by Ann Shorey
Many thanks to Tamera for inviting me to be a guest blogger today!
My Sisters at Heart series is set in Missouri shortly after the end of the War Between the States. When I worked up the proposal for this series, I had my characters and their occupations set in my mind. In the first book, Where Wildflowers Bloom, I wanted Rosemary Saxon, the main character’s best friend, to be a nurse during the war, and then follow the same occupation afterward.
Well, surprise, surprise. When I began to research nurses in the Civil War, I learned that very few of them were women, and the ones who were female were generally older and/or widows. For a young unmarried woman to touch men’s bodies, even to tend to their wounds, was considered vulgar. Throughout the war, male nurses outnumbered female nurses 4 to 1. The general public believed women would only be a distraction and get in the way of the doctors.
Where female nurses were allowed, they were required to be plain-looking women. Their dresses were to be brown or black, no bows, no curls, no jewelry, and no hoop-skirts. The last prohibition is the only one that makes sense, since the hospital aisles were narrow.
So, where did this leave my Rosemary, who was to be the protagonist in the second novel in the series? Using my artistic license, she’s attractive, not plain, but I did make her “old.” She’s twenty-seven. J In addition to her God-given gift of mercy, she’s also determined to the point of being headstrong. She needs to be to stand up to the prejudice she encounters.
As writers, we try to avoid rabbit trails in our stories. You know, the fascinating tidbits we uncover that lead us away from the main plot. Yet, my latest novel, When the Heart Heals, came about directly because of a rabbit trail. What if I’d decided, “Oh, well, she can’t really be a nurse. Too unlikely,” and decided to make her a governess or seamstress because that would be “easier”?
I’ve learned there’s a time and a place for rabbit trails. If what you discover will deepen your plot or create a more interesting character, chase that rabbit! Even if you don’t end up using the information, store it away for a future novel.
And please don’t choose a character or a subject because you think it will be “easy.” I recently participated in an Author Fair in a nearby community. The writer at the table next to mine told me she decided to write a fantasy novel because that way she wouldn’t have to do any research! All I can say is her novel is self-published, and few people stopped at her table.
If you skimp on your writing by avoiding research or ignoring rabbit trails, most likely you’ll produce a skimpy book. And none of us want to do that.
Meet the Author:
ANN SHOREY has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. Her writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, and in the Adams Media Cup of Comfort series. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series for Revell, followed by Books Two and Three, The Promise of Morning and The Dawn of a Dream. The Sisters at Heart series, beginning with Where Wildflowers Bloom, is her latest offering from Revell. Book Two in the series, When the Heart Heals, released on February 15.
Click on the pics below for info on buying one of Ann’s books.