It’s no secret that I’m the history geek of the Quids. I love fiction stories with good, solid history woven through them. Jocelyn Green delivers that beautifully in her series, Heroines Behind the Lines. I’ve read – and loved – them all so far. I wanted to ask her a few questions and she’s graciously agreed to answer them here at The Quid Pro Quills.
What inspired you to write about the Civil War from the viewpoint of women and how their lives were changed?
JG – I spent about nine months researching the lives of American women during times of war for a nonfiction book I co-authored called Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front. The stories that I uncovered, particularly from the Civil War era, were so powerful and personal, I knew I had stumbled upon the perfect material for a series of historical novels. Some novelists say they hear their characters speaking to them in their minds. But for me, I felt like I could hear the voices of women buried long ago, whose stories had been uncelebrated and forgotten. This series brings their incredible contributions to light.
The first book, Wedded to War, sets the scene for the rest of the series and I highly recommend people read them in order. You clearly lay out the impossible situation of the army hospitals at the beginning of the war. How much research went into that first book?
JG – A lot. I spent about nine months researching and three months writing. Research includes a ton of reading, but it also involves traveling to the sites that are in the novels, both to do research in their local archives, and to get a sense of the setting and local culture. For Wedded to War specifically, I visited Washington, D.C., the Virginia Peninsula (including Fortress Monroe), and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. I kept up lively correspondence with historians and archivists in various locations, as they answered my questions and helped me fact-check. I’m part of a Civil War writers group online, as well, and we share resources with each other all the time.
Did you discover anything in your research that made you re-think what you knew about the Civil War?
JG – Honestly, I had no idea the critical roles women played during the Civil War, and how hard they had to work to pioneer those fields for women. Nursing in particular comes to mind, but even as ordinary civilians, or spies, or soldiers dressed in disguise. Women did much more than just knit and roll bandages, although that was very, very important, too.
While the conflict in all your stories is gripping, I think I felt the most empathy for Liberty Holloway in Widow of Gettysburg. What is it about Liberty that spoke to you?
JG – I love Liberty’s story, too. I think most readers can relate to her, because she didn’t seek out the conflict. It landed in her backyard. She didn’t aspire to be a heroine, but she rose to the occasion because that’s what the situation demanded of her. A Gettysburg civilian named Sarah Broadhead said, referring to the battle and its aftermath: “We don’t know until tried what we are capable of.” That’s the bottom line of Liberty’s story and one that resonates with all of us, I hope.
I’ve been to Gettysburg more than once and I know you’ve been there too. Walking over that ground is a humbling experience. How did being there help you write Widow of Gettysburg?
JG – I certainly could not have written Widow of Gettysburg without first having gone there. I spent all my time in the archives of the Adams County Historical Society, reading eyewitness accounts written by the women who lived through the battle and aftermath. At that time, the Historical Society was housed in the basement of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, which plays a role in the novel, and is pictured on the cover. It was used as a hospital for both sides during and after the battle. I also researched in the reading room of the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center. I loved that Gettysburg, as a town, still retains historic charm.
Sherman’s march will always be a controversial movement in the Civil War. You do a very credible job of portraying the devastation from the viewpoint of one living in Atlanta. What impacted you the most while researching this particular part of the war?
JG – It’s the personal stories that get to me. The numbers are hard to wrap one’s mind around, but I’ll never forget the story of a man who deserted the Confederate army to be home with his daughter during the siege of Atlanta. One night they hid in the well, but the damp conditions were terrible for his health. He was already ill. So they went back to bed. A shell fell on them and killed them both in their beds. My heart broke when I read that, as if I had known them personally. I just wept. You would think I’d be desensitized to war after reading about it so much, but sometimes I just snap like that, have a good cry, pray for today’s military families, and move on.
We all love happy endings and even though your characters are burned by the fires of war, you deliver a fantastic ending to each book, because it’s both believable and satisfying. Well done! I was sure this was the end of the series – but wait, there’s more! Give us a teeny glimpse into Spy of Richmond, set to release in March 2015.
JG – Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the ending to Yankee. Spy of Richmond gives us a window into life in the Confederate capital between September 1863 and April 1865. The main character, Richmond- born Sophie Kent, has ties to the North and begins bringing food to Union prisoners held in her neighborhood. But her sympathies for the prisoners evolve into helping them escape, and soon she’s feeding military intelligence to the Union, too. The deeper she goes, the more she stands to lose as she walks a tightrope of deception.
Thank you for being here today and sharing a little – behind the lines – insight of your series. I highly recommend these books to anyone who loves history and/or a great human conflict story.
Like Jocelyn’s Facebook page to get updates on her writing and visit her websites:
Author Web site: www.jocelyngreen.com
Fiction Web site: www.heroinesbehindthelines.com