Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lizzie's War: Inspired by writings from the past

I haven't blogged in awhile because I've been busy writing my new book, Lizzie's War.  When the book opens, Lizzie is an 11-year-old Franklin,Tennessee girl, and as you'll quickly learn, is a member of a family divided by the war. It was often said that the war pitted father against son and brother against brother. In this case it was mother against son, and brother against sister.

After the first chapter, which is set on November 30, 1864, the day of the Battle of Franklin, we return to 1860 and Lincoln's election. From there we see how the war unfolds, from Lizzie's perspective.

I am constantly reading and learning about the nation's greatest conflict. A lot of information is available about the war. In fact, more books are written about the Civil War than any other subject. Locally, in Franklin, we've had many accounts written over the years. One description--and it may well be the first one aside from a few newspaper stories--came from 19-year-old Fannie Courtney, Lizzie's sister. Fannie, like her mother, supported the Union. In April, 1865, she was asked to write a report about the condition of the hospitals in Franklin for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. We know the basic story of the battle, but it's writings like Fannie's that fleshes it out.

"About half past three I was sitting at the dinner table, when I heard the roar of artillery...I ran into the yard to listen...The bullets were falling so thick it was unsafe to remain any longer...I hastened to the cellar with the rest of my family...."
You get a real mental picture from passages like that.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful illustrator for the book, Sam Whitson. He was able to capture the essence of my writing. Amazing, as I think you'll agree. He also did the cover art.

Here's the passage that goes with this illustration:

Lizzie walked toward Main Street where the streets swarmed with soldiers, horses, supply wagons and big guns such as cannons. A stranger, a boy about 12 years old, sat on the ground, leaning back against the low stone wall around the Presbyterian Church.
“You must be a drummer boy,” Lizzie told him, noticing a snare drum on the ground next to him.
“Yes,” he said listlessly. “I’m trying to sleep. We marched all night and the day before to get here.”
     “Would you like something to eat? My mother will feed you breakfast.”
     “I’m mighty hungry,” the boy said, suddenly wide awake. “But my brother told me not to leave this spot.”
"I’ll bring you food. Wait right here,” Lizzie offered.
The boy sat up straight as Lizzie ran home. She returned a few minutes later with two ham biscuits.
“Here. Take this. If you need more, my house is right there.” Lizzie pointed behind her. “My mother will give you whatever you want. I’m going to visit a friend.”
The boy grabbed the food and wolfed it down. The last time Lizzie looked, he was running towards her house.
Lizzie's War is suitable for children grades 3 and up. Adults have told me they liked it too--that it wasn't too juvenile for them. Here's what Rob Cross, from the Battle of Franklin Trust, wrote:
"At last, a literary masterpiece has been written on Franklin, Tennessee's Civil War story, from the necessary perspective of a child. Margie's work interweaves fact-based stories from the children who lived in Franklin, from the time the Civil War begins, all the way through that 'day of days' November 30th, 1864. Lizzie's War gives readers of all ages (especially children) a remarkable, tangible story that arrests the imagination and never lets go." 
Lizzie's War is available in Franklin at Carnton Plantation, Carter House, Lotz House and Landmark Booksellers, and on Amazon.