Research and What Happens When You Get It Right

Author Catherine Ulrich BrakefieldI’m pleased to have award-winning author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield here today. Her inspirational historical romance, Swept into Destiny, released this week. Swept is her fifth book and the first of the four-book Destiny series. Visit Catherine’s blog and learn more about her and view her books.

Catherine, what or who inspired you to write this book?

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

My grandmother was of Irish English descent with a little Scottish peppered in for good measure and a hint of Cherokee Indian. Through my grandmother I learned about what the Irish immigrant endured. 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.

This is understandable when you think about it. Slaves were expensive and Irish immigrants were a dime a dozen during the 1840s and ’50s.

When I read the book, I was amazed at how the problems of the Antebellum South paralleled what America is experiencing today with the divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans. Did you have any idea when you started the story that it would speak to today’s issues?

No, never! At least not when I began the idea. I started my research forSwept into Destiny some ten years ago. Then when I received the contract from CrossRiver and I worked my way through the story some familiar associations popped up.

I remember I was watching the news one evening, holding my breath over a Supreme Court decision. I was flabbergasted when I heard the verdict and I thought, That’s like what happened in 1857. Then with the battle between Republicans and Democrats in the recent election, again I just couldn’t help thinking, Wow, it’s like North and South all over again!

Do you ever sense God working through you as you write? Do you pray for His leading when you sit down to work?

Yes, I always try to pray before I begin my writing. Now that I am beginning my Destiny series, I especially pray God uses me to do His will in these novels. The history of our nation is oftentimes controversial. There are two sides to a coin and two sides to a story. I learned that lesson early as a child through my mother’s discipline when trying to rule over the battle with my five siblings.

Leaving parts of history out that are no longer politically correct leads to inaccuracy. This can be harmful for future generations. History repeats itself, so why make the same mistakes twice? Learn the first time around and do better the second time around. But if you mask what transpired, well, that is where America will go amok.

Truth is truth, no matter how bad it may hurt. I attempt to convey through my stories the people that made America into the great nation God used for His purpose throughout the generations. Utilizing historical people throughout my novels I pray gives my readers fresh insight into that person’s character. Through their words and actions you can feel as if you stepped back into time and witness for yourself a person’s character. Did he believe, obey, and then follow the word of God? Of course, much of that is for our infinite Creator to decide, but I try very hard to have my readers get a closer knowledge of what shaped our American history.

I love the way you seamlessly weave historical speeches from President Lincoln and others into your story. How long did your research take and was it difficult to find what you needed?

Yes, sometimes it was. For Lincoln it helped that I visited Washington, DC twice in my lifetime. The first time was when I graduated from high school. The second was with my husband and son. I have to say I sometimes call myself a pack rat for books. There was a lot of free information and the rest I purchased. Then my husband and I went to Springfield, Ill. There is a museum there and also Lincoln’s house, a courthouse and more to tour. I sometimes felt I could hear Lincoln’s footsteps in that house! Envision his tall frame sitting in the chair, leaning over his desk!

My children, God bless them, soon learned that to make Mom excited over her Christmas or birthday present, buy her a book about the Civil War, or a history book, the older the better!

What did your research include?

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 12 years. I had written down tablets of information and at that time just for my children.

I then asked my mother about certain events. She was the one who talked me into writing a novel. That idea set off a series of pathways for me to tread. When I visited my husband’s parents, I plagued my lovely southern relatives for information about their ancestors and the Civil War.

We visited plantations together and then I’d broach the no-no questions. What were their thoughts about Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman? Who all owned slaves? Did all southerners want to secede from the Union? How did they feel about the plantation owners whose slaves got them into this Civil War drama? That’s when I learned facts you can’t find in the history books!

How fortunate to be able to hear the stories direct, handed down from one generation to the other. If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you envision playing the lead roles of Maggie, Ben, and her parents?

That’s a hard one. I might need my readers to determine this. My childhood heroines and heroes will always remain on top of my list.

I like actors who incorporate sincere feeling and passion into their roles, and Maureen O’Hara with her fiery brand of temperament and soft compassionate nature shall always be a role model I cherish.

John Wayne exhibited his own brand of strength and passion. His strong demeanor and forthright courage I felt always portrayed our American hero. I often wondered as I watched his movies if he wasn’t just portraying his own character in them.

Because of my love for Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice I’d pick Kiera Knightly for Maggie and Matthew Mafadyen for Ben. I thought both did a great job in the movie.

For Mrs Gatlan, Jane Seymour, and Tom Selleck for Mr. Gatlan. He has that no nonsense personality.

Readers, what do you say? Who do you imagine in the roles of Maggie and Ben? Leave your comments below.

Catherine, thank you for being here and sharing some behind-the-scenes info about Swept into Destiny.

About the Author

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is an ardent receiver of Christ’s rejuvenating love, as well as a hopeless romantic and patriot. She skillfully intertwines these elements into her writing. A trip across the western United States meeting her extended family of Americans inspired her inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions, winner of the CSP Book of the Year 2016, and an Eric Hoffer Award finalist.

Catherine enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. She lives in Michigan with her husband, Edward, of forty years and her Arabian horses. Her children grown and married, she and Edward are the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and a beautiful granddaughter.

Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

About Swept into Destiny

Front cover Swept into DestinyOne brave decision leads to serious consequences.

Maggie Gatlan 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 ahead with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, and 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?

Available at CrossRiver Media, Amazon, and other online retailers.

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