dropped into a straight-back wooden chair. He looked tired for the first time. “In war – especially during battle – much is said and remembered that never happened. Panic, fear. It all kicks in. A few Confederate troops did break the Union line, however briefly. During the battle, Hancock was wounded and the rumor went around that he had been killed. It would be easy for Samuel to be confused in the remembering.”

“So he got it wrong,” Francis said. “That still doesn’t explain . . .”

“I didn’t say he got it wrong,” Mr. Cobb said. “I merely wanted to point out that he could have gotten it wrong. Since you’re a practical man – a skeptic? – I thought it important to point that out to you.”

“I’m not following.”

Mr. Cobb took a deep breath, put his hands on the stiff apron that buckled up around his knees. “Samuel was at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederate troops did bust through the Union line and it rolled up at both ends, just like that curl of basswood I gouged out a few minutes ago. Hancock was killed. There was a rout and the entire Army of the Potomac retreated behind the defenses of Washington, D.C. Great Britain recognized the Confederacy as a result of the victory and joined the war on their side. Abraham Lincoln was defeated for re-election, and President George McClellan made peace with the South.” Mr. Cobb turned his head to look up at Francis who slowly squatted down in front of him so that their eyes were level. “The Confederate States of America won the Civil War.”

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Debunker refers to the role of skeptic played by the protagonist. It’s a point of pride that I never actually used the word in any of the three novels of the Debunker trilogy. Not sure why, but there it is. Independence Day holds a double meaning that readers of the book will understand. One meaning is the holiday celebrated on the date of the story’s climax.

Who designed your book cover?

My cover was designed by Book Cover Cafe. I provided an overall concept. They incorporated everything that worked and threw out all the stupid stuff that didn’t.

LINKS: 

Amazon

website

Twitter:  @DennisAuthor

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Dennis Anthony who is the author of, Debunker, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Debunker, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Diann Ducharme

04_Diann Ducharme_Author

I’d like to welcome Diann Ducharme today to Layered Pages to talk with me about her book, The Outer Banks House. Diann was born in Indiana in 1971, but she spent the majority of her childhood in Newport News, Virginia. She majored in English literature at the University of Virginia, but she never wrote creatively until, after the birth of her second child in 2003, she sat down to write The Outer Banks House. She soon followed up with her second book, Chasing Eternity, and in 2015 the sequel to her first novel, Return to the Outer Banks House.

Diann has vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of three. She even married her husband of 10 years, Sean Ducharme, in Duck, North Carolina, immediately after a stubborn Hurricane Bonnie churned through the Outer Banks. Conveniently, the family beach house in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina provided shelter while she conducted research for her historical fiction novels.

She has three beach-loving children and a border collie named Toby, who enjoys his sprints along the shore. The family lives in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, counting down the months until summer.

For more information visit Diann Ducharme’s website. You can also follow Diann on her blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Diann, please tell me about your book.

Its 1868, the era of Reconstruction in North Carolina, and times are tough. Yet the barren barrier islands of the Outer Banks offer a respite for the Sinclairs, the once-wealthy plantation owners. The family of five and three servants plan to spend the summer in the newly constructed cottage, one of the first cottages on the ocean side of the resort village of Nags Head.

There, on the porch of the cottage, the 17-year-old daughter, beautiful, book-smart and boxed-in Abigail, teaches her father Nolan’s fishing guide, good-natured, ambitious and penniless 19-year-old Benjamin Whimble, how to read and write. The two come to understand, and then to love each other, despite the demands of their parents, the pursuit of prim and proper medical student Hector Newman, and Ben’s longtime relationship with sour-tongued net-mender, Eliza Dickens.

