What inspired you to write Beneath the Slashings?
It all began with a family vacation, actually. When my husband and I planned a trip to Gettysburg, I did a lot of research on the Civil War before leaving. My book, The Candle Star, was inspired by a true story I came across of a Detroit man who hid runaway slaves in his barn while housing slave catchers in his hotel during the years just prior to the war. Being a teacher, I soon realized that one story barely scratched the surface of this era, so I expanded it into a trilogy of stand-alone stories that explore three different aspects of the Civil War. The second book, Broken Ladders, takes place on an unmanned northern farm in the middle of the war. Beneath the Slashings is the final installment, set in one of the many lumber camps that cropped up just after the war to aid in the nation’s rebuilding.
How long did it take you to write Beneath the Slashings?
Two years. I did nearly all of the research in three months or so, immediately after finishing book two. Then I wrote the first fifty pages and got stuck, stuck, stuck. I was simply burned out on the trilogy. During the remainder of that year, I started (and finished!) a different, unrelated novel. Coming fresh to Slashings more than a year later, I rewrote all fifty pages and cruised to the end during the next six months. Wrapping up the series was a great feeling!
Are any of your characters based on people you know?
Not “based on,” no, but I include elements of my friends and family in my characters all the time. I’ve found it’s much more freeing and less offensive to keep my characters unidentifiable. However, I always discover a whole lot of myself in my main characters. In this case, I wanted to avoid that. I wanted a character very unlike me. That was a challenge! I had to continually ask myself what Grace would do, not what I would do. In the end, I still identified some of my own traits in her, such as her love of books and a strong attachment to family.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
Oh, I could go on and on! Just a few childhood favorites would include anything by Beverly Cleary, the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I also distinctly remember reading Bambi in fourth grade and being shocked that I liked it more than the movie. Teen and adult favorites would include Avi, particularly his True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the All Creatures series by James Heriot, anything by Gary D. Schmidt, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter books.
If you could live during any time period in history, when would it be? Why?
I get lost in any historical research I do and find myself wishing I could visit, but I think my favorite era would have been Colonial and early America, the days of homesteading and pushing west from the populated Atlantic coast. I’m drawn to the simplicity of life back then, the self-reliance. I know the work was hard, the medical care non-existent, the mortality rates high, but I could have taken a shine to living off my own land and doing without all of today’s media.
If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I think I’d like to get to know Malachi, the young black boy in The Candle Star. He was a surprise, sort of stole the show away from Emily, my main character. I admire his determination, his confidence, his convictions. He’s exactly the sort of person who would make a great friend, the sort of friend Emily needed.
It would be entertaining to meet old Mrs. Parsons, too, from The Quill Pen, but I’m not sure I’d actually like her.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I’m happy right where I’m at, but I could be convinced to accept a cabin somewhere in the Appalachian mountains, or perhaps in the Yellowstone River Valley—but then I’d probably need a plane, too.
Where can we purchase your books?
My books are available in digital and paperback editions and can be found on Amazon and on Smashwords. But probably the easiest way to locate them is them is to visit the “books” page of either my blog or my website. Clicking on any cover image will give you all the information you need, including a variety of “where to find it” links.
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