I do want to share the interview, though, and a chance to win a copy of her book, Daughter of the Regiment. Let me introduce Whitson, and then she can answer my questions.
Stephanie Grace Whtson is the author of over twenty-seven titles. Whitson is a RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Winner and a two-time Christy Award finalist. When she isn't writing, speaking, or trying to keep up with her five grown children and perfect grandchildren, she loves to take long distance rides aboard her Honda Magna motorcycle named Kitty. Her church and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum take up the rest of her free time. She received her Master of Arts degree in history in 2012. Stephanie and her husband reside in southeastern Nebraska.
Thank you, Stephanie, for taking time to answer these questions.
Lesa - Without spoilers, Stephanie, would you summarize Daughter of the Regiment for us?
Stephanie - Daughter of the Regiment introduces readers to two Missouri women who are neighbors in the part of the state known as Little Dixie, but who are at opposite ends of the social spectrum--and on opposite sides of the North/South conflict.
First, there is Irish immigrant, Maggie Malone, who wants no part of the war. She'd rather let "the Americans" settle their differences. But then Maggie's two brothers join the Union Irish Brigade. When one of their names appears on a list of the wounded after the Battle of Boonville, Maggie heads for the encampment, intent on caring for her brother. When circumstances force her to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as "her boys." A farm woman who'd rather be hunting than cooking, Maggie has decided that she's not the kind of woman a man would court, but Sergeant John Coulter seems determined to convince her otherwise.
Maggie's neighbor, Elizabeth Blair, is the mistress of her brother's plantation (Wildwood Grove) and has learned never to question his decisions. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy and offers his plantation as the center of operations, Libbie must manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. Eventually, she must also decide where her loyalties lie.
When military maneuvers and a subsequent battle bring the Irish Brigade (and Maggie Malone) to Wildwood Grove, Libbie's home is commandeered as a field hospital. Libbie has refused to leave her home. The two women whose brothers have fought on opposite sides of the same battle come face to face while tending the wounded in the aftermath of a battle won by Union troops.
Lesa - What was your inspiration for the book?
Stephanie - As an amateur historian, I'm always visiting museums, stopping to read historical markers, and reading real history. I began to research the real Daughters of the Regiment many years ago after reading a book about women and the Civil War. When I visited the Oliver Anderson house in Lexington, Missouri, and realized that there were plantations worked by slaves just east of Kansas City, that began my quest to learn how the Civil War impacted that state. (I grew up just across the river from St. Louis, so Missouri history has always interested me.) The more I learned about Missouri in the Civil War, the more I wanted to create a story that would pay tribute to the women who had to cope when war came to their back yard--literally, to their back yard. Missouri was unique in that it was a slave state, but it never seceded from the Union, even though at one time the state had two governments because of the sharp divisions within the borders between Unionists and southern sympathizers. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
Lesa - How did you research the Civil War details?
Stephanie - First, I needed to narrow my focus so that I wouldn't get bogged down in the vast topic of the Civil War. Focusing on Missouri helped that. The Missouri State Museum in St. Louis had an excellent exhibit on Missouri in the Civil War, and I visited it more than once. I also shopped in the museum gift shop and indulged myself in many of the books there, knowing that a history museum store would be a source of trustworthy scholarship. I also accessed online archives and university publications that addressed the various topics I needed to research. An antique arms expert was kind enough to read the portions of the book that mention weapons.
Lesa - What are you working on now?
Stephanie - I'm rewriting next year's book, Messenger by Moonlight, set during the days of the Pony Express. As with every project, my admiration for the people who really lived the history has grown by leaps and bounds.
Lesa - I'm a librarian, and I always end my interviews with the same question. Was there a library or librarian that influenced you? Tell us about it, please.
Stephanie - Oh, my goodness ... yes. My mother taught me to love books, and the library has been a favorite place for me for most of my life. The Bennett Martin Public Library in Lincoln, Nebraska, was an invaluable resource to me long before I began to write fiction. My four children and I spent a lot of time there, and library books were critical in the days when I was home schooling. I began to learn about Nebraska history at the library and can point to some very specific library books as inspiration for some of my novels. When I finally had a story I wanted to try to get published, I went to the library to access the Writer's Market. Archivists at the Nebraska State Historical Society archive have helped me find answers to countless questions and introduced me to people from the past who have also inspired characters for my novels. As I write this post, there is a pile of library books nearby (not overdue yet) that I've accessed to improve Messenger by Moonlight. I'm also grateful for the hard-working librarians here in Nebraska who often invite me to give programs about historical topics for their patrons. Libraries have been so wonderful to encourage me as a writer and to introduce me to their patrons. Lastly, our local libraries are favorite spots for my grown children and their children. It's heartwarming to see the next generation excited to visit the library.
Lesa - Thank you, Stephanie. For those of us interested in American history, Missouri's history at that time is fascinating.
If you would like to win a copy of Daughter of the Regiment, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Daughter of the Regiment." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 2 at 6 p.m. CT.
If you don't win, you can buy Daughter of the Regiment online from any of these sources.
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/1zFz8bI
Daughter of the Regiment: A Novel by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Faithwords/Hachette Book Group. ISBN 978-1-4555-2903-2 (paperback), 336p.
Stephanie Grace Whitson's website is http://stephaniewhitson.com