But as Abby and Ben come to learn, tackling the alphabet is the easy part of the summer. Against everything he claims to represent, Ben becomes entangled in Nolan’s Ku Klux Klan dirty work, and Abigail’s mother Ingrid, unexpectedly pregnant, reveals facets of her personality to Abigail that shed light on her growing madness and inability to mother. As Abby and Ben venture from the cottage porch to a real schoolhouse—a schoolhouse for the slowly dwindling Freedmen’s Colony on nearby Roanoke Island, they soon come face to face with her father, dressed in KKK robes and hunting a man that the entire colony of freed slaves has come to love and respect. It becomes doubtful that Abby and Ben’s newfound love will survive the terrible tragedy and surprising revelations that one hot Outer Banks night brings forth.

The Outer Banks House is the first historical fiction novel set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the mid-19th century. It combines history, romance and coming-of-age drama, as Abby tries to adjust to life in a post-war South. Each chapter begins with a pertinent quote from Robinson Crusoe, the novel that sparks such controversy (over slavery and racism), and finally appreciation and love, between Abby and Ben.

What are some of your interests in the Civil War?

During that post-Civil War Reconstruction era, vacation homes were starting to be built along the ocean side of the Outer Banks. The questionability of such endeavors—something at which the local “Bankers” looked askance, due to the cottages’ dangerous proximity to the sea–captivated me. I wanted to write about people that would do such dramatic things. I also enjoyed imagining women in hoop skirts, fresh from the war, hanging out at beach cottages. I didn’t know much about the Civil War, nor Reconstruction in North Carolina, but I did know about hanging out at the beach, so I learned as much as I could about that time period and blended what I knew with what I had learned.

What is some of the research that went into this story?

During my research, I read a terrific book called Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Patricia Click, about the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island during and after the Civil War. The book taught me everything there was to know about the Freedmen’s Colony, of which I had previously heard nothing. Learning about such a unique and unheard of aspect of the Outer Banks piqued my interest enough to use it as a major point of reference in the novel.

I also learned during my research that many residents of the Banks were pro-Union during the Civil War. As much as North Carolina is considered a southern state, it was interesting for me to know that the people of the islands didn’t necessarily hold the beliefs that were championed by people of the mainland. This fact helped me to form Ben’s character, as well as create a picture of the independent-mindedness of the people of the Banks.

I also dragged my family all over the island in the name of research. A pivotal scene occurs on the large dune system called Jockey’s Ridge, located in Nags Head. My family and I climbed the dunes several times, and it never failed to amaze me just how high they were—a giant hill made of sand! And too, a much smaller dune system exists to the north of a unique maritime forest called Nags Head Woods. The dune system, called Run Hill, is pretty much a secret to most visitors of the Banks—eerily quiet in the dead of summer. This is where I found the trees—the northernmost beginnings of Nags Head Woods—whose trunks were buried in sand. Just as my characters stumbled upon these feats of nature, so did I explore them for the first time as well. I think such exploration made the writing more believable.

Please tell me a little about Abby’s father’s work with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 as a way to reassert white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies that favored politician and economic equality for the newly freed blacks. The Klan extended into every southern state by 1870, including North Carolina. Nolan Sinclair, being a wealthy plantation owner, was a politically connected man before and after the war; these during Reconstruction these humiliated and temporarily hobbled politicians and former slave-owners set about righting a white supremacist agenda which eventually made its way into many southern legislatures.

Why did you choose the Outer Banks of North Carolina for your story?

The Outer Banks is a long, skinny chain of barrier islands that run along a good portion of the coast of North Carolina. One the one side, the ocean crashes against the naked sand, all drama. On the other side, the sounds caress the maritime thickets and marshland, more forgiving. I knew that I wanted to compare the two ecosystems, similar to the way in which I pit the “Bankers” against the mainlanders who build their vacation homes there.

Also, nothing there stays the same—everything is dynamic, fleeting—yet the tiny strip of land still hangs on, facing the wild weather year after year. The concept of change suited my characters as well.

I have vacationed on the Outer Banks since the age of 3, so it is a very special place for me.

Please tell me a little about the Sinclair family.

