I couldn’t say how many Civil War regiments there were. It’s probably into the thousands, and I could have picked any one of them. So why did I plump for the 125th Ohio, Opdycke’s Tigers as they came to be known, as a home for my fictitious Private Shire? And how then did their glorious story – more fully revealed to me on a visit to the Carter House – bounce me from penning what was planned to be a standalone novel into writing a trilogy?
On my laptop, the 27th of June, 2013, shows as the last edited date on the original draft of the first chapter of the Shire’s Union trilogy. Putting pen to paper (or more likely pencil to notebook) will have preceded typing the words into Word, so the effort will have started long before then. I couldn’t tell you the conception date of book one, Whirligig, though I do know that the trilogy was first imagined in the Carter House basement in Franklin, as far back as 15th May, 2011.
The stop wasn’t on my itinerary, but I find my way here nonetheless. It’s four years since I was in America and eight years since I was at Chickamauga in the very north of Georgia, just across the Tennessee line from Chattanooga. I’ve finally made it out to check details for my third book, Tigers in Blue, the last in the Shire’s Union trilogy. The battle of Chickamauga is the epicenter of the first book, Whirligig. It’s where the 125th Ohio were christened the Tigers. This place...
It’s an unsettling time. The true meaning of that depends on where you live. For me, in England, every time I think about the news, my gut feels like it’s been dropped from the white cliffs of Dover. In Ukraine, it’s more literal. They are giving up their homes, losing their lives, facing bleak choices we’d believed consigned to the last century. It forces me to ask, why write about a war in America that started over one-hundred and sixty years ago? There is war now.
In modern, popular culture, the word soul is used at least as often in its musical context as it is for considering an eternal life beyond the earthly realm. The idea of a soul, the precious core of our being has, in many places, fallen out of fashion. But I would argue that, regardless of your religious outlook and what you write about, taking the time to consider the wellbeing of your character’s soul can lend extra depth to your writing.
It’s not easy writing battle scenes (as Kermit might sing). They are a crisis in the story; possibly the piece of history that inspired the book; the climactic moment of danger for the characters I’ve sent into the breach. I’ve reached this point once more while writing Tigers in Blue, my hands held anxiously above my keyboard, like a soldier with an itchy trigger-finger before the charge. Well, sort of.
I beg to differ. You don’t hear that term so much these days. A polite apology for having your own point of view and asking if you might offer it up. We’re more likely to stridently announce how someone else is a hundred percent wrong, or maybe never listen to what they have to say in the first place.
It was Christmas Day in 1860 and Lincoln, newly elected president but yet to be inaugurated, was at home in his reception room in Springfield, Illinois. The town was busy. Christmas was not a public holiday. He was trying to cope with a mountain of mail and a constant flow of visitors who were mostly there for their own interests rather than his. South Carolina had seceded five days ago. Civil War loomed, although the first shot wouldn’t be fired until the spring. Amongst the gifts he...
History is an escape, historical fiction arguably more so. Today, let’s stick to the factual and I’ll whisk you away from the culminating frenzy that is the US Presidential Election, away from voter suppression and a partisan press, to 1864, a time of honour and common decency in the conduct of a fratricidal civil war; a time of extreme crisis. Thousands of enlisted Americans were dying on the battlefields and in the army hospitals every week but, what do you know, it was an election year.
I’ve been away. For the last two weeks or so I’ve been sightseeing in Nashville…in 1864. It’s been great. I visited the Tennessee State Capitol, completed just five years back. I took in a show, The Married Rake at the New Nashville Theatre and downed a few drinks afterwards. I tried some of the street food: buttered corncob, apple cake and deep-fried pickle. It’s a cold November though, and there are more soldiers on the streets than civilians. The barricades are guarded. The forts...