On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Coinciding with PBS's rebroadcast of Ken Burns' THE CIVIL WAR--newly restored and in high definition--JINA BACARR joins us to celebrate the launch of her novel, LOVE ME FOREVER, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
When Liberty Jordan travels back to Antietam in 1862 during a Civil War re-enactment, one stolen kiss with Union officer, Major Flynt Stephens, makes her wonder if she wasn’t sent here for a reason. But Flynt is engaged to Pauletta Sue Buckingham, a Confederate spy who lost her husband. The war heats up when she saves Liberty—her mirror image—from rotting in a Yankee prison. Her price? Pretend to be her so she can fight for the cause. Can Liberty pull off the charade? And find love with Flynt?
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
Great question and one that trips easily off the pen: writing two heroines and two heroes and keeping them “wanting each other,” but not letting them get what they want (taking a breath here), while also keeping true to the timeline of the Civil War.
My time traveling heroine goes back to the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest day of the war. What was the hero doing? The other heroine? It was a challenge to make these three come together in a believable manner, but also on an emotional level that reflects the events of that day in history. That’s what time travel is all about, giving the reader that “you are there” feeling that this story couldn’t happen on any other day in history to anybody else but these three characters.
Since my hero is a Union Army battlefield physician, I had to come up with a way for him to encounter a captured Confederate prisoner (my heroine disguised as a Rebel lieutenant) and have him discover that officer is a woman, a beautiful woman he can’t forget. Then the other heroine shows up, who just happens to be his fiancée and a Confederate spy . . .
(Note: the second hero shows up later in the story.)
LOVE ME FOREVER follows the war from September 17, 1862 till May 2, 1863. Writing romance against the backdrop of war is very dramatic and soul-searching, but it also has to be tender and show the moments when the characters try to forget the war for a moment and let their passions overtake them.
The Civil War is so well documented, you can’t afford to slip in the mud . . . make a mistake. I have three battles in my story—Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville—and I lived the angst right along with my characters, smelling the gunpowder, cringing at the sound of canon fire, feeling their pain, even tripping on a petticoat and hearing it rip as I tried to get every detail correct. Which is why I’m so excited that PBS is rebroadcasting Ken Burns’ THE CIVIL WAR, remastered and in high definition from September 7-11, 2015. I wanted to bring that same emotional commitment to LOVE ME FOREVER, where you experience the war through the eyes of four very different characters and absorb it. Let it get under your skin so you feel like you’ve stepped into those old photographs and can actually see the characters’ eyes blink, smell the stink of war on their clothes, and hear them breathing.
What came easily?
I have a theater background and I love the power of the spoken word. More importantly, what isn’t said. The subtext. Since I know the characters so well, their volleying back and forth was not only fun to write but invigorating. Especially when my time traveling heroine and her battlefield physician get into an argument over the conditions of prisoners of war and the practice of medicine at that time. Also, the two heroines are constantly trying to win over the other about who will win the war: the North or the South. My time traveler knows the outcome, but my Southern belle does her best to convince her the cause is worth fighting for, especially when it comes to the rights of Southern women. There is no black or white here, but many shades of gray as these two women begin to understand each other and question their own beliefs.
- Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
Heroine: Liberty Jordan, history teacher, part time EMT, Civil War reenactor. Liberty never knew her family, grew up in the foster care system, and wants with her whole heart to “find her way home.” She pays it forward for the education she received by taking her students on field trips, which brings her to Sharpsburg, Maryland and the reenactment of Antietam. Dressed as a Confederate officer, she’s determined not to let the kids down. She gives it her all and ends up flying back through time when she finds an old Civil War buckle in the mud and a mortar shell hits too close to where she’s entrenched. Once she realizes what happened to her, she’s determined to save lives back in this time. Little does she know she’s going to buck heads with a wildly handsome Union Army physician and a stubborn Southern belle . . . but she never gives up her belief that she can make a difference in this war, even if it’s the end of her.
Hero: Major Flynt Stephens: a Union Army physician, a Virginia gentleman, and the owner of Rosebriar plantation. A staunch believer that the Union must be preserved at all costs, he joins the Fighting Fifth of the II Corps and finds himself setting up a tent hospital on the bloody battlefield. His passion for science and his search for answers in how to save the wounded drives him beyond anything else. He has little time for courting a lady, though he feels honor bound to marry the daughter of an old family friend when she shows up on his doorstep after her plantation was destroyed by Federals. Then his world is shaken up when a fascinating woman dressed as a Rebel officer enters his realm. Who is she? Where did she come from? He can’t believe her medical knowledge and how her ideas about science mirror his own. He’s drawn to her and when she’s sent to a Yankee prison in Baltimore, he swears he won’t rest until he finds her again. There’s only one problem . . . his fiancée, Pauletta Sue.
