By Martha Rogers
Today is our 55th wedding anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than to tell how my novel, Love Stays True, came to be. It’s a story loosely based on my great-grandparents love story after the Civil War. The idea sprang from three letters my dad gave me in 1995. His father had given them to him for safe-keeping. Because I loved to write and had begun a genealogy search of our family, the letters passed on to me. From those letters and facts we found in the genealogy research, I was able to piece together the story of Sarah Louise Dyer and Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and how their love endured the separation during the war.
The first manuscript was written for my cousins and my dad’s two living sisters. They loved it, and we brainstormed ideas for making it longer using the information we had. As I turned it into a novel, fact and fiction intermingled to bring a love story to life on the pages of the book.
After it was contracted, written, and turned in to the editor, I began thinking about the next two in the series and realized how much fun it could be to use basic facts and make up a story to go around them.
Then the editing came in for the first story. A mixture of real and fictitious towns and areas make up the story as well as made up names, but my editor said they all needed to be real names and real places. Okay, I could do that. The names were no problem, but it turns out that finding the towns was more difficult than I thought.
First I had to find real towns along the route my great-grandfather took from Pt. Lookout Maryland back to Louisiana. Google Maps provided the towns, but then I had to research the town to see if it existed in 1865. If it didn’t, I was back to searching the map for another town. Once I thought the route down to Tennessee was all set, and then in working the miles, I realized they couldn’t have gone that far in the number of days allowed.
Now the time line is involved and the miles they traveled and the terrain of the area played into the equation and had me rethinking the route. Some of the places my great-grandfather had mentioned in letters either no longer existed or didn’t show up on the maps I had. Needless to say, this editing took much longer than usual.
Had I done the research first and used real towns as I wrote the story and incorporated fictional events in with the real, things would have gone a lot smoother. Editing and rewriting and making the story stronger are my favorite part of writing, but this time much more was involved. If only I’d done that research first, editing would have been a lot easier on me and probably on my editor as well.
Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experimenting with recipes and loves scrapbooking when she has time. She has written two series, Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart as well as several other novels and novellas. Love Stays True, the first book in her new series, The Homeward Journey, released in May, 2013 and book 2, Love Finds Faith, in February 2014, and book 3, Love Never Fails releases November 2014.