Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Laurie C. Lewis

Laurie C. Lewis is from Maryland and describes herself as “a craft-challenged, fifty-something wife, mother, grandma, and novelist.” She is the mother of four children, the grandmother of four, and the author of four novels.

They were the first generation of American-born citizens, charged to build a nation upon the framework of their Founding Fathers. When their Democracy was challenged once again, they picked up their muskets and went to war. They were farmers and mothers; entrepreneurs, visionaries and religionists; unprepared for the fight they faced. They were. . . FREE MEN and DREAMERS!”

For those who enjoy a good history lesson about how we received our freedom and being entertained by fictional characters, this is the book for you. There are three volumes of FREE MEN and DREAMERS: Dark Sky at Dawn, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and Dawn’s Early Light. Laurie, tell us about these inspiring books.

The titles draw on the concept of increasing light, a theme that applies to both the spiritual and political situations occurring in America during this time. FREE MEN AND DREAMERS illustrates an amazing generation--the first American-born Americans. This is the generation that was also being prepared to receive the Restoration, and this tumultuous nation was about to become the cradle of that great work.

Volume one, "Dark Sky at Dawn," introduces our primary families through whose eyes we will witness the impact the War of 1812 had on the nation and its people. Three families are American, two are British and one is a slave family. We meet the young, wealthy societal outcast--Jed Pearson--and his free-thinking sister, Frannie. And we also meet Hannah Stansbury, a spiritually-inclined young woman whose family is plagued by a crazed mother. Jed and Hannah's friendship develops into love, which is complicated by the gentry's disapproval of Jed's scandal-ridden ancestor whose own mystery we untangle. As Jed labors to clear his family's name, war is declared and personal matters are delayed as Jed heads off to war. We get a historically-candid view of slave life as Jed, a slave owner himself, struggles over this issue.

Volume two . . . in "Twilight's Last Gleaming," two of our characters are drawn to the Upper Connecticut Valley as they attempt to free a family member who is now a British prisoner. The typhoid epidemic is raging in that area, and our characters are caught up in that calamity. Further south, along the Chesapeake, British raids devastate families and leave the region in ruin. One of our characters is caught up in a little-known military tragedy that is nearly lost from our history books. It is one of the darkest and least-discussed events in American history and this military horror will forever change the life of one of our characters.

In "Dawn's Early Light," all our characters prepare for the British offensive against Washington DC. President Madison is receiving conflicting advice from the Cabinet, and as a result, Washington City is virtually unprepared for the coming attack. We experience the week Washington burned and the impact the loss had on the nation and its citizens--including the soldiers and their families. Our characters are involved in every aspect, so we live the historically recreated events along with them.

Book four will cover the Battle of Baltimore, the real Star Spangled Banner story, and the end of the war. It will effectively wind up this portion of the series. If reader demands warrant it, we're prepared to do two more books that will carry our characters through the next generation.

American history is coming to life within these pages. Leon Garfield said, "The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting." You are painting us a story, Laurie. Where did you get your ideas? I suppose you got most of them from U.S. history. Give us some examples.

I weave fictional characters through historically accurate events and have them mingle with historical figures. So most of my ideas spring from history, and then I create a fictional storyline that parallels and connects with that. Sometimes my reading leads me to a place or an expert. Sometimes an expert leads me to a book or a place. This has been a very long and hands-on adventure that has led me to many fascinating historical sites, introduced me to some tireless experts, and filled my library with interesting volumes.

My biggest help on "Dark Sky at Dawn" came from a historian in charge of exhibits in Philadelphia. We corresponded for over a year. Not only did he answer my questions in great detail, he was invaluable in feeding me fascinating tidbits the average citizen will likely never hear, and he led me to invaluable sites where I could study from original documents and images. I visited the historical sections of Philadelphia and sought out Christ's Church and Independence Hall, but I also sought out the sacred soil, mass graves into which tens of thousands of Revolutionary dead were tossed when they died in prison during the British occupation of Philadelphia. In "Dark Sky at Dawn" there is a mention of these mass graves, including a heart-wrenching quote from John Adams.

After reading a mention of atrocities committed in Hampton, Virginia, my husband and I hit the road. After scouring through books and speaking with docents at the local Visitor's Center, we were able to locate the spot where the British landed their troops before that dreadful attack. Standing on the spot was chilling. I'll never forget it, and I think my reaction to that place made that scene in "Twilight's Last Gleaming" so powerful.

I would love to visit all the historical sites and feel the special spirit of what happened as the patriots fought for their freedom. Since you’re writing about history, do you use an outline when you write?

This series is so detailed that I have used several outlines, time lines and characters bibles to keep the fiction neatly woven into detailed and accurate history. I let inspiration sweep me away, but after the inspiration comes the painstaking labor to put the idea into a proper historical context.

A reviewer, wrote, “The great intricacies in the story are interwoven so smoothly that the book is a great read. There is plenty of adventure, intrigue, and romance to satisfy everyone.” Tell us about the adventure, intrigue, and romance in your books?

