Welcome to the blog, Kathleen. I’m so excited to have you here today. Congratulations on your upcoming release, Bachelor Buttons. Looks like a great story!
Hi, Savanna. I’m delighted to be here! Thank you for having me.
What was the inspiration behind Bachelor Buttons?
Well, first of all, I love gardening, and these pretty little beauties are one of the easiest to grow. Their sweet name—Bachelor Buttons—got me to thinking they deserve a historical romance story of their own. Secondly, when I wrote this story, it was for a Civil War sesquicentennial collection originally published in 2013. Now that my rights have been returned to me, I wanted to give the story a new cover, some fresh edits, and a brand new life.
Last and most importantly, the story behind the story is that it is loosely based on my great, great grandmother and g-g-grandfather’s courtship in historic New York City. I changed the timeline to fit some little-known Irish Civil War history, and voila! Bachelor Buttons came to be.
Oh, I love hearing how a story came to be. And I love to garden too. How fun! 🙂
Can you share with us something you learned as you researched and wrote this story?
The history in this story is not easy in some ways, but it is very compelling. Sometimes called the Battle of New York City, the time period I cover in the summer of 1863 is also known as the Irish Draft Riots.
When President Lincoln called for the Conscription Act, a few unintentional consequences occurred. The first being that it was a mandatory act unless you could purchase a commutation fee, a legal way to dodge the draft. This favored the wealthy who could buy their way out of serving in the war with just $300. The second issue was that in order to be drafted you had to be a citizen. And since freedmen then were not yet given citizenship, it exempted black people from compulsory service. But Irish immigrants who were proud of their new citizenship status were not exempt. In fact, they felt singled out. Too poor to buy their way out, and in the unfortunate position of competing with their newly emancipated neighbors for unskilled laboring jobs, they feared they would lose their livelihoods while they were away at war. Many Irish served gallantly, but some of them resented the draft as unfair. This led to protests that sadly turned violent. It was a time in New York City history where the distinction between good and evil was felt most keenly. Some Irish committed acts of hate, while others chose to risk life and limb defending neighbors. This is their story.
Wow! Incredible. I never grow tired of learning about the Civil War era.
Who was one of your most memorable characters to write?
I took a lot of liberty with the characters based on my relatives. I think my g-g-grandmother was probably a much more sainted woman than my heroine Rose Meehan, but I took cues from my Irish grandmother who had a real zest for fun. Rose knows how to work hard when the time calls for it, but she sure knows how to enjoy herself as well. She is unafraid to speak her mind. And like my grandmother whose memory I cherish, she has a delightfully childlike innocence that almost borders on naivete. Her narrow upbringing and sheltered life experience hedge on cultural ignorance, so she has a growth arc in store for her that will be revolutionary. Throw in a teasing sense of humor and a fierce loyalty to family and tradition, and you have every Irish relative I have had the pleasure to love.
Sounds like characters we will love just as well.
What’s one of your favorite things about being an author?
Being immersed in a story world of one’s own creation based on fascinating research is a thrilling escape. That blending of historical accuracy and the mystical “what if” of fiction satisfies both the research geek in me and the book nerd who loves a good story. I often dream the stories I write. They play in my night-time visions like movies with an audience of one—me. If I’m drawn by the character’s plight, it usually sticks with me come morning, and I find myself thinking of the story all day, expounding on the predicaments, the desires, the settings, and the reasons the character did what he or she did. One of my favorite things about being an author is that my characters become like old friends.
Who were some of your favorite authors growing up?
I was an absolute horse freak as a girl, so I adored Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. True story—I was convinced I would grow up to play the part of Pam Athena, Alec Ramsay’s love interest when and if they ever made the movie. They still have not made that movie, so maybe with some Botox and a starvation diet I could still pass as a twenty-something athletic horsegirl…. Then again, nah, never mind. 😉
I also loved Beatrix Potter. Her illustrations inspire my own artwork, almost as much as Wesley Dennis’s beautiful, intimate animal portraits that decorated the pages of Marguerite Henry’s stories.
Then, when I caught my obsession with the Civil War, I devoured John Jakes’ family sagas, and of course, Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone with the Wind. My all-time favorite book is The Yankee Stranger by Elswythe Thane. You guessed it. A Civil War novel.
I’ve not read The Yankee Stranger, but now I want to! 🙂
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
My two full length Civil War stories in the Sons of the Shenandoah series feel incomplete to me, so I plan to finish out with a third story about the youngest brother Benjamin Sharpe. His romance takes place after the war in Reconstruction era Virginia. I need to lure my muse out to play. I wonder if chocolate and coffee work as well on her as they do on me.
But there is this very different story calling to me at the same time, and I have been playing around with it for a few years now. If I were to give it an elevator pitch, it would be something like The Princess Bride (lighthearted Medieval romance with subtle fantasy elements) meets a social awareness allegory. I have a son on the autism spectrum, and the quirky creative genius in him stirs me, but the misunderstanding and social challenges he faces move me sometimes to tears. I want to write a story that humanizes the struggles of people that the neurotypical world sometimes just doesn’t get. It’s a huge challenge to strike a balance between sympathetic, accurate portrayal of folks of differing backgrounds, and making it a fun, even campy story, without being flippant. I have not been able to shake the calling to write it. I keep pressing forward.
That sounds like an amazing story to share. I hope you get to write it someday!
Thanks for joining us today, Kathleen. It’s been a joy to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Savanna. I am offering a giveaway to one of your readers of an e-copy of Bachelor Buttons. All they have to do to enter is share this post on social media. The more shares, the more entries. Just tell me in the comments where you shared to claim your entry(ies). And leave a way for me to reach you if random dot org selects your name. (email is great.)
Also, I am hostessing a huge Rafflecopter giveaway with another Christian historical author. Please take a moment to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes!
Raffle copter runs from March 9-18th Grand prize is $50 Amazon GC, second prize is a $25 Ammy GC, third prizecis an Irish goodie basket.