Recently my grandmother, Margaret, who reads my blog (Hi Grandma!), wrote to me and mentioned that she never realized how much work it is to write a book. Writing is hard work, but I’m pretty sure I chose one of the harder types of books to write–a historical based in a time period I knew very little about, going in.
So, in April of 2004, along with getting my chemo-dulled brain back in gear, crafting the story, creating the characters, working on polishing my then rusty prose skills, and everything else that goes into writing any story, I was obliged to begin my ongoing education in 18th Century History–mostly on, but not limited to, the following subjects:
Colonial and early Federal United States history
Southern plantations (mid-sized plantations, large plantations and subsistence farms)
Great Lakes fur trade
Cabinetmaking, bookbinding, coopering & other 18C trades
Scottish immigration patterns
Interracial relationships between whites, blacks and natives (romantic and otherwise)
Agricultural history (tobacco, flax, cotton, corn, kitchen gardens, etc.)
Invention of the cotton gin
Religious movements (Old Light/New Light) and beliefs
18C literature (what were these people reading?)
Music (from war ditties to slave spirituals, what were they singing?)
Food (growing it, raising it, harvesting it, butchering it, preserving it, and serving it)
River ferries (and road conditions and wagons and other means of travel)
Wounds, illnesses and their treatment
Childbirth and midwifery
Scottish dialect (and Gaelic, French, German, Chippewa, and southern slave dialect)
Houses & cabins, and their styles and construction
Household items and furnishings and their proper use
Horses & horse breeding in the old south
Medicinal warm springs in the Blue Ridge
Various Indian tribes (most notably the Cherokee and Ojibwe/Chippewa)
Laws of various states concerning slaves and freed slaves
The role of women in early Federal society
The attitudes and morals and mindsets of the time
Beginnings of the Underground Railroad
Quakers (their history, beliefs, and speech)
Anything and everything to do with North Carolina history
History of the Asheboro, NC area, particularly what is now the Uwharrie National Forest (once called the Carraway Mountains)
Hunting, tracking, wilderness survival skills
How Men Think
On all the above subjects (save the last, which has been purely observational) I’ve read numerous books. I’ve kept a bibliography, which I won’t list here (as it numbers in the hundreds). This doesn’t include novels set in the time period, which I try to read whenever possible, plus websites I’ve visited and DVDs/documentaries I’ve watched.
I picked a relatively labor-intensive book to write. Well, it feels more accurate to say it picked me, and as a result I’ve been gifted with four years of education on our country’s founding and early history. I’m still at it, and will continue to research alongside the writing as long as I keep hearing from Ian Cameron, and Seona, and all their kin and connections. As long as they have more story to tell me.
Hard work? Yeah, I suppose it is. But it’s daily sprinkled with blessings, and communion, and prayer, and the creative passion that is a shadow, a faint echo, an imitation of our Creator’s passion.
And it is, quite simply, fun. A true joy.
Word Count Update: 230,600 (down from 288,000)
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