Friday, June 10, 2016

What I Write

Since I kicked off this blog with a somewhat philosophical musing on why we (that is, I) write, I thought I would follow up with what I write.

I was asked the other day about what I write. I answered, "Historical fiction, set in the 1830's and 1850's." I was asked, "What sort of story is it--romance, mystery . . . ?" I said, "Well, the one is sort of romance-y, though a few people die at the end, so not so much. The other one, well, their basically they're all jerks to each other . . . then most of them die. Except for the biggest jerk, who lives." Great elevator pitch I've got there, huh?

The notebook I keep in my purse for
sudden inspirations.
As the above hints, my setting at the moment is antebellum America. It's largely set in the South, with all the baggage inherent in that, but I don't consider myself a Writer of The South or someone who writes all about Being Southern. I feel that only those who are truly, deeply Southern in their blood can do that. I can't quite call myself truly and deeply Southern in my blood. I'm from a border state (Maryland) after all. A little South, a little North. My parents, though, are from New Jersey and from Delaware by way of Kansas and Pennsylvania.

What I am is a hundred percent American, and I set out to show in my writing at least a little bit of the inter-connectedness of the North and South at this period. In the nineteenth century, there was no heavy, dark line between North and South. Not all slave states seceded. Not all Northern states were even so much as tolerant of blacks. Northerners invested in the slave economy. A few Southerners were vocal abolitionists (like the Grimke sisters). That's not to say that there wasn't one major difference between the southern and northern states: slavery. But it is to say that I didn't want to paint a simple picture or let anyone off the hook.

So my two completed manuscripts, currently with my agent, are set not just on the Sea Islands of Georgia, but also in Washington City and Philadelphia. Each place had its own, uh, idiosyncracies, shall we say. Washington City was backwards and half-built. The Sea Islands were a steamy, half-water-half-land place of swamps and rice.  And Philadelphia
Butler Island, GA
was the steady older brother to the other two, running with Yankee efficiency but still home to more than a few Southerners and "Doughfaces" (Southern sympathizers).

But of course, historical fiction writers aren't often content to stay in exactly the same place and time. I've written previously about the Affair of the Diamond Necklace (check out my blog all about it!), and I've been toying with the idea of a genre-mashup set during World War I. And of course, "Antebellum", strictly speaking, doesn't include the Civil War, and I fully intend to continue with the thread of my two Antebellum novels and take it into the war and beyond.

Speaking of the Civil War: I also have a novella under my belt set in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. It's about a Confederate soldier who comes home from war with only one arm to find his farm has been destroyed and that there are some squatters in his house. I'm working on a companion novella, about a Southern lady and a Yankee soldier, set at about the same time in about the same place.

The future? Well, who knows. I've always been quite fond of the late 18th century and would love to write there again, this time in America instead of France. Who knows, maybe I'll stray to the Salem Witch Trials . . . only time will tell.

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