Interview with Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Catherine BrakefieldToday I’m excited to welcome Catherine Ulrich Brakefield to Jubilee Writer. She has a new novel I had the opportunity to preview. Swept into Destiny is a wonderful Civil War era novel. It releases May 16th.  I loved the Irish immigrant hero Ben so much because of my own Irish immigrant ancestors. Cathy did some wonderful research to bring this story to life. So, I asked her to come and share about her story.

Cathy, thanks for coming.

My first question is why the Irish? It’s not often we see them in forefront of Civil War fiction.

Swept into Destiny is a work of fiction; however, the story was inspired by my grandmother and mother.

My grandmother was of Irish, English decent with a little of Scottish peppered in for good measure and a hint of Cherokee Indian. Through my grandmother I learned about what the Irish immigrant endured. My grandmother’s ancestors were slave owners way back when, but it was my mother who told me that the Irish did the life-threatening work so the slaves’ lives would not be sacrificed.

Thinking about it, this is understandable. Slaves were expensive and Irish immigrants were a dime a dozen during the 1840s and ’50s!

How much research did you do before writing your novel?

I really began my research in 2005, after my children went off to school and Gran went to live with Jesus. Gran lived with our family for twelve years. I had written down tablets of information and at that time just for my children.  I then asked my mother about certain events, and she encouraged me to write a book.  I decided to write a historical romance and that’s when I began my book research.

You had a few historical characters interact with Ben and Maggie. Tell us why you chose each one and how it added to your story.

Lincoln is my favorite. His dogmatic pursuit for the common man, and not caring what the color of his skin wasn’t popular during the 1850s. But Lincoln stood his ground.  Of course, there was John Brown who had his method of helping the Negro. General Grant, my respect grew the more I researched him. I realized his determination to keep the United States together was his sole objective. And he showed so much of the caring side of his character in his actions at Appomattox. I had to put in George Armstrong Custer, he being from Michigan and the fact that he laid claim to an Irish marching song for his cavalry regiment. Sherman never got better with research in my estimation, but worse. Dr. Isaac Anderson, or Mr. Greatheart as he was often called, had just gone to be with Jesus when Swept into Destiny opens; however, I did find ways of showing his influence on the people of Maryville.

God moves in mysterious ways. I met my husband on a 747 going on a vacation to Hawaii, he was stationed in Oahu in Naval Intelligence and was originally from Birmingham, Alabama. Well, to make a long story short, we ended up marrying.

Through my husband, I learned more about the South that you can’t find in history books. Their southern hospitality, charm, Christian values, and loyalties. Some people didn’t have a true perspective about Lincoln or Grant. I learned that not all southerners wanted to secede from the Union, but joined the Confederacy because of loyalty to the southern cause.

I loved the addition of singing to the Union camp scenes. Where did you find the lyrics for your Irish songs?

My grandmother knew a few songs and in 2000 my husband and I went to Ireland for foxhunting. I gleaned a lot of information about these fun-loving and fearless people. Wow! They can really foxhunt. I have a picture of one Irishman jumping over a stone wall right onto a road! I bought books, and asked questions, and did a whole lot of listening and writing.

Then I accompanied my father with the remnants of his World War II regiment to Gettysburg. Well, what did I see, but a Celtic Cross that stood 19’ dedicated to the Irish Brigade. In my author’s note in the back of Swept into Destiny I explain more about the cross.

Can you share a bit about your story?

One brave decision leads to serious consequences. Maggie is secretly educating the slaves at Spirit Wind Manor. But the manor’s serenity is soon threatened by abolitionist John Brown. A new republic looms on the horizon and with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, her countrymen’s anger escalates as secession spreads across the southern states. With the fires of civil war glowing on the horizon, Maggie is swept into its embers realizing she is in love with the manor’s hardworking, handsome Irishman Ben McConnell. Ben joins the Union Army and Maggie is forced to call him her enemy. An unexpected chain of events leads her into choosing where her loyalties lie. Conscience and consequence—did she care more for Ben or for her beloved South? As the battle between North and South rages, Maggie is torn. Was Ben right? Had this Irish immigrant perceived the truth of what God had predestined for America?

When I finished the book, it felt like there should be a sequel. Is a sequel planned?

Yes! I am excited to say this is the first book of a four-book series, inspired by my grandmother and mother. We will follow the generations beginning in the Antebellum Era, into the Spanish-American War, onto World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

What motivates you to write?

I write to spread the truth about our Christian-American heritage. I hope to write America’s story one truth at a time.  Americans need to know that this nation is founded upon Christian principles, values, and as the Battle Hymn of the Republic so bravely says, “His truth is marching on … Glory, glory, hallelujah!”

Share your favorite writing tip?

Pray for God’s guidance and for Him to be the orchestrater of your words. Then write, write, write, from your heart and give the glory to Jesus!

What writer has had the biggest influence on you?

