|Widow of Gettysburg, Heroines Behind the Lines Series #2|
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When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering--and a Confederate scout who awakens her long dormant heart.
When the scout doesn't die, as expected, she discovers that he isn't who he claims to be.
While Liberty's future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty's hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.
Award winning author Jocelynn Green is a former military wife, worked as an editor at a nonprofit on Capitol Hill, and as a freelance journalist. Now she's a a stay-at-home wife and mom who writes books (fiction and nonfiction) from her home in Iowa. Her family enjoys home based activities since her children are still very young and very active!
Favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 26:3 (NIV): “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”
Christianbook.com Interview with Jocelyn Green
First of all, congratulations on your 2013 Christy nomination!
Thank you so much! It’s an honor I was not expecting!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a former military wife—my husband was in the Coast Guard for several years. I’ve worked as an editor at a nonprofit on Capitol Hill, as a freelance journalist, and now I’m a stay-at-home mom who writes books (fiction and nonfiction) from our home here in Iowa. My kids are ages 4 and 6 (almost 7), which are great ages! When I’m not writing, reading my daughter’s latest story, playing trains with my son, or catching up on household chores, you might find me reading, baking, or gardening. Someday I will get back into scrapbooking, too.
What is your favorite Bible verse? (translation too, please) Why?
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV): “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” This verse speaks so well to my struggle in Alaska as a new military wife, isolated on many levels and fighting depression. I had to keep my mind steadfast on God, not on my circumstances, and in return, he kept me in perfect peace. I love sharing this with other military wives, but it is relevant to each one of us.
What sparked your interest to develop the Heroines Behind the Lines Series?
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.
You seem to have a strong interest in historical fiction. What draws you to the Civil War period of writing?
Yes, I do. I’ve started with the Civil War era because that’s where I found the most primary source material as I as writing my nonfiction book. The more I read, the more interested I became. The Civil War was hugely significant for all of us, so I’m hoping readers today will be as fascinated as I am by the many layers of struggles that took place. I’m sure, however, that when this Civil War series is over and I move on to another time period, the more research I do, the more I will be drawn to another era.
What part of your background was involved in creating the setting and characters for the Heroines Behind the Lines Series?
Three aspects come immediately to mind. First, as a former military wife, I have a deep compassion for military families of every generation, and a personal connection to the unique struggles they face. No matter the century, if a loved one is fighting, one’s emotions are the same. It’s easy for me to tap into that and translate it to the written word.
Second, I was trained as a journalist, and most of my writing has been reporting or nonfiction books. This type of writing has always required a commitment to investigation and research, including getting firsthand accounts of whatever story I’m covering. I have taken this commitment with me as I’ve ventured into fiction. This probably sounds funny for a novelist, but I don’t like just making things up. I’m just as committed to research as I ever was, only now, getting firsthand accounts involves a lot more digging into archives rather than a telephone call or in-person interview. Historical accuracy in my novels is extremely important to me. I include a bibliography and a section called “The History Behind the Story” at the back of each novel to tell readers what was fictional, and what really happened.
Third, I was born and raised in the North, and married a man who was born and raised in the South. In fact, my husband was a Civil War re-enactor at Fort Clinch, Florida, during his high school years. So he has done a great job of eradicating any misconceptions I had about the South in general, and helped humanize and personalize many aspects of the Confederacy. Add this to my in-depth research, and it’s easier for me to develop both heroes and villains on both sides of the war.
How much research did the Heroines Behind the Lines Series take?
A lot. For each book, I spend 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. I’ve been to Washington, D.C., the Virginia Peninsula, Gettysburg, Atlanta, and Richmond. I’ve also visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, and kept up lively correspondence with historians and archivists in various locations, as they answer my questions and help 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.
How much of Widow of Gettysburg is based on factual information?