Nolan Sinclair, the once wealthy and powerful planter from Edenton, North Carolina, is fearful of losing his plantation in the Reconstruction aftermath of the Civil War. In a desperate act of assertion, he moves his family to the unusual house on the sand for the summer of 1868. His connections with the KKK threaten his otherwise peaceful summer plans at the seaside. His fiercely intelligent and aloof wife Ingrid is in the early stages of pregnancy, but she fears that her body cannot safely bear any more children. And their eldest child, 17-year-old Abby, misses her Uncle Jack, dead from an illness contracted during the Civil War. Their faithful servant, Asha, travels to the beach with them for the summer.

What are some of the fictional aspects of the story?

The setting is very real, but I had to imagine what it must have been like in 1868. Not a lot was written about the area during this time period.

What was your writing process and how long did it take to write your story?

It took me about 3 years to complete the first draft of the novel. I wrote during my second child’s naps and on weekends when my husband took over the household duties. But I was thinking about the novel at all times of the day and often at night!

What are you working on next?

I am working on a present-day novel about a once-beautiful woman, now scarred, who struggles to overcome her agoraphobia in order to regain custody of her two children. During her recovery, a love interest with a deer hunter ensues when she moves to her blind aunt’s home in the mountains of western Virginia.

02_The Outer Banks House_Cover

 

Buy The Outer Banks House

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 The Outer Banks Series Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 25 Spotlight & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, May 26 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, May 27 Review (Book One) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 28 Review (Book One) at In a Minute

Friday, May 29 Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, May 30 Spotlight at Becky on Books

Sunday, May 31 Review (Book One) at Book Nerd

Monday, June 1 Review (Book Two) at Let them Read Books Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading

Tuesday, June 2 Review (Book One) at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, June 3 Review (Book Two) at Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 4 Spotlight & Giveaway (Book One) at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, June 5 Review (Both Books) at Bibliotica

Sunday, June 7 Review (Book One) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 8 Review (Book One) at Ageless Pages Reviews Guest Post at Curling Up With A Good Book

Tuesday, June 9 Review & Giveaway (Book One) at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, June 10 Review (Both Books) at Unshelfish Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 11 Review (Book Two) at Book Lovers Paradise Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, June 12 Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, June 14 Review (Book Two) at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 15 Review & Giveaway (Both Books) at Genre Queen

Tuesday, June 16 Interview at Books and Benches Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, June 17 Review (Both Books) at Luxury Reading

Thursday, June 18 Review (Book One) at Books and Benches Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, June 19 Review (Book One) at Build a Bookshelf Review (Book Two) at Ageless Pages Reviews

05_Outer Banks Series_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

Interview Part II with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D.R. Hawkins

 

JDR Hawkins

Stephanie: I would like to welcome back J.D.R. Hawkins for a follow up interview about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, “A Beautiful Glittering Lie.”. She is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines and blogs. She is one of a few female Civil War authors, uniquely describing the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Ms. Hawkins is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, the Mississippi Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Writers and Pikes Peak Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. Her two previous novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, have received numerous honors and awards. Ms. Hawkins is currently working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, as well as a Young Adult historical fiction and a memoir. Learn more about J.D.R. here

Hello, J.D.R.! Thank you for visiting with me again to talk about your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Please bring readers up to speed about the premise of your story.

J.D.R.: The novel is the first in a four-book series, which I call “The Renegade Series.” It’s a saga about the Summers family from North Alabama, and what happens to them when the Civil War erupts.

2013-07-06 14.09.12

Stephanie: I think it’s great that you have written a story about a Southern Soldier & a family rather than an officer or strictly about warfare tactics. I believe you bring readers closer to the events that took place during that time by doing so. What are a couple of this soldier’s struggles he faces during the Civil War?

J.D.R.: The first struggle that the father, Hiram Summers, faces is whether or not to support Alabama when the state secedes. The second is leaving his family once he decides to enlist. And from that point on, surviving every battle, from First Manassas to Fredericksburg, is a struggle.

