In my car, I have a bag for litter. It keeps the car neat while organizing kleenex and candy wrappers in a single spot. I have a spring-top can under my desk to catch all the random notes I leave for myself as I work. And of course, every cat owner knows how necessary it is to provide clean and well-concealed litterboxes. We all have more "stuff" than we can use. The secret to being well-organized is having a separate little place to put the stuff we no longer need. Now Katzenhous Books has its own litterbox to catch the bits of conversation, the extra scenes, the interesting characters that pop up with no real role to play in the story at hand.
As many of you know, I am in the middle of writing a novel based on the experiences of the teachers and missionaries who traveled to South Carolina during the Civil War. Many of them were fervent evangelicals and took pride their nickname, "The Gideonites". Most were abolitionists. All of them believed that with proper instruction, newly-freed slaves could become loyal and productive citizens. They had much to teach. More important, they had much to learn about their own ability to adapt to limited circumstances, to meet challenges with innovative solutions, and to face their own limitations and shortcomings. My new blog, however, is not really about the new book,The Road to Frogmore. It is, instead, about the people and events that will NOT appear in the book.
Funny things happen to authors in the middle of doing something else. In my case, certain characters and events from past books keep trying to sneak into the current manuscript. This new book, like my first Civil War book, A Scratch with the Rebels, discusses the role played by Union Army soldiers who "freed" the slaves of the Low Country and then didn't know what to do with them. Col. Leasure and his Roundhead Regiment from Pennsylvania pop up regularly in my research, and I keep learning new details of their tour in Beaufort. While they don't play a real role in the story I'm trying to tell, they are a part of the scenery, the backstory, if you will.
The same thing happens with Nellie Chase, the heroine of my novel, Beyond All Price. She is in Beaufort when the Gideonites arrive. She struggles with the same attitude adjustments. Nellie and Laura Towne, the leading character in The Road to Frogmore, reach many of the same conclusions about what newly-freed slaves need from their liberators. The Leverett family slaves who continue to work for Nellie are very likely to have been related to the slaves who populate Laura's St. Helena plantations.
These are the people who keep demanding a place in the new book. Their voices resonate in the background of my imagination, and I've frequently allowed their stories to become part of the first draft of the novel. And once they are there, I have a hard time saying to them, "Sorry. You don't belong here. You're interrupting our story. You're stepping over the bounds of what I know to be historically accurate. You're littering the road. Off to the trash file you go!"
And that's where my new blog comes in. It's a place to send the out-takes, the scraps on the cutting room floor, the ideas that litter the sides of the road to Frogmore. I'll be posting a short story or scene there about once a week. The first one appears today. As each new tidbit arrives, I'll send the link to my blog followers and to those who have read the previous books. If you want to be included in that mailing list, all you have to do is leave a comment below or sign in to the Katzenhaus Books website. I'll be here as regularly as usual, covering a wide range of topics as they catch my attention. But I hope you'll visit the new site, too, so that you can enjoy the sidelights on the Road to Frogmore with me.