One of the themes of the series is the dilemma of balancing one's civic duty against one's personal responsibilities. I illustrate this conundrum by having the series open with a mystery and a mission that plagues Jed and prevents a future with Hannah. All he wants to do is clear his family's name, but when war breaks out he is forced to set aside his personal wants and needs to answer the call to serve. He is also plagued by the moral dilemma of slavery. As he heads off to fight for liberty, he realizes the hypocrisy of his situation. Meanwhile, (there always has to be a "meanwhile"), Hannah's life is controlled by her mother, a mad woman. Her sisters meddle and create a new bit of intrigue. There's a love triangle, the quest for honor, a kidnapping attempt, a daring rescue, a riot, a fire, a great story of friendship, a story about freedom that raises questions about the worth of a man. And this is all just in volume one.

Your book sounds quite intriguing. What does your family think about your writing? Are they supportive?

My husband is my biggest fan and research buddy. My children were already out of the house when I began this series so they were pretty amazed and proud of me when they saw the books. I've been blessed with great support.

I’m impressed that your husband helps with the research. That makes it fun. Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Wow . . . great question . . . hmmm. . . well, I always thought I'd be a singer. I had a brief stint in a rock band during high school and I joined every single singing ensemble the school had to offer. The goal I placed in my senior yearbook was, "To attend BYU and fill the world with song." After I was married I sang in an amateur review for ten years and I cut a demo once, so I gave it a good try. Now here's the funny thing. When I write, I write in meter . . . as if it were a song. I read and re-read each section to see if it flows well, so in some way, I guess I'm still singing through my books.

Thanks for the interview and for showcasing FREE MEN AND DREAMERS.

Thank you for such a fun interview. Now we all know the real you, that you were a “rock singer” before you became an author. Who would ever have guessed! Everyone, Laurie has allowed you to pick which book you prefer having for your gift.


BookHounds said...

Please enter me! This looks like a fantastic series and the interview is wonderful.

Teresa said...

I'm growing to love Historical Fiction!

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Thanks for the fun interview, Linda! You ask great, introspective questions. And yes, I still "rock out" now . . . but it's with my with my computer!

Allison said...

Great interview Linda..and nice to get to know you Laurie! This series looks very interesting to me..I love historical fiction!!and this time period too!! I would love getting the first, second, third..then fourth book!! But you have to start with the first!! Enter me!!

allisonattic at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Please enter me. I laughed that you were "craft challenged!"

I started knitting thirty years ago and stopped because I couldn't purl. Suddenly now that I am in my sixties I can purl! I have made scarves, etc. but cannot turn a hell. Maybe that will come in my eighties!

couponmom said...

I loved the interview. I really liked the fact that Laurie was a rock singer before becoming an author. Thanks for the great interview and I would love to enter this giveaway, as I love history.

Anonymous said...

Great interview & so glad to have a chance to win one in the historical series.

Please enter my name.

Helen Kiker

mindy said...

these look great thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Laurie, we'd have fun together. I'm a fellow rockin' chick.

Linda, no need to enter me (dratted TBR mountain range taking over my office). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

buddyt said...

I enjoyed reading the interview and the comments as well.

If this is open worldwide, then please enter me to win a copy of the first in the series.
Dark Sky At Dawn.

Thanks you.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Helen Furr said...

I enjoyed the interview and would love to read the historical novels by Laurie.C Lewis. Laurie, what made you decide to write historical novels? Did you have an "ah ha moment" that provided the creative energy to envision your characters? Thanks for your fun blog!
Helen Furr

jemscout425 said...

Dark sky at dawn so i can start from the beginning

Cheryl said...

Sounds like a fabulous series, Laurie. Enjoyed the interview. I enjoyed hearing about your research.

I would love to win a copy ofDark Sky at Dawn. I like starting at the beginning too.


Thanks for the chance to win.


Helen Furr said...

Oops! Forgot to add my e-mail. It's

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I loved the interview as well as informational. I consider myself craft challenged, too. If I had the chance I would pick Dark Sky At Dawn.

nancysoffice at gmail dot com

LisaAnn said...

Oh, I love historical fiction and this sounds sooooo good. I loved this line:

"This is the generation that was also being prepared to receive the Restoration, and this tumultuous nation was about to become the cradle of that great work."

I never thought of that time period like that. That is a beautiful way of saying it. I can't wait to get my hands on your books!

blturner162 at yahoo dot com

Estela said...

These books sound amazing, and the writer sounds like someone I'd want to be friends with. I love that she has the support from her family, and thus is able to focus on writing such great reads!!

easagredo at yahoo dot com

LittleEagle said...

These are a series of books that I would read in a heart beat. Thank you for the interview and for hosting this giveaway. sharonaquilino at hotmail dot com

Unknown said...

I really like to read historical novels. They make history come alive, I'm sure I'll enjoy reading these books. Please enter me in this give away and thanks.

Susan said...

please enter me, historical fiction is interesting!

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Helen Furr! I know that you'll enjoy this book because I'm reading it right now. Have a great day!