The novel is based on the facts of the battle and its aftermath. The main characters are composite characters of people who actually lived, but their struggles, motivations, and behaviors are true to how people responded to the battle in real life. All of the events, from the prelude to the battle to the aftermath, are portrayed as accurately as possible, right down to what the weather was like, what time the sun rose and set, and how many stairs were in the seminary building where wounded soldiers had to be carried from the flooded basement up to the fourth floor. I found the actual textbook that field surgeons used as they performed their first amputations at Gettysburg, and those instructions informed my writing. As I’ve mentioned before, the facts are very important. My fictional characters also interact with historical people that lived in Gettysburg at the time: Tillie Pierce, Hettie Shriver, Elizabeth Thorn, etc. Two Gettysburg historians, one from the Adams Country Historical Society and the other from the Seminary Ridge Museum, have endorsed the book.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Widow of Gettysburg?
I happen to be fascinated by the medical care of Civil War soldiers, so field care of the wounded was very interesting to me. Just a few facts:
• Surgeons could amputate in five to eight minutes.
• Anesthesia was available (more in the North than the South) but if a soldier had been wounded more than 24 hours prior to amputation, they went without it, for fear the patient would not wake up.
• Some patients were accidentally killed by being given a little too much chloroform prior to surgery.
• Twenty-five wagon loads of Union medical supplies were ordered to the rear by Gen. George Meade in favor of ammunition during the battle. They finally started arriving on the fifth day after the battle commenced.
• Not medical-related but still interesting: When the townspeople of Gettysburg heard that the Confederate army was coming, most of the men left town to hide valuables, leaving the women and children undefended. They assumed they would be fine. They weren’t.
What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?
I just finished helping Dr. Gary Chapman with The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which will release in September. Right now I’m working on book 3 in the series, Yankee in Atlanta, and then I’ll write the conclusion of the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series with Spy of Richmond. I’ve also got another nonfiction book proposal out there, so I hope to sign a contract on the horizon there, too.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading the Heroines Behind the Lines Series?
Each book has its own theme, but overall, the message is that God is bigger than any hardship life can throw at us. In my research for every book in this series, I have found believers who suffered, but because of their trust in God, they echo the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
More specifically, the spiritual lesson of Wedded to War is to be more concerned with what God thinks than what society thinks. The privileged women who gave up their lives of ease in order to nurse faced ridicule and open hostility, but many of them believed God called them to the work.
For Widow of Gettysburg, the message is this: We can either be defined by our loss and the tragedy that befalls us, or we can choose to triumph over it. Another lesson learned by nearly every woman in Gettysburg was to really love their enemy. It was easy to hate and despise the opposing army when they were far away, but when soldiers lie bleeding in front of them, with faces and names, they shed their bitterness and nursed them the best they could. Several Gettysburg women even married Southern soldiers they met in this way. We may not have the opportunity to literally save the lives of our enemies the way they did, but we can at least remember God’s commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
What organizations are you involved with?
Evangelical Press Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, Military Writers Society of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to write while still running a normal and functioning household and caring for my family. They come first, the writing I squeeze in around the edges.
The other one is something I’m sure is common to all authors—and that is learning how to respond to the nagging voices of doubt and insecurity in our heads. We are our own worst critics, for sure. On a certain level, it’s good to second guess ourselves inasmuch as it drives us to be better. But when it gets out of hand and keeps us from doing the work God has called us to, then we know those voices need to be silenced. So it’s great to have wonderful editors and beta-readers for our work to help us sort through all that.
Who is the person who most influences your writing?
I would have to say Philippa Gregory, for her meticulous attention to historical accuracy and the powerful way she conveys emotion in a scene. She’s the one who inspired me to include bibliographies in the backs of my own novels. When I get done with one of her books, I usually check out a few of the nonfiction books she used as her own research because now I really want to know more about the history. I hope my novels do that for people, as well.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love that I get to write a happy ending, every time. I love exploring the human heart and conveying a character on his or her spiritual journey. Most of all, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I love inspiring faith and courage in my readers.
What do you do to get away from it all?
My kids are always available to distract me from my current project. In all seriousness, they, and my husband, are really wonderful for keeping me grounded, refreshing me when I’m weary and reminding me of my priorities. A trip to the water park in summer or just a round of Bingo or Candyland can be exactly what I need. Also, very engrossing movies are great.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nope, I think you’ve done a great job with these questions!