As a young girl, Louise May Alcott began my love for books. Jane Austen’s books gave me my love for the poetic language of words. I know the readers now like easier reads with less poetic and less scenery description. However, these books had the greatest influence and my inspiration in my writing.

Thank you so much for dropping by. Before you go can you tell us a bit about upcoming novels?

My next novel is Into Destiny’s Whirlwind and you get a glimpse of the first chapter with your purchase of Swept into Destiny. Into Destiny’s Whirlwind begins in 1898, just before the Spanish American War begins. Each book will have Book Club Discussions Questions for more in-depth study into the historical significance of the times.

More about Catherine

Catherine says, “My readers inspire my writing. She is the author of three faith-based historical romances; The Wind of Destiny, Wilted  Dandelions, and the first of a four book Destiny series, Swept into Destiny scheduled for release on May 16, 2017. She has also written two pictorial history books: Images of America: The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County.

She enjoys swimming and horseback riding and lives in Addison Township, Michigan, with her husband, Edward, and their Arabian horses. Now that her children are grown and married, she and Edward are the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and a lovely granddaughter!

See www.CatherineUlrichBrakefield.com for more information

Her author Facebook page is www.facebook.com/CatherineUlrichBrakefield To purchase Wilted Dandelions and Swept into Destiny and for book promotions visit www.CrossRiverMedia.com

We are having a drawing for Swept into Destiny. One lucky reader will receive a paperback copy after it releases on May 18th. So I am running this giveaway until the 18th. That’s 7 days to allow more people  a chance to comment below. Tell us why you’d like a copy of Swept into Destiny. Share this blog on your social media for a second entry. Just leave another message that you spread the word.

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Click here to preorder on Amazon

Populating Your Historical Story World

 

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Notice the diversity in these cowboys.

I am a pantster, I write my stories as my characters speak to me. I don’t usually outline and sometimes characters appear I never met until the words appear on the page. During my research in preparation for my historical novel, I was fascinated by the various nationalities, who populated the geographic setting of my story. Because the information ruminated in the back of my mind, many minor characters took shape from those tomes.

 

Potpourri of ethnicity

During the mid -1800s significant immigration by many diverse people groups to the unsettled regions of the Midwest occurred.  African Americans came west after the Civil War. Former slaves looking to start new. Irish immigrants who’d help build the railroads and were sick of big city life in the East. Some who in order to gain citizenship fought in the Civil War on both sides. Chinese nationals helped build the railroad. Wikipedia places them only on the west coast. However, my resource books show they also moved inland. Not all Native Americans were on reservations either. And Mexicans were the first immigrants to the area under the Spanish flag.

All of these nationalities took up residence either on the ranch or the surrounding community in my novel, Secrets and Charades.

Research the nationality of your setting

 

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Irish immigrants. Notice the one in the union hat.

 

When populating your novel with characters, it’s important to know who settled the area. For example, did you know that most police officers and firemen in New York in the 1800s were Irish? Those jobs were considered dangerous. The Irish were treated as second-class citizens when they arrived on American shores. Some had military training, either in Ireland or were Civil War veterans. Because these jobs paid better than most available to the Irish, many took up the call. Often patrolling tenement areas housing Irish

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Irish women took any job available. These washerwomen might have traveled west for a better life. My ancestors among them.

immigrants. So, it would be appropriate to have Irish police officers in your novel set in this time period in New York. Those same poor, abused Irish immigrants came west as farmers, miners and the like. The various free land opportunities gave them a chance for a better life.

 

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Former slaves on their homestead.

 

African-Americans

African Americans who had served during the Civil War also participated in homesteading opportunities. Former slaves with specific skills such as blacksmithing could make a living out west.  Black communities sprung up throughout the west. The stigmatism leftover from slavery made it safer to form their own communities.

 

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Mexican vaqueros taught the American cowboy many things.

 

 

Mexican -Americans

Mexican-Americans from the rich to the poor had to make room for many settlers. The poor Hispanics found work on ranches. Non-Hispanic cowboys learned their skills from these experienced vaqueros. Often the household staff on large ranches were Hispanic.

 

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Chinese railroad workers

 

Chinese

The Chinese usually create their own communities in a section of town. Their different dress, language, and culture put them under suspicion. Chinese were not permitted to bring their families with them. Although I don’t explore the seedier side of their communities in my novel, sadly there was one.  Rather I chose to paint them with a more compassionate brush. Asians have been part of American culture for hundreds of years. Besides, a key scene in Secrets and Charades would be impossible without my Chinese characters.

 

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Native Americans

 

Native Americans

Native Americans were ever present in the old west. Not all lived on reservations. Their life was hard, abuse at the hands of the white man is well-documented. Still, there are accounts of Indians and mix-race families living peacefully with white neighbors.

Less Vanilla

Knowing the culture of those who lived during the time you place your story can make the tale not only more believable but far more interesting to the reader. Don’t hesitate to add some color to your otherwise vanilla characters.ed1c1dd3bf71efd7db9ad9c540d4421a

Who are the characters that populate your story world?

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