Monday, September 30, 2013

HOW HISTORY CAN INSPIRE FICTION - A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHORS ASHLEY KATH-BILSKY AND SUSAN MACATEE

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Chances are you’ve probably seen one of them at some time or another in your life. By "them", I mean people who love history so much they reenact it for special events. Perhaps you’ve watched a jousting match at a Renaissance Faire, or had someone dressed like Paul Revere take you on a walking tour in Boston. One of my favorite places to go is Colonial Williamsburg, where visitors can not only feel like they’ve stepped back in time, but also visit with historical reenactors dressed in period clothing and who interpret what life was like during the Revolutionary War period. If you go to England and, in particular, Hampton Court Palace, chances are you will see a Henry VIII lookalike reenactor, some period dressed Tudor kitchen staff demonstrating how they cooked back in the 16th century, and perhaps a queen or two.

Well, rather than talk about historical reenactments, I thought it would be interesting to talk with someone who actually did this, and how it inspired her as an author. So, I am delighted to welcome my special guest, SUSAN MACATEE, to Sweethearts of the West. Susan is an multi-published author of historical romance, and someone who spent years as a Civil War civilian reenactor with the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Quite understandably, her personal involvement with historical reenactment inspired Susan to write American Civil War romance, some with a paranormal twist. From time travels to vampire tales, her stories are always full of love and adventure. In addition to being a busy author, Susan is also a wife, mother of three grown sons, and has recently become a grandmother. She spends her free time inhaling books, watching baseball games and favorite old movies.

So, please join me in welcoming Susan and enjoy our discussion about how she became a writer of historical fiction, and all sorts of insightful information – including what television show inspired her to be a writer.

AKB: Welcome to Sweethearts of the West, Susan.

SM: Thanks so much for having me, Ashley!

AKB: It’s always interesting to learn when or how a person discovered the moment they wanted to become a writer. When was that moment for you?

SM: That would have been way back when I was in grade school. I got hooked on an after school soap called ‘Dark Shadows’. I loved it so much, I’d rush home from school to watch. Eventually, I started writing my own stories using those characters. By high school, I enrolled in a Journalism/Creative Writing course, and decided I liked creative writing because I could live vicariously through the characters.

AKB: Oooh, ‘Dark Shadows’. I will never forget the day the ghost of Sarah showed little David the secret room in the family mausoleum. Loved it, and how great the show inspired you to write.

AKB: What made you decide on the Victorian era and American Civil War period for your writing?

SM: I got interested in the Civil War after watching the Ken Burns programs. After that, our family vacations included a lot of Civil War sites and we joined a Civil War reenacting group.

AKB: I find it fascinating how you became involved with Civil War research. What impact did your participation have on your understanding of the period and your writing?

SM: Living the Civil War through the reenacting group involved a lot of hands on research. What they wore, what they ate, what chores they did and what they did for fun. It just made sense to set stories in the period, since I’d learned so much about it.

AKB: Your Civil War novel Cassidy’s War was a finalist in the Historical category of the 2013 Award of Excellence Contest by the Colorado Romance Writers and also the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Please tell us more about this title.

SM: Cassidy’s War was a spin-off of a young adult historical I’d had published in 2002 titled ‘Under the Guns’. It didn’t do very well in sales and is now out of print, but I loved the characters so much, I wanted to do a new story about their lives after the war. Cassidy’s War is a reunion story between the two love interests in ‘Under the Guns’ now that they’re older and hopefully, a bit wiser. Here's the blurb:

The Civil War is over, but Cassidy’s War is just beginning.

Cassidy Stuart longs to attend medical school. Training beside her physician father and serving as a nurse during the war, have only increased her desire to be a doctor with her own practice. When the man who’d left her at the altar returns, she’s determined not to let him upset the plans she’s set for herself.

Until his mission is accomplished, George Masters must hide his identity as a Pinkerton agent as he investigates a physician living in George’s former hometown, a short distance from Cassidy’s home. When he finds Cassidy hasn’t married, he hopes he can rekindle their love while trying to protect her and townsfolk from the evil Dr. Madison.

Can their love be renewed despite the villain’s desire for revenge against them both?

AKB: Sounds wonderful, and you know how much I love Pinkerton heroes. Can’t wait to read it.

AKB: Tell us about your writing process? Day or night owl writer? Any rituals you follow, like a music playlist, lighting a scented candle, perhaps a secret drawer filled with M&Ms?

SM: Afternoon is my time for writing after all the morning chores are out of the way. I don’t have any rituals to get me in the mood, all I have to do is open whatever file I’m working on to get me back into my writing frame of mind. My desk sits in the corner of my dining room by the window, so I’ve learned to work without getting distracted.

AKB: Both readers and writers get attached to characters. Do you have a favorite hero or heroine, and why?

