I get a variation of this question at almost every talk I give. Readers want to know where or how their favorite authors come up with their stories. At first, I found it easy to answer. I wrote "A Scratch with the Rebels" to tell the story of my great-uncle's Civil War regiment and their experiences. I wrote "Beyond All Price" because I was curious about the nurse who kept cropping up in my research on the Roundhead Regiment. I wrote "The Road to Frogmore" because I wanted to know more about the missionaries who came to South Carolina during the war to work with former slaves.
But then, once I started writing pure historical fiction, the question got tougher. How do you create a whole family and their stories? Well, certainly, they have to be based on what the writer knows about real people who were living in that place at that time. I don't write fantasy or science fiction. My emphasis is always on the historical rather than the fiction. When I created the Grenville family, I had great fun giving them time-appropriate names and birthdates. I worked up a genealogical chart to remind myself of who was related to whom and a time chart to match the characters' lives with the real historical happenings around them. Then I could give my imagination full play as I thought about these people and their reactions to the world around them.
So far, so good. "Damned Yankee" was easy. What happened to the Grenvilles also happened to many other families living in Charleston or on the plantations of the Low Country. Then came the idea for a sequel. "Yankee Reconstructed" was set in the ten to fifteen years after the Civil War. But it didn't take long for problems to set in. Taking into consideration the five years of the war and the following fifteen years, meant I had a whole new generation to deal with. The children of "Damned Yankee" had grown up. Their parents were aging. For that matter, so were the older "children" who had been in their late teens when "Damned Yankee" opened. So, too, my focus had to change to new historical realities and new characters.
And now, the problems multiplied. Once i had written two "Yankee" books, readers expected a third. There's actually no separate word for a series of two. Books come in trilogies. But where will a third story come from? I had neatly wrapped up the lives of Jonathan and Susan Grenville. Their older children, too, were settled into marriages and careers. All I had left to work with were the three younger children, who had played only walk-on roles in the previous books. Could i get a story out of them? I barely knew them. And what about the historical details? I would be moving out of my comfort zone into a period I knew little about. So, where will this new book come from? I'll try to answer that tomorrow.