Grits and Glory
All this week I've featured Blogger Book Fair authors and their books, and today we have Haley Whitehall, author of Grits and Glory. Here's her bio:
Since the age of four, Haley Whitehall always wanted to be a writer. She went to Central Washington University and majored in her other favorite subject: history. She has social studies and library endorsements. Now she pairs her two passions into writing historical fiction set in the nineteenth century U.S.
She writes what she fondly calls "out of the box" stories. Forgotten history and the complexities of human nature inspire her characters and plots. Mark Twain serves as her writing mentor. Haley loves coffee a little too much. Perhaps that is why she is a night owl. Cats, good books, and a view of the mountains make her happy.
Jacquie: We'd love to hear about Grits and Glory!
Haley: During the Civil War, Peter Warren, a tender-hearted, disowned Southern gentleman, spies for the Union Army in Fredericksburg, Virginia — a region where he is well-known. Plagued by memories of his father’s brutality on their plantation, he has vivid recollections which could betray his identity with a slip of the lip. He fears being recognized as an Underground Railroad conductor since posters blanket the South with his picture. Once he is trapped on the Confederate side of the frozen Rappahannock, will Peter choose to save his skin or fulfill his duty?
Jacquie: Why do you write historical fiction set during the Civil War? What aspect of life during that time intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Grits and Glory?
Haley: I have a B.A in history and specialized in American History. The more I researched the Civil War the more I wanted to learn. I’m not sure why this time period called to me more than others. Being my favorite, it is only natural that I write historical fiction set during this conflict.
I’m intrigued by the fact the war pitted friend against friend, brother against brother, and father against son. I have a tight family and I can’t imagine what that would be like. I mean family dynamics are difficult enough in peace time, right? I worked in the split family loyalty into Grits and Glory from page 1. Peter’s father owns a big plantation and Peter is a radical abolitionist. His sister’s husband serves under Peter’s former neighbor in J.E.B Stuart’s cavalry.
Jacquie: If you lived during 1862, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?
Haley: I would definitely visit the White House and see Abraham Lincoln. Back then the White House was open and people could walk right in and request to see the president. It would be amazing to shake his hand. I’m not sure if Abe would listen to me, but I’d try to warn him not to go to Ford’s Theater.
You would think I’d be curious about many things. I’ve done a lot of research. I have my own Civil War/Western library and it is starting to take over my house! I know I’ve gotten frustrated trying to determine small historical details, but at the moment I can’t think of a burning question. I’d like to hide on the deck of a blockade runner to experience just what that was like.
Jacquie: If a person who had never read a Civil War historical novel and asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?
Haley: I know a lot of people would be screaming Gone with the Wind, but that story was never one of my favorites. Scarlett was too whiny, and although it was never shown, I don’t think she ended up with Rhett at the end. I would recommend Rifles for Watie — the YA novel that got me interested in the Civil War. It is a classic (won the Newbery Medal) and I have read it numerous times since then.
Harold Keith did miraculous research into the Far Western front. I felt sucked right into the time period, right into Jeff’s shoes. He is a 16-year-old Kansas farm boy who grows from being impatient to get a taste of war to disillusionment with the destruction caused by both sides. He forms friendships with people on both sides of the conflict and falls in love with a Cherokee Southern Belle. I was often either biting my nails worrying about him or cheering him on. I love how it presents both sides of the war realistically.
Jacquie: Why must Peter take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does the Battle of Fredericksburg affect his journey?
Haley: Peter grew up as a privileged Southerner, but life was not rosy. His mother died giving birth to him and he was raised by Aunt Ruth, the mother of his manservant. His father was as abusive to him as he was to his slaves. Peter had to fight for the Union because he wants to destroy the institution of slavery and get back at his father.
Peter needs to prove to himself and to his family and friends that he is not a coward. Being a Southerner is the Union Army puts him in a unique position. He also needs to prove where his loyalty lies.
Peter grew up right outside of Fredericksburg, so this battle takes him home. He has to confront his sister, old friends, and his own nightmares. This battle also changes the course of his journey by getting him into espionage.
Grits and Glory
by Haley Whitehall
When Peter stepped inside, his breathing slowed to a halt, and he forgot to salute. Colonel Palmer sat at the desk. Lieutenant French sat on the campstool to the left of him.
“I think I have the man you’ve been looking for,” Captain Morton said. “Sergeant Warren was born and bred in Fredericksburg, Virginia.”
“What am I the man for, sir?”
“General Whipple is recruiting scouts,” Colonel Palmer said.
Peter’s heart knotted inside his chest. “Isn’t scout a fancy word for spy, sir?” he asked, unable to keep the nervous twinge out of his voice.
“You’ve a southern accent and you know the area. You are the only soldier in General Whipple’s command with both those requirements.”
Peter’s legs quivered and the rhythm of his pulse surpassed the quickstep. Sweat coated his palms in a sticky, wet film.
“Are you okay? You seem a bit pale,” Captain Morton said.
“A bit?” he shouted. “Sorry, sirs. I shouldn’t have raised my voice.” He paused to regain control of his emotions. “I don’t want to be a spy. I-I can’t. I’m wanted in the South.”
Haley: Yes, Grits and Glory is the first book in the Plantation Shadows trilogy. I’m in the process of writing a historical romance series for Liquid Silver Books so I have had to put this project on hold, but I haven’t forgotten it! I hope to publish In Dixieland’s Grasp, the second book in the series in 2014.
Two commenters will win an ebook copy of Grits and Glory and a copy of my newest release Journey to Glory: A Civil War Short Story. Ebooks will be available in any format.
Check out these
Blogger Book Fair authors
July 22: Dawn Chandler
July 23: Haley Whitehall
July 24: Marsha Canham
July 25: Zrinka Jelic
July 26: Mindy Killgrove