At book signings and public speaking engagements, I'm often asked how I get the ideas for my books. A variation of that question is why I decided to write a particular book. When the question is specific to one book, it's pretty easy to answer, but there's also a generic answer that fits almost everything I write. For me, books have generations -- mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Each one I produce gives birth to another -- or so it seems.
Last fall I released the second edition of Left by the Side of the Road. That book is a collection of short stories --incidents and characters that I had to leave out of its mother volume, The Road to Frogmore. I couldn't bear to throw their stories out. Instead, I gave then their own collection, separate from their mother book.
Where did The Road to Frogmore come from? Well, it had its beginning in Beyond All Price, the story of Nellie Chase, Union Army nurse. During her stay in South Carolina, Nellie became quite attached to the slaves who worked in the regimental headquarters. When the regiment pulled out, Nellie wanted to stay behind to help those slaves, by setting up classes for them and teaching them to read. She was not allowed to do so, but was told that a group of missionaries had just arrived in Hilton Head to take care of the educational needs of the freed slaves. That made me curious enough to start researching the details of those missionaries and educators. And out of that curiosity came The Road to Frogmore.
So, where did Beyond All Price come from? Until now, I didn't have a quick answer to that question, although I knew where it had come from. The first book I wrote after officially retiring was called A Scratch with the Rebels. It was published in 2007 by a small press, who grossly overcharged for the book [$25.00] while producing a school-bookish version with a cover that self-destructed within a couple of days' use. The book itself was a factual history of the Roundhead Regiment [100th Pennsylvania Volunteers]. It mentioned the regimental nurse frequently without giving too many details about her -- just enough to make me want to tell her story in Beyond All Price.
Of course, it's possible to take things back one more step. The ideas for A Scratch with the Rebels came from a small packet of letters I found in my mother's attic -- letters from my great-uncle James, who served in the Roundhead Regiment.
So there you have four generations of books. Youngest book, along with its mother and grandmother, appeared in Kindle and other inexpensive electronic editions or in nicely-produced paperback versions. But the great-grandmother of this series -- the book that started it all -- was hard to find and even harder to use.
Until now! We're about to remedy that! Stay tuned for further announcements..