One of the reasons I write historical romance is that I love conducting the research. For my May 2013 release, A Heartbeat Away, I traveled to Sharpsburg, Maryland, the setting for the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, for you Southerners).
For what its worth, I traveled to take these pictures after I had the contract for A Heartbeat Away already in hand. This was a confirmation trip, a way to discover and confirm how the citizens of Sharpsburg were affected by this terrible battle and to double check for accuracy on some key points.
Since A Heartbeat Away is less about troop movement and the intricacies of who won/lost, hearing stories about the citizens was paramount. Specifically, I wanted to see the battlefield through the eyes of Beth, a woman with a heart to help, yanked from her tendency toward introspection to witness the pain and ferocity of wounded and dying soldiers whose needs trumped her own. I wanted to see what she would see, hear the screams and imagine the horrific smells that would engulf the town for days and weeks after the battle had ended, and obtain a visual of it all from Piper Farm (near where Gerta’s fictional home would be). I went in with a list of specific questions based on the direction I knew the story would take (one reason a synopsis is crucial!), but with an ear out for any fact that could be added to make the scenes come alive, while adding another layer to the protagonists inner conflict.
I hauled my iPad along for note-taking during the tour, and a bluetooth keyboard so that I could write on the manuscript at night. Beyond those two pieces of equipment, I had my iPhone. I asked questions and took notes on the iPhone when I was inside the museum absorbing what I could about the condition of the Confederates at that point in the war. That most of them had lice -- lived with body lice, really -- was a given and stumbling upon a “louse trap” on display was just what I needed to show the problem in a unique way. There were so many details to immerse myself in, yet I also had to draw a line. Historical fact can weigh down a book. Walking the line between too little and too much is always risky. Some readers want factual details, some do not, so I work hard to strike a balance.
Sharpsburg is a very small town, unscathed by commercial development, a true gem of history frozen in time by the town's refusal to allow commercialism to mar what they have worked so hard to preserve. I was taken on a private tour by Bob Murphy of RCM History Tours. His prices are very reasonable and he accommodated my desire to walk some of the tour. I stayed at the snug and very clean Mary Hill House, where there is a remnant of the battle right there on the parlor floor -- a bloodstain, soaked deep into the very old hardwood floors.
|About the Author|
S. Dionne Moore started writing in 2006. Her first book, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions, was contracted for publication by Barbour Publishing in 2008. In 2009 she moved on to writing historical romances as an outlet for her passion for history. In 2010 her second cozy mystery, Polly Dent Loses Grip, was a 2010 Carol Award finalist and she was also named a Barbour Publishing 2010 Favorite New Author. In 2011, her first historical romance, Promise of Tomorrow, was nominated a 2011 Carol Award finalist.
Born and raised in Manassas, Virginia, Moore moved to Greencastle, PA in 1993, then to Mercersburg in 2009. Moore enjoys life in the historically rich Cumberland Valley where traffic jams are a thing of the past and there are only two stoplights in the whole town.
For more information, visit her Website at www.sdionnemoore.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @sdionnemoore