SM: I love them all. But I’d have to say Will Montgomery, the Confederate infantry captain in my Civil War time travel romance, 'Erin’s Rebel', is my favorite hero. I think it’s because while learning the writing craft, that story had been forming in my head for years. And Erin Branigan, the time traveling heroine, was partially formed from my own reactions as a Civil War reenactor. It was so easy to imagine how I would feel if thrust back in time to the Civil War and meeting a hunky Southern officer.

AKB: If you had to describe your writing style in 3-5 words, what would they be?

SM: Adventure, fun and romance.

AKB: I am super excited about your latest American Victorian release. Please tell us about The Physician’s Irish Lady.

SM: The Physician’s Irish Lady is an off-shoot from my award winning Civil War romance, 'Confederate Rose'. This new story was actually formed by a fan asking if my next story would be about the doctor in the story. Having not read 'Confederate Rose' for a long time, myself, I was scratching my head wondering who she was talking about, but remembered a minor character, a Union army surgeon and friend of the hero. I decided I just had to tell the story of Dr. Elliot James after he’d returned from the war and settled in his small Pennsylvania town. Here's the blurb:

After escaping indentured servitude in late nineteenth century Australia, Keara Fagan is now on the run in America. The Irish native was falsely accused of insurrection against the British and abandoned by the man she thought loved her. Now, she must survive on her own in a strange land.

As Dr. Elliot James travels by train from Philadelphia to York, a young woman faints at his feet. He’s sworn, as a physician, to aid the sick and injured, but fears this woman requires more than medical help. Enchanted by her beauty and touched by her dignity, despite appearing to be alone in the world, he buys her a meal and offers to find her a place to stay in his small Pennsylvania town.

A mysterious Irishman pursues her to the idyllic town surrounded by farmland. Is he an abusive husband come to claim his runaway wife, or someone more sinister?

The Physician’s Irish Lady is now available exclusively on Amazon KDP Select, and will have its Worldwide release on January 22, 2014.

AKB: I love the Victorian time period and understand you also have a recent Victorian Time Travel Romance. Can you share an excerpt or tell us a little bit about Thoroughly Modern Amanda.

Thoroughly Modern Amanda is an offshoot of my first time travel romance, 'Erin's Rebel', which was set during the American Civil War. This new story, released last Christmas, is about the young daughter, Amanda Montgomery, of the hero in the original story. Amanda is an adult in this new post war novella, coming to her own as she strives for opportunities as a Victorian woman in America. The hero in this story is from our time and has traveled to the past while visiting an old Victorian house, set for demolition. Here's the blurb:

Believing anything is possible, magazine reporter Amanda Montgomery dreams about being a modern woman in a nineteenth century world, much like her exceptional step-mother. But society expects well-off young ladies to focus on finding a suitable husband and raising a family. And then Jack appears--with no past and unconventional ideas. Does he hold the key to another century as well as her heart, or is she destined to stay in her own time?

Construction worker Jack Lawton wants to preserve an old home that's scheduled for demolition. But when he sneaks inside for a final look, a loose beam falls on the head, and upon waking, he finds himself in the arms of a beautiful woman. His only problem--he's no longer in the twenty-first century. Can he find his way back home? Does he really want to?

AKB: You certainly have a prolific imagination, Susan. What is your favorite (or least favorite) thing about being a writer?

SM: My very favorite thing is to live so many exciting lives through my characters. I always had a vivid imagination, even as a child, and writing feels so much like play to me.

AKB: Oh, I agree. It is very much like playing “let’s pretend…” as a child.

AKB: Okay, the main part of our interview is over, but before we part, I’d like to close with a variation of the famous Bernard Pivot questions that host James Lipton asks his guests on Inside Actors Studio. Here we go.

AKB: What is your favorite word?
SM: Cool

AKB: What is your least favorite word?
SM: Hashtag. I think it’s those annoying car commercials.

AKB: What motivates you creatively speaking?
SM: The characters and stories spinning around in my head.

AKB: What sound or noise do you love?
SM: Right now, it’s the sound of my 22 month old granddaughter’s sweet voice. Perks me right up every time Arabella comes to visit.
AKB: Aww, Arabella is a beautiful name.

AKB: What sound or noise do you hate?
SM: Lawnmowers

AKB: What profession other than writer would you like to do?
SM: While in college, the required psychology courses fascinated me and, even now I used what I’ve learned to help me to develop believable characters, so I might have pursued a career in psychology if I hadn’t been distracted by the writing bug.

AKB: What profession would you NEVER want to do?
SM: I have a great deal of respect for teachers, but I could never imagine facing a classroom, especially filled with children and adolescents.

AKB: Now, for my favorite question. If you could have a dream dinner with four of your favorite famous people from the present, past, or any time period, who would they be?
SM: Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Barton, Dean Koontz and Hilary Clinton.

