Welcome to a new feature I’m doing this year during the last week of each month. The topics of Notes from the Author’s Desk will vary. Sometimes it will be fascinating research I’ve discovered, exciting writing updates I want to share, or just something reading related. I’ve left this open as a sort of whatever fits the needs post.
If you have questions you’d like answered, send me an email and it could become one of the topics for a Notes from the Author’s Desk. I look forward to sharing a bit of my writing world with you!
What’s in the Writing Works for 2020?
The New Year has brought a new challenge which I never thought I’d face, the writing of a Civil War novel with the potential for a series. This is not a time period I have ever really desired to write in–not because it isn’t filled with potential story ideas, but because I understand both sides of the War and felt I could never do it justice.
Kentucky has the unique history of being a border state and ending more Confederate in their leanings after the War than at the beginning of the War. It was a state who could see both sides of the argument, had their own polarized opinions, and struggled to remain politically neutral. As a (nearly) life-long Kentuckian, I’ve grown up with this unique viewpoint as the grounding for my understanding of the Civil War. Neither the North or South were villains.
To communicate this in a story, to give an honest view of the people during the Civil War which is today, still such a delicate topic, has intimidated me beyond belief. Pre-Civil War, great! Post-Civil War, you got it! But to write during that period? No thanks, never will it be on my agenda.
Pro Life Tip: Never tell God you’re never going to do something. It’s an almost guarantee He will call you to it. So here I am, researching my bottom off to gain a clear understanding of the war and all of its many facets. The Civil War is so incredibly large in scope that it is impossible to become an expert on every area, so I started wide and narrowed down to what actually ended up being my own state’s involvement with the War.
The Research and Project Focus
It wasn’t my intention, but it’s where God led me. He also led me to examine war correspondents–who were the self-proclaimed “Bohemian Brigade”; the little talked or written about laundresses of the armies; the Confederate capture of Columbus, KY; the Battle of Belmont, MO (just across the river from Columbus); and the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
So far I have over 60,000 words typed up in research notes. That’s the length of a small novel. That doesn’t even count the 20,000 or so words typed up for character descriptions, brainstorming, my “sloppy synopsis”, and other tools I use to help develop my story before getting to the actual draft. And all of this is since Christmas break–just over a month.
No wonder I haven’t read much in the fiction world. I HAVE read about sixteen non-fiction research books (in part and in whole) and countless online resources, with plans for a couple of research trips in the works.
It’s still too early to share much about the story, but watch for posts on the last Tuesday of the month to learn what’s going on with the project and my writing world.
What I CAN tell you is this story involves a Kentucky woman with Successionist leanings whose brother has enlisted in the Union Army. Circumstances come about to bring her to be a laundress in her brother’s company. Throw in a war correspondent, a suspicious Union officer, and conflicted loyalties and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I’m still hammering out details and examining plausibility for many things, but I’m excited for where God is leading this story so far. So come back each month to check out research, Civil War stories, sneak peeks at my progress, or any other news that may arise this year.
A Question (or two) for You
What part of Civil War history interests you? What do you wish you knew more about? Anything you wish you saw more of in Civil War fiction?