Today I’m excited to share with you my interview with historical author, L.C. Lewis. L.C. writes about early American history and has generously offered a Winner’s Choice copy of one of the volumes in her Free Men and Dreamers series to one lucky reader of this interview! Read all the way to the end to find out how you can enter for a chance to win one of L.C.’s novels. (USA entries only, at L.C.’s request.)
JDP: Welcome, L.C. (Do you prefer to be called L.C. or Laurie for this interview?) Please tell us what got you interested in writing about the War of 1812?
Laurie: Please call me Laurie, Joyce. That initial thing gets so confusing. People hear it and think my name is "Elsie Lewis!" Publishers ask their women authors who write historical fiction to conceal their gender by using their initials because some men have a prejudice towards female authors of history. Shocking, right?
JDP: Boy, that’d be tricky for me, since I don’t have a middle name. I’d have to make one up! How did you choose the title, Free Men and Dreamers, for your overall series?
Laurie: As I focused on the themes of the books--the struggles of this generation to remain free, and to complete the dream of their forefathers--Free Men and Dreamers developed. Instead of making it the title of book one, Covenant [Laurie’s publisher] chose a theme of light for the titles, ("Dark Sky at Dawn", "Twilight's Last Gleaming", "Dawn's Early Light") and they used Free Men and Dreamers as the series title.
JDP: What is your overall vision for your Free Men and Dreamers series?
Laurie: The first volume I originally wrote still hasn't been published yet. I purposely set the series in 1850 to avoid the Restoration story [reference to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] and the Wars--1812 and the Civil War--but my editor suggested I tighten up the history and expand the story. At that point, and after about a year of true soul-searching I felt I had studied enough and become passionate enough about the era to back the story up and capture that pivotal first American generation--the children of the Founding Fathers--who would also become the generation that would receive the Restoration [see note above]. It's a profound generation and moment in time.
So getting back to your question, (this is how my mind works. . . sorry. . .) I have effectively been writing the series into that first manuscript--like "Star Wars," so I've always known the big answers to what was going to happen to my characters. I plan to have book four wind up the war and America's recovery, tying up all the characters’ complex storylines, and effectively ending Free Men and Dreamers. Then, if the readers stay with me, we'll launch a two-book companion series that will tell the story of the Pearson's children, illustrating post-War of 1812 America, including the Restoration, America's emergence on the world stage, and the westward migration, right up to the Civil War.
[For questions about “the Restoration”, visit this link.]
JDP: That sounds like an exciting challenge! Please tell us a little about your most recent addition to the series, “Dawn's Early Light”.
Laurie: Volume three, "Dawn's Early Light," plunges our characters into a moment of American history I'm embarrassed to say I knew very little about--the week the British defeated our military at Bladensburg before marching into Washington and burning the President's House (the White House), the U.S. Capitol, and much of the city. Through the Pearsons and four other families--American, British and slave--we experience the pain and passion of this tumultuous time in America.
JDP: What do you find most fascinating about the War of 1812?
Laurie: These are wonderful questions, Joyce. You've really done your homework. Thanks! [Joyce blushes here.] I was most fascinated by how under-regarded this war is. Most history books consider it a draw, a waste of men and money. But as we approach its bicentennial the experts on this war have come to regard it as the moment when we became "one nation under God." Before the war, we were still more loyal to our state than to our nation, but after this war we became Americans, with a proud symbol of our unity--the Star Spangled Banner. Also, this was the first true test of the Constitution and the Presidency. Despite the destruction of the capital city, the government stood and the Constitution held.
JDP: I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels. Could you tell us a little about how you researched the historical background for your Free Men and Dreamers series?
Laurie: Fortunately, I live in the area where much of my series occurs--Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, sites in Virginia are within driving distance, and my husband arranged for me to visit the last site in the war, Chalmette battlefield in New Orleans. So I've been able to conduct field research, talk to historians and museum docents, and traipse through the battlefields. The Park Service people have been amazingly helpful. They clued me in to online government sites where presidential journals and the original records of Congress are available to all of us. I enjoyed getting lost digging around in there. They also clued me in to three specific books that really pinpointed the locations I wanted to research. My genealogy also came in handy. As I read old wills during this era I was able to pull historic names of families and places, and I got a feel for the lifestyle and thinking of the day. I have to say that my single greatest research treasure was establishing an email correspondence with the curator of historic Philadelphia--Mr. Ed Lawler. For two years, while researching book one, "Dark Sky at Dawn," he answered innumerable questions and then proofed much of the book for me for historical accuracy. That research was invaluable during the writing of the rest of the series, so I credit him for much of the precision in my research.