AKB: That’s an interesting lineup, and one can only imagine the enlightening dinner conversation. Thanks again for visiting Sweethearts of the West, Susan, and best wishes for continued success with your writing.

And to everyone who stopped by today, thank you, too. ~ AKB

For more information about Susan Macatee and her writing, please visit her website at: www.susanmacatee.com where you will find excerpts and buy links. She also has a great blog at http://susanmacatee.wordpress.com.

Buy links for the titles mentioned in this post are:

CASSIDY'S WAR

Wild Rose Press
http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=4729

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Cassidys-War-ebook/dp/B006VX48FS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1326644295&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble
Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cassidys-war-susan-macatee/1108210226?ean=2940013754980&itm=1&usri=cassidy%27s+war

All Romance E-Books
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-cassidy039swar-672840-158.html

THE PHYSICIAN’S IRISH LADY

Available at Amazon Kindle Direct Select beginning September 25, 2013. Worldwide distribution begins in January 2014. For buy links, visit www.susanmacatee.com

THOROUGHLY MODERN AMANDA

The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=5074

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Thoroughly-Modern-Amanda-ebook/dp/B00AQAIHHW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355948640&sr=1-1&keywords=Thoroughy+Modern+Amanda

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thoroughly-modern-amanda-susan-macatee/1114008539?ean=2940016112596

All Romance Ebooks https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thoroughlymodernamanda-1026307-141.html

19 comments:

  1. Thanks again for having me, Ashley! That was a fun interview!

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  2. What a great post. My parents who are Canadians travel to the US twice a year to do Civil War reenacting. They love it. So cool that it inspired your book - Renee

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  3. Thanks, Renee! We don't do reenacting anymore, but had a lot of fun all those years we did.

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  4. Great interview, Susan!! I must be the only person I know who didn't like Dark Shadows. Even Hubby watched it. I've been to Williamsburg several times and love when the reenactors are there.

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  5. Hi Susan, it's fun to learn more about you. I had no idea you were a re-enactor. Now I know why you're so interested in the Civil War. I love your versatility and vivid imagination.

    Ashley, my compliments for inviting Susan to visit. Great idea!

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  6. I enjoyed your interview. I was reminded how I used to run home from school for Dark Shadows. :)

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  7. Susan! You've brought me out of lurkdom to say "HI!" Good to hear what you've been up to. You are so fortunate to be able to travel back in time to the period you love as a re-enactor ... and we're fortunate you then return to the present to share that world with us.

    Wishing you all the best with the latest book!

    Nancy C

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  8. Hi Susan, So nice to see you here today. We've been friends for years and I have watched you write these great stories and get them published. One thing for certain, I have learned so much from you on the Civil War and loved hearing about the reenactments. Always, best of luck with your stories. :)

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  9. Great interview, and I learned some fun new things about you, Susan.

    With the exception of The Physician's Irish Lady (which is on my TBR list), I've read all Susan's books and loved them all. Definitely must reads for anyone who loves American historical romance.



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  10. Thanks, everybody! So glad you all stopped by!

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  11. Now I understand your ability to bring the past to life for readers. Thanks for translating your interests into exciting books!

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  12. Being a re-enactor must bring you so much deeper into the period than just research. I've seen the difference in your wonderful books, Susan. And it must be a blast too! Looking forward to reading this next book.

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  13. Thanks Ashantay and Denise! And yes, I often use my own experiences when reenacting to imagine what a character would say, or think or feel in a scene.

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  14. Interesting stories, Susan. I live near a national Civil War battlefield in rural Missouri and occasionally visit some of the reenactments there. I remember early one morning driving into town along our country 'blacktop' overhung with huge tree limbs and misted with fog--along the shoulder marched a group of Union soldiers. In formation, with their guns. We were the only people within sight and for an eerie moment, I felt suspended out of time. Cold chills. I can only imagine how re-enactors are affected. Best of luck with your lovely books. Barb Bettis

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  15. Liked the interview. We're reenacting sisters, in a matter of speaking. I've been with the 11th MS. Exciting time to write about. Your stories I look forward to reading. :)

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  16. Hello, Susan--I love a peek into other people's lives. Maybe this is why we love to read romances. Civil War Romances must to fun and exiciting...I'd love to watch one, but would never be an enactor. Those clothes look hot and heavy!
    Your book Cassidy's War sounds so good, and it's a good idea to take characters from an older book and continue their story. Maybe you've given me an idea for one of mine.
    I'll get the KDP of A Physician's Irish Lady.
    I enjoyed the interview, and Ashley, this is a wonderful idea.

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  17. Thanks, Celia, and thank you to everyone who stopped by and commented. Most of all, thanks to Susan Macatee. Now, lets all read her books! ;)

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