Friday, August 03, 2007

author interview

Since we've been at this a while now--a year and a half give or take a few months--we've decided it's past time to give the Scandalous Victorians proper introductions. For the next 12 months, we'll be posting an interview the first Friday of every month featuring one of us.

The first to be drafted is one of our most prolific bloggers, Susan Macatee:

Why do you write historical?

That's easy. I love history, although back in high school, history was my least liked subject. I think my love of history started with reading historical fiction, then grew when I started to visit historic sites with my husband and three sons. I think my boys spent more time traipsing through museums and battlefields than at the beach or amusement parks. I love the atmosphere when visiting an actual site and imagining what happened there so long ago.

Next, my husband got into Civil War reenacting and pulled me right in. There's no better way to experience history than to live it, if only vicariously. But reenactors have to know so much more about the period they're representing and how people actually lived--how they dressed, what they ate, what they did for fun. That's what I'm most interested in. And it makes it much easier to write about a fictional character's life in the past.

What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?

So far, I've stuck to Civil War, because I know so much about it. It cuts down immensely on research. But some day I may venture into another historical period.

What is it about the era that most intrigues you?

The conflict. Brother against brother. A nation torn apart and all that. I always have my hero and heroine on opposing sides, so I have instant conflict. It's built in.

I also think the period was so romantic. The men in uniform marching off to battle. The love letters sent back and forth between soldiers and their women at home. Some of the preserved love letters were
so beautiful.

Where do you get your information?

Books are my main source. I love reading first hand accounts of people who lived in the period. I also have books on clothing, and other necessary things, like the etiquette of the period. I even have a Civil War cookbook that my sister-in-law bought for me.

I also subscribe to a magazine for Civil War civilian reenactors, 'The Citizen's Companion', that supplies me with all sorts of interesting period information.

I use the Internet to research little things that I don't know or don't feel like pouring through all my history books to find, like the exact date of a particular battle. What regiments fought at which battle. For my fictional characters, I use fictional regiments. I look up the actual regiments and make up one that never existed. That way no one can point out that, for instance, the 2nd Virginia wasn't at the battle of Gettysburg.

What are you working on presently?

I'm writing a romance novel set during the Civil War that I've titled Katie Rose. The heroine's an Irish immigrant, who's disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Confederate Army, originally to fight beside her husband after Yankees invaded his family's small Virginia farm and killed his father. When the story opens, Katie is a widow after her husband was killed six months before at the battle at Antietam. She remains in the army and is making the rounds on horseback as a mail carrier.

The hero is a Virginia gentleman who's had a falling out with his father, a wealthy plantation owner. He'd been studying at a northern university before the war began and refused to join the Confederate army. After his father disowns him and his fiancee jilts him, he goes back to Pennsylvania and joins the Union Army. Because of his Southern background, he's recruited as a spy. He's on a scouting mission in civilian dress, when he comes across Katie on one of her mail runs.

How many books have you written?

I have one published young adult book, Under the Guns, also set during the Civil War. Before that book, I wrote a middle-grade ghost story that was never published. My first adult romance, Erin's Rebel, is a Civil War time travel. It's presently under consideration at Medallion Press.

Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?

I'm a big science fiction fan and am planning a futuristic romance trilogy set hundreds of years in the future on a faraway planet. The first book is still in the outline stage.
What challenges have you faced in your career?

The biggest is finding the time to do everything I want. When you work from home, everyone seems to think you're always available. It's forced me to adopt a strict schedule, otherwise I'd never get any writing done. But I also want to keep myself flexible enough to be able to switch gears among projects if I have to or to take time off for important family things.

What is your writing schedule like?

I try to keep weekday afternoons for writing. Since Katie Rose is currently my major project, I try to work on that first. I try to write at least three new pages on that book each day. So, my goal is at least 15 new pages per week. I'm also sending earlier chapters of that book to my critique group, so if a chapter is due, I have to go over it and revise it for critiquing. I also always have revising to be done after a chapter's been critiqued. If there's any time left, I might switch to another project. Moving between projects keeps me fresh. I very rarely get stuck. Right now, I'm revising a short story that I wrote about four years ago and had stuck in a drawer. It's about a vampire in a Civil War camp. I work until it's time to start dinner. The time after dinner I reserve for any critiquing I have to do.


Kristin-Marie said...

Thank you for sharing your system of success, and elements of your writing lifestyle. I loved your first book, of course.

Susan Macatee said...

Thanks, K-M. Being interviewed is a new experience for me. It was a lot of fun.

I'm thinking I should add the interview to my website.

Anonymous said...

Susan, definitely add the interview to your site! Especially since it is your first, lol. Nicely done. Just one further question. If you had to use web sites for your research, which would you use? What are your favorites and why? What's a good site for casual Civil War searching?

OK, that was more than one. :)

Susan Macatee said...

Actually, I have a list of sites I've used for research listed on the links page of my website.
I add new links in all the time, so there's always something new on there.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Great interview! Sorry to be so late posting my comments.

Susan, thanks for sharing your way of doing things -- three new pages a day. Hmmm, sounds reasonable. So why aren't *I* doing that? LOL.

It was also fun to hear how your interest in history began.

You're an inspiration to all of us out here struggling to be more productive!