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Stephanie: In my last interview with you, you said that part of your research was travelling to various battlefields. What are the names of the battlefields you visited and what were some of the thoughts and emotions you experienced?

J.D.R.: My husband and I visited many Virginia battlefields, including Manassas (Bull Run), Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. We also went to Brandy Station, where the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War took place. And, of course, we went to Gettysburg. That battlefield was the most profound. How those foot-weary soldiers fought over such rugged terrain amazes me. And seeing the National Cemetery, with all the unknown soldiers’ markers, as well as the mass graves of the Confederates, was overwhelming. So many gave their lives, and that was just in one battle.

2013-07-06 09.07.52

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what were some of the challenges?

J.D.R.: It took me about six months to research and six months to write, so a year overall. I think the biggest challenge was trying to make the battle scenes come to life from a soldier’s perspective. A Beautiful Glittering Lie is based on a journal by one of the soldiers who fought with the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. By referring to his observations and perceptions of the battles he participated in, it was easier to visualize what those men went through.

Stephanie: Did you learn anything new about the Civil War in your research you didn’t know before?

J.D.R: I discovered much about how Alabama was affected by the war. Hiram’s son, David, sees firsthand the devastation taking place when he sneaks into occupied Huntsville. Union soldiers were not always gentlemanly in their treatment of the locals, women, and especially, black people. The scenes described in the book, as well as the Union officers who were in Huntsville and the surrounding area, are based on fact.

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Stephanie: What about this period of time in American history impacted you the most to write this story?

J.D.R.: I have always been fascinated with the Victorian era, and the Civil War in particular. The war was not completely about slavery, which is a popular belief. The causes were far more complex, but basically, the war was a result of economics and political greed. As is the case in many instances in American history, citizens become pawns to politicians’ schemes and disagreements.

Stephanie: Which character in your story are you most partial to and why?

J.D.R: I’d have to say that I’m most partial to David. At the beginning of the story, he is just a teenager. Instead of going to fight, which is what he wants to do, he stays behind to tend to the family’s farm, thus fulfilling his promise to his father. However, like any teenage boy, he is hungry for adventure, so he goes off to find it, but bites off more than he can chew.

2013-07-07 14.11.05

Stephanie: Writing Historical fiction can be tricky with blending the right amount of fiction with fact. What advice would you give a new writer wanting to do so?

J.D.R.: My advice would be to immerse yourself in the period you want to write about. Read letters, journals, speeches, newspaper articles, and books written about and during that era to get a feel for what people experienced and how they expressed themselves. Study the fashions, the political undercurrent, fads, music, artwork, and photographs. I listened to Civil War music while I wrote to get myself in the right mindset. Know your facts inside and out, but don’t go overboard with description, because that can bore your readers. Instead, sprinkle tidbits throughout your book. Once you are completely familiar with the era you want to write about, develop your plot. Let your characters grow with the story. I ended up writing things that weren’t in the original outline because my characters seemed to take on personas of their own, especially in their dialogue. If possible, visit the places you are writing about to learn the terrain, the architecture, and regional dialects.

Stephanie: What is up next for you and will there be more stories that take place during this period?

J.D.R.: I plan on publishing the third book in “The Renegade Series.” (The second book, A Beckoning Hellfire, has been published.) I’m also working on a nonfiction book about the Civil War, a Young Adult novel, and a memoir.

Confederate Cavalry

Confederate Cavalry

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

J.D.R.: I learned about it from Writer’s Digest magazine.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

J.D.R.: The book is available everywhere. It can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at all other book retailers. Readers can also purchase it through my website .