Heroine: Pauletta Sue Buckingham: a Tennessee belle. She has a fierceness inside her to avenge the wrongful death of the man she loved by the Yankees that is so strong, she will do anything to set things right, even marrying a man she doesn’t love. And spying for the Confederacy. She grew up on a plantation as a privileged belle, but her papa was a good, God-fearing man and didn’t treat his “people” badly, giving them everything he could. But like so many Southerners, he didn’t understand it wasn’t enough, that they weren’t really free; Pauletta Sue does. She befriends Bedelia, a young black girl, as a child and side by side these two fight a different kind of war: equality for all Southern women. She never figured coming up against a young woman who looks exactly like her . . . Liberty is her twin . . . a woman who has all the wrong ideas about the war, but who proves very useful to the belle in her spying ventures.
This book taught me that writing historical fiction is one of the most difficult genres to get down on paper, but an important one. As a writer, you have an obligation to present the facts, but you also have an obligation to let the characters tell their story. Dig, dig, dig until you understand the world they live in, not use preconceived ideas, and then keep digging until you find the truth about that world, even if it hurts.
I grew up in different parts of the country and I’ve visited nearly every state in my travels. I’ve spent a lot of time in the South and I still feel the glow of that Southern patina shine through when I write about it. The Civil War changed us (as Ken Burns so aptly says in a PBS interview) and writing about it changed me. As my heroine, Liberty, yearns so dearly for a home and family, I yearned to set the records straight for both sides, especially when it comes to the heroics of women from both the North and the South. We are all sisters in our fight to find our place in this world, no matter what time we live in.
- Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
I’ve had a varied writing career—books (both fiction and nonfiction), plays, travel articles, computer column, ad writing, radio spots, technical writing, TV, etc.—not a straight road by any means, but a fabulously interesting one. It comes from being on the road a lot as a kid then an adult, traveling around the country and the world, poking my nose into every corner like a curious detective, asking why . . . and where did that come from? I’ve always found a certain fascination for history and God knows, I’ve visited every museum that would let me in. I love walking through history—from Pompeii to Verdun to Old Paris. The voices of the past speak to me through carriages with cracked leather seats, stiff ivory-colored crinolines, and worn satin slippers. I’ve always wondered what it was like to walk in those slippers when they were new.
Writing about it is my greatest joy.
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you’ve always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
Joan of Arc.
When I was a young girl about thirteen, my Great Aunt Marie with the dancing green eyes gave me a book with a teal blue cover. Plain with no book jacket. No fancy blurb. Ordinary type. But oh, what an adventure lay between those pages. The story depicted the extraordinary life of the girl soldier, Joan of Arc. I read that book a million times over the years and still have it. Her story has stayed with me always, comforted me in hard times, enlightened me in worrisome ones, and thrilled me with each new read.
The saint’s courage and commitment to stick to her beliefs is awe inspiring and her determination to follow that path no matter what is the grit you need to be a writer. She’s kept me on my path. It’s a tough road, but one well taken.
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my historical romance, TITANIC RHAPSODY. It’s not a time travel, but the story of a poor Irish girl, Katie O’Reilly, a handsome gentleman gambler, Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn, and the beautiful Countess of Marbury and how their lives are forever changed aboard the Titanic. Every detail my characters experience is as it happened on that fateful night, April 14, 1912.
You can see the trailer I made here: http://jinabacarr.com/titanicrhapsody.html
I can’t end this interview without mentioning the sequel I’m writing to LOVE ME FOREVER. When I finished my story (and yes, there is a happy ending), I kept feeling this tugging at my heart to find out what happened to those left behind back in 1863 . . .
I won’t tell you who got left behind, but in LOVE ME ALWAYS, we pick up the story in 1865 and go on another time-traveling adventure. . .listening?
I discovered early on I inherited the gift of the gab from my large Irish family when I penned a story about a princess who ran away to Paris with her pet turtle Lulu. I was twelve. I grew up listening to their wild, outlandish tales and it was those early years of storytelling that led to my love of history and traveling. I enjoy writing to classical music with a hot cup of java by my side. I adore dark chocolate truffles, vintage anything, the smell of bread baking, and rainy days in museums.
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