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Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest blogger: Susan Macatee

Next month is the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. And I, for one, am hoping this will stir up some interest with readers, as well as publishers, for romances set during this conflict.

When I first started writing toward publication—after my youngest son started school—I wrote stories for children and young adults. But when I discovered there wasn’t much of a market for that type of story, I decided I wanted to move away from writing for young people and try writing romance. The first step was to immerse myself in the genre and I was instantly drawn to reading time travels.

During this period, I was also drawn into the American Civil War period and became a Civil War civilian reenactor. My husband had joined the military side and they welcomed family members to join as well, so after being immersed in the period—right down to the clothing, accouterments and food—it felt natural for my first manuscript to be a Civil War time travel.

It made sense to use the knowledge I’d already gained as a reenactor to show readers what it might feel like for a modern-day woman to be transplanted to a Civil War army camp. And of course she meets the man of her dreams, a real-life Civil War soldier. Watching the men in their uniforms at a battle reenactment can be a stirring sight. There’s just something about a man in uniform. Sigh.

Thus came my first full-length romance release, Erin’s Rebel.

ut, my Civil War romances didn’t stop there. I used my knowledge of reenactors to write a novella for the Civil War anthology, Northern Roses and Southern Belles. In my story, Angel of My Dreams, the hero is a reenactor who meets the ghost of a Civil War nurse on a reenactment battlefield and learns a secret about himself in the process.

My next foray into the American Civil War came from my fascination with women who disguised themselves as men in order to join the army and fight. This occurred on both sides. I also read about immigrants to the United States who fought in the war for both North and South. So the heroine in my second novel, Confederate Rose, is an Irish immigrant who has a grudge against soldiers of the North for killing her husband and father-in-law, as well as causing the death of her unborn child. Although the story is fiction, my heroine, Katie O’Reilly, is patterned after those real-life women soldiers who fought, often undetected, until injured or killed. Many were never discovered at all, except many years later through letters sent home or journals found in attics.

The hero of Confederate Rose is a Southerner who’s driven from his home after refusing to fight for the Confederacy. He goes north and joins the Union Army to work as a spy.

The Civil War affords so much variety for heroes and heroines of all types. No two stories need be alike. And stories of romance possibilities are seemingly endless.

In the American historical Christmas anthology, An American Rose Christmas, I visit the woman soldier situation again. In my story, The Christmas Ball, the heroine is a Union soldier who falls for the camp surgeon. She’s a farm girl, while he’s a society man. Once he discovers the soldier he thought of as a boy is a woman, he shows her what it’s like to live in high society, taking her to a Christmas Ball in Philadelphia where his family lives. I partially patterned the heroine of this story after true life heroine, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who grew up on a farm, joined the Union army disguised as a man and served as a mail carrier. She developed a close friendship with a medical steward in camp, and fell in love, but couldn’t reveal she was a woman, so, sadly, nothing came of it. In fact, she learned he was engaged to marry another woman and it broke her heart.

I even foray into the supernatural with my Civil War vampire novella, Sweet Redemption. My hero is a fallen priest, now a Union army captain, who encounters a vampire. The heroine is a Southern woman whose husband was killed in the war.

Learning about this period in American history brings to mind all sorts of stories of romance, passion and danger. Reading first hand accounts and other non-fiction books about the people—both soldiers and civilians—who lived through the war, brings to mind tons of story ideas. Although the stories I’m working on currently all take place years after the war ended, the characters are affected by the war. My latest novel, Cassidy’s War, is a post-Civil War romance sitting on my editor’s desk as I wait for her response. Both hero and heroine were taken from a young adult Civil War romance I had published years ago, now out of print. I’m also working on a post-Civil War time travel novella based on Erin’s Rebel. But I’m hoping to write more stories set during the war, because I’m passionate about the period.

So, what do think about Civil War romances? Have you read any lately, or in the past? Or do you stay away from them because you think they’re all clones of ‘Gone With the Wind’?

To learn more about me and all my stories, visit my website, www.susanmacatee.com



7 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for guest blogging for us today, Susan. Your books sound fascinating. I'm looking forward to an ACW reading marathon :)

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  2. Susan, those are such great stories. I remember reading lots of Civil War romances, but they have definitely disappeared. I think the same has happened to time travel stories, too, which is sad. Hopefully both will have a chance again soon. :)

    Last summer I went to a Revolutionary War re-enactment here and it was fascinating, especially seeing whole families involved with it. I'm looking forward to it again this year.

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  3. Thanks so much for having me today, Clarissa!

    And Donna, I think a lot of the problem is the publishers who don't think this type of stories sell. But they claim readers don't buy them, so they may have something there. I don't know.

    The time I spent as a Civil War reenactor was a lot of fun. Our two youngest sons participated for a while, but lost interest when they got older. As for my husband and I, we've gotten to the point in our lives where it's too much work and sleeping in a tent in the cold loses it's appeal as you grow older. LOL. But we have great memories.

    I'm hoping this anniversary stirs up interest for everything about the American Civil War.

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  4. I used to devour Civil War romances in high scool and college, but now I notice that they're hard to find. Yours are some of the few that are out there now unless I'm not looking had enough!

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  5. Me too, Isabel! And when I started submitting to publishers, I realized the reason CW romances weren't out there, was that publising houses didn't want them. So glad I found 'The Wild Rose Press', otherwise those manuscripts would likely still be sitting in my desk drawer.

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  6. I really don't consider "Gone With The Wind" a romance because there was no happily-ever-after. I think GWTW is more of a romantic adventure. I think the reason publishing houses don't want Civil War romances is the slavery question, plus feelings still run strong on the subject--especially in the South. It's a hard sell, as you said, but there appears to be a lot of market for Civil War romances.

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  7. Hi, Caroline! You're probably right, but I was told my an editor that they don't sell well. Who knows? It's why I'm currently diversifying by writing post-Civil War romances. They have Victorian settings and my characters were all affected by the war in their backstories.

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