Facebook Page

Twitter

Pinterest

goodreads

Google Plus

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.D.R. Hawkins, who is the author of, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Author Donna Walsh

Donna Walsh

Donna Walsh Inglehart began her professional life in Maine, where she founded a wilderness camp for teenagers. After earning an M.A. in English at Middlebury College, she taught writing for many years to students of all ages. Donna wrote professionally in a variety of contexts before turning to fiction, and in 1992, Little, Brown published a novel she’d written for her young daughters, set in the Thousand Islands. Years later, Donna returned to that locale with Grindstone, a historical novel based on documented accounts of a Confederate spy ring operating in the region. Grindstone centers on the island world of a young Irish immigrant and a soldier returning from the war. Donna then teamed up with award-winning photographer, Ian Coristine, and together they wrote One in a Thousand, Ian’s memoir, released by McClellan Interactive Publishing as an iPad App eBook. Donna is currently working on a prequel to Grindstone, set in the Thousand Islands during the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837.

Stephanie: Hello, Donna! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. That is wonderful! Please tell me about your book, Grindstone.

Donna: Thank you, Stephanie. I’ve looked forward to our conversation. I am pleased to be honored with a Medallion and appreciative of the recognition indieBRAG is giving to us indie authors. Grindstone was inspired by documented accounts of a Confederate spy ring based in Toronto in the final year of the Civil War. Grindstone is one of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, which marks the boundary between the States and Canada. During the war, the area was rife with espionage. Grindstone is told from the perspectives of a Confederate spy and an Irish woman living alone on the island. Totally isolated from their families and cultures, Jonathon and Anya are drawn to each other and become caught in a web of espionage.

Stephanie: What period does it take place in and can you tell me a little about what you know of the Civil War during this time?

Donna: Grindstone begins in 1864, when almost every family in northern New England and New York had suffered losses in the war. The Confederates were losing, and in a desperate strategy, set out to overthrow the Union by firebombing the northern cities, creating havoc, then freeing imprisoned Confederate soldiers. At the same time, many thousands of Irish immigrants were traveling to the region under the direst circumstances. Anya’s brother joined the Union Army a few days after he crossed the border into the States, because he could find no other work. He was paid three hundred dollars to stand in for someone else.

GRINDSTONE.

Stephanie: What is some of the research that went into this book and how long did it take you to write your story?

Donna: It took several years to write Grindstone, because I was teaching full-time and the novel kept growing and changing. Initially I had focused solely on the Civil War, and kept discovering more information about the Confederate operations in Canada. Then, in the middle of the project, it happened that I traveled to Ireland a few times on unrelated business. I already knew a bit about the famines (an Gorta mor), but it wasn’t until I was in Ireland that the implications of those devastating years began to resonate. I also realized that the Irish were settling in the River villages and islands during the period about which I was writing, and I soon understood that an Irish woman would have a major voice telling the story of what was happening at that time, when such huge forces were shaping our culture and history.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about the Island. 

Donna: As I mentioned earlier, the border for the States and Canada runs through the Thousand Islands, and with eighteen hundred islands in a fifty-mile stretch, the region was notorious for piracy, smuggling, and bootlegging.  Downriver from Lake Ontario, it’s still a wild place, shaped by fierce winters and storms that drive downriver. (The island pines bend toward the east.)  You can easily lose your way among the islands, especially at night. Grindstone is one of the largest islands; it is still farmed, and although winters on the River are hard, families still live on Grindstone year-round. Its cemeteries contain the gravestones of Union soldiers and generations of immigrants, who cleared its fields and mined the quarries. It seemed logical and natural to tell a larger story in the microcosm of Grindstone Island.

Stephanie: Was there a particular scene you found a challenge to write? 

Donna: When choosing to write about the impact on my characters from the Famines and the American Civil War, I felt strongly that I had to show respect for those tragic periods, that I must not trivialize nor exploit them. My initial decision was to make reference to the past without dramatizing particular episodes. It was a mistake: it wasn’t until the novel was all but ready for press that I realized that I had to add some flashbacks of battle scenes so that the readers could understand the veterans’ suffering in the aftermath of the war.

Stephanie: What are Anya McGregor’s weakness and strengths? 