JDP: That’s an awesome story! Can you share with us your top three favorite research books or other resources?
Laurie: Aside from Mr. Lawler, and the Park Service, I'd say my next favorite resource was Benson Lossing's "Pictorial Field Book to the War of 1812." Published in 1869, Mr. Lossing's field book is filled with maps and sketches of the places and principal characters during the war, including interviews and excerpts from letters, diaries, etc. It's a complete history course, and since it was written fairly close to the time of the events, it provides the least politically-modified version of the war.
JDP: Are there any historical figures from this era who particularly intrigue you?
Laurie: I now have a serious crush on George Washington. Even though Washington was dead by 1812, the groundwork and example he set continued to powerfully influence President Madison and the citizenry. Washington was an extraordinary man in every way.
JDP: I think George Washington is awesome, too! And sadly underappreciated by today’s generation. What inspired you to write “Dawn's Early Light”?
Laurie: I want to get the entire series out in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star Spangled Banner which will commence in 2012. Aside from that, current events kept me at my computer writing. I see so many similarities between our day and this generation--complacency, a lack of gratitude, political corruption or arrogance. Seeing what happened to America in 1812 because of these attitudes, it seemed timely to remind us where we're headed.
JDP: Are you working on any new projects?
Laurie: Several years ago, I wrote a story that finally found a home. It will debut in April under the title, Awakening Avery. It's a book about a woman author named Avery Thompson whose beloved husband dies, leaving her to move from a passive role to an active one in leading her family forward. But she is so caught up in her own grief and insecurities that she can't see the suffering of others--including her own children. She needs a healing place, so a summer house swap is arranged between Avery and a widower named Gabriel, whose family has their own complicated dynamics. As Avery steps into Gabriel's world, her neat, tidy universe collides with a cast of colorful, flawed characters who help awaken her to the possibilities that life still holds for her. What I love most is that she grows from being a victim, to a survivor, to an advocate for others, and as she heals, she ends up healing many others along the way.
JDP: Sounds like an amazing book. But so does your entire Free Men and Dreamers series! Where can readers obtain copies of your books?
Laurie: All the Free Men and Dreamers books are available at Deseret Book, Seagull, DeseretBook.com, Amazon.com and wherever LDS books are sold.
JDP: Thanks for visiting with us today, Laurie. I loved hearing your insights into this period of American history!
Laurie: Thanks tons for the interview, Joyce. This really made me think and reflect. Great questions! And thanks to your followers for sharing this time with me!
Now for the giveaway part! Remember that the prize is Winner’s Choice of any of the first three volumes (autographed) in Laurie’s Free Men and Dreamers series: Volume 1, “Dark Sky At Dawn”; Volume 2, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”; Volume 3, “Dawn’s Early Light”. Please note which volume you would like to win in each of your entries. (Remember, USA entries only for this giveaway.)
For a chance to win, do one, two, or all three of the following. Each counts as a separate entry, so please do NOT combine entries into a single email or you’ll only be counted once!
(1) Leave a comment on this blog, then email me with YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS to email@example.com. Please type “#1: When was the War of 1812?” in the subject line.
(2) Visit Laurie’s website at http://www.laurielclewis.com/index.html. Click on her “News” tab and scroll way down the page to her list of trivia questions about the War of 1812 (“For instance, did you know that…”). In the spirit of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, email me the 5th question on the list. Send me the question WITH YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please type “#2: When was the War of 1812?” in the subject line.
(3) Visit Laurie’s blog at http://www.laurielclewis.blogspot.com/ and tell me what Laurie considers herself challenged at. (A challenge I share with her! It’s up there in her blog title box.) Then email me the answer WITH YOUR NAME AND MAILNG ADDRESS to email@example.com. Please type “#3: When was the War of 1812?” in the subject line.
And don’t forget to tell me in each entry which of her books you’d like to win!
Deadline for entries is Sunday, April 11, midnight PST. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 12.