Today on the blog, we have fellow Anaiah Press author Carrie Dalby, whose debut novel, Fortitude, recently released. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing a little about the process of researching and writing your Young Adult Historical Fiction novel.
Thank you, Lisa, for having me on you blog today. I thoroughly enjoy the Chasmaria series. It’s an honor to be here to talk about my debut novel.
Fortitude is a historical YA that took five years of research and plotting for me to write the first draft. I was working on another manuscript for the first several years, but I devoted much of my reading and study time to researching 1898 and the Spanish-American War. Library trips, special book orders, reading microfilm—I did it all. And though I’m not a historian, I enjoyed every minute of it, even finding the historical facts that soured my stomach.
Learning about the deplorable conditions the American troops lived in throughout Florida while waiting to disembark for war was the spark that began Fortitude’s journey. Recently drained swamps for campsites, over-crowding, disease… more soldiers died in Florida that year than in battle on foreign soil.
The other killer in the Florida camps was deadly riots. Soldiers from around the country were squeezed into unhealthy camps in a racially divided state that lived by the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. The locals and many of the other troops despised seeing African-American men in uniform, especially the decorated Buffalo Soldiers. Fresh volunteers didn’t like being outranked by people they considered inferior and the townspeople didn’t want to serve them when they were on leave.
The riot scene in Chapter Twenty-five is based on an actual riot that took place on June 6, 1898 after white volunteers from Ohio “decided to have some fun” by snatching a two-year-old African-American boy from his mother, spanking him, and then using him for target practice. It was sickening to read so many different accounts about it, but I had to use the scene to depict just how extreme the attitudes were.
As fate would have it, I wrote the first draft of that chapter in early July 2013, when the George Zimmerman trial was happening in Florida. Anger, fear, and screams of injustice on the news echoed the voices of the past as I wrote—often with tears in my eyes.
Art imitating life?
History repeating itself?
Not learning from mistakes?
Truth is stranger than fiction?
All these and more are possibilities. What I do know is that a friend loaned me something I never would have chosen to read—a biography about the founder of the Girl Scouts. Within that book there were a couple pages about the miserable conditions the troops lived in at the Spanish-American War camps in Florida, where Juliette Gordon Low and her family tried to relieve some of the suffering. The story of those soldiers shouted at me from the pages and sent me on a research journey that lasted years and uncovered many difficult truths from American history. Facts we can learn and grow from, hopefully preventing painful history from being repeated.
Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Anaiah Press: TBA
Born and raised in California, but a resident of Mobile, Alabama since 1996, Carrie Dalby is a homeschooling mom with a love of literature for young adults and children. Some of Carrie’s favorite volunteer hours are with Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author workshops.