Donna: When the novel begins, winter is setting in, and Anya is struggling to survive on her own. She has already lost a great deal; the journey to America was terrible, and her parents are dead, her brother gone for a soldier. Further, as an Irish immigrant, she faces real discrimination. As a result, Anya is brittle, wary, and, initially, unable to recognize suffering beyond her own. Her strengths are her resilience, her ability to grow, to seek connection.

Stephanie: Are you currently working on another Historical Fiction? If so, please tell me a little about it.  

Donna: I originally planned to write a sequel to Grindstone, especially when readers write to ask what happened to the characters! It’s tempting, because just ten years after the war, the Thousand Islands region was already becoming a center for tourism, with castles and hundred-room cottages being built on the islands. The Gilded Age brought with it so many cultural changes and contradictions, with the very rich landing in this rugged, wild place for the ephemeral months of summer. I realized, though, that I was more interested in the period before the Civil War, during the War of 1812 and the Rebellions, in those who settled the area and fought in the wars. Again, it’s using the microcosm of the islands to create a story from the competing forces that were shaping both countries.

Stephanie: It would be wonderful for you to have a sequel! Your book sounds really good and I will be adding it to my reading list. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write Historical Fiction?

Donna: Learn as much as you can about the period, obviously, so that you can imagine how your characters travel, what they read, listen to, believe. (I had no idea how dirty steam trains were until I returned from a ride with charcoal bits imbedded in my hair and clothing!) My husband, Dave, a Civil War historian, was a tremendous resource and source of encouragement. Still, you can make a mistake in the smallest detail, an anachronistic phrase, weapon, boat, destroying that fragile sense of reality novels strive to create. But if your story is worth telling, get on with it!  Be clear, in your own mind, why this story must be told, by you, at this point in time. Do the best you can, trusting that the truth of the story itself, of what your characters care about and are fighting for, will carry you and your readers forward. And stack the deck in your favor! I avoid urban settings because I’ve lived for most of my life in the country, and in houses the same vintage of those my characters inhabit, so it’s easier to envision their lives. For example, the daily tasks of hauling wood, of building fires, are familiar, and so I include them in my stories.

Stephanie: Solid advice. Where in your home do you like to write and do you have a certain time of day you write? 

Donna: There’s no question that I write best on the porch of our cabin on a wilderness lake in northern Maine! Because I set my fiction in rural 19th century, it’s easier to connect with that world. Mornings are usually best, but when I’m on a roll, I’ll work late into the night.

Stephanie: Writing at a cabin sounds wonderful.

 How did you discover indieBRAG? 

 Donna: When Geri contacted me to inform me that I’d been awarded a medallion!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book? 

Donna: Readers can purchase Grindstone at fine independent bookstores and online, through www.troubadourinteractive.com and Amazon, where it is also sold in Kindle-format.

Thank you, Donna!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Donna Walsh, who is the author of, Grindstone, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Grindstone, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Praise for Grindstone

 “…a historical novel bound to hook you from the start… an exciting read with finely drawn, believable characters caught in a dangerous world … Critics hail Grindstone as ‘an astonishing piece of historical fiction’ with ‘spellbinding descriptions of the river and islands.’  I agree. It’s a gem of a novel.”  Portland Press Herald

 “Highly Recommended” The Midwest Book Review

“… a must for every cottage library, one of those books that will be treasured by generation after generation.”  Thousand Islands Life

Praise for One in a Thousand    http://www.oneinathousand.ca

combines lyrical prose, stunning visuals and evocative melodies to open up a window on [Ian Coristine’s] favorite place in the entire world—tiny Raleigh Island on the St. Lawrence River.”

                                                                                     Kirkus Reviews

 “Every once in a while an entry comes across the judging table that totally enthralls us. We quickly forget where we are and what we are doing. We become spectators, not judges. Such was the case with One in a Thousand. With the first image you drift away to that place in your brain where you see and feel pure beauty and nirvana. Instantly the images and words infiltrate your imagination.”                                                               MARCOM Awards

(One was awarded two Platinum MARCOM Awards for Excellence in Publishing)