Congratulations with your latest award winning book, The Girls of Gettysburg.
Research is an important part of your writing process. Would you share your steps and how you begin?
I always begin my research by visiting the location of my story. I want to see the house, if it exists, that my character lived in. I want to get a feeling of the environment/landscape. I find this necessary to connect with my characters. I am constantly taking notes jotting down a thought or a feeling of the space.
My next step is to create an outline. I use the outline as a guide reminding me of what I want to say. It also gives me the dates and the facts of the story. I use a lot of post-it-notes making changes and possible new thoughts/ideas. This takes a few days to a few weeks using my notes taken, on location, as reference.
When I’ve gone over it many times, I begin my first draft. I write long hand using paper and pencil. Writing by hand is the key to my inspiration allowing me to engage in my character's life. Now the creativity flows onto the page.
After a long time of writing, I transcribe my first draft and write my second on my computer. But, I will say that all my revisions are hand written. I print and revise using my pencil and re-cycled paper.
Revision---revision--revision----it is so important to revise!
How long do you work each day? Do you have a time limit, a page number, a word count to achieve?
Sometimes I write a few hours---an entire chapter---maybe ten to twelve hours at a time. Then there are days that I write nothing and simply enjoy the beautiful landscape around my home.
Thanks so much for sharing, Bobbi Miller :>)
You can go to Bobbi’s website: http://www.bobbimillerbooks.com/ where you can see pictures of her house and her private writing space.
You can also go to her website: http://www.teachingauthors.com/. Bobbi’s not only a writer but also a teacher.
And you can find her at her: http://www.redfoxliterary.com/authors.html with Karen Grencik her wonderful agent.
Below you can read a review of her book The Girls of Gettysburg
All of history is a story
By Bobbi Miller
Pulitzer-prize winning writer David McCullough once said, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are historically illiterate…The textbooks are dreary, they’re done by committee, they’re often hilariously politically correct and they’re not doing any good.” Students are forced to memorize dates, with little understanding of the complex social contexts that influence these events. Important personalities who spent their lives inventing new ways of thinking and being are reduced to a couple of sentences, usually qualified and modified by a string of empty adverbs. As proof, I have had students who did not know who Malcolm X was, and who thought Thomas Jefferson used a computer to write the Declaration of Independence, that is when he wasn’t helping Martin Luther King fight the Civil Rights War. (I’m not kidding).
That’s why I write historical fiction, and I focus on the American story. Because the American story is unique in the history of the world. American history reflects the coming together of several dramatic movements: immigration, colonization, revolution, slavery, civil war, westward migration, and industrial revolution. None of these movements are unique in world history, but no where else in its history have these movements come together as they’ve done on this landscape. Our history is full of amazing stories, most of which has been minimized, ignored, rewritten to satisfy the current political mindset. And even forgotten.
History belongs the people that forged it -- all the people, not just a select few. All the voices matter. Historical fiction makes the facts matter.
But as the great Katherine Patterson once said, “…historical fiction [is] a bastard child of letters, respectable neither as history nor as fiction.” I’ve written before, how defining historical fiction shares similar idiosyncrasies as Doctor Who. (http://www.teachingauthors.com/2015/01/doctor-who-and-historical-fiction.html)
As I was researching another book, I came across a small newspaper article dated from 1863. It told of a Union soldier on burial duty, following the Battle at Gettysburg, coming upon a shocking find: the body of a female Confederate soldier. It was shocking because she was disguised as a boy. At the time, everyone believed that girls were not strong enough to do any soldiering; they were too weak, too pure, too pious to be around roughhousing boys. It was against the law for girls to enlist. This girl carried no papers, so he could not identify her. She was buried in an unmarked grave. A Union general noted her presence at the bottom of his report, stating “one female (private) in rebel uniform.” The note became her epitaph. I decided I was going to write her story.
I had to get the facts right, of course. This was a daunting task because no other battle has been studied so thoroughly. Everyone is invested in this battle that helped forge our national identity. But there was another story – or stories – to tell. My protagonists, Annie, Tillie and Grace, reflect the culture of women, both Northern , Southern, freemen and the enslaved in America at a time rife with conflict between two vastly disparate cultures. Annie, disguised as a Confederate soldier, rebels against antebellum ideas as she takes the place of her dead brothers in the infantry. An important scene that reflects this conflict is when a smart aleck takes her beloved rifle saying it “has been conscripted by the company’s best, in service to Virginia” Knowing she cannot overpower him without giving herself away as a girl, Annie has to endure the humiliation in silence.
In contrast to Annie is Tillie. Tillie has been raised in polite white society and even attends the prestigious Young Ladies’ Seminary. She is nothing if not proper until the invasion of Gettysburg by the Confederate army. During the course of the book Tillie training as a lady takes second place to being a thief, a liar and a nurse to a Rebel. But along the way, she not only discovers her humanity, she finds a new friend in Grace.
As a free Black in Gettysburg, Grace’s life is in great danger as the Civil War looms nearby. But she refuses to leave when she sees her father stay behind to assist in the war effort, especially in the Underground Railroad. This is even more important when she meets Sorry and Weezy, two runaway slaves.
Annie, Tillie and Grace each serve as perfect foils to one another, highlighting the untold story of the women’s and Black cultures during the Civil War. Annie, going against the societal grain by dressing as a boy and serving on the Confederate front lines; Tillie, the embodiment of female refinery who learns a hard lesson in humanity; and Grace, who comes to understand just what it means to be a free, and the heavy price it demands. The plot weaves together the fate of these three girls, in a tapestry that reflects their humanity, their heartache and their triumph in a battle that ultimately defined a nation.
Not every story needs to have a happy ending; after all, sometimes life isn’t always easy. But in the best of historical fiction, as with any story, a child becomes a hero who gains power over her situation, a theme that even contemporary audiences appreciate. These stories offer hope, even as they offer insight into forgotten times and peoples. All of history is a story.