Creative Nonfiction – Putting the Pieces Together Like Studying Genealogy
Before launching my two dozen or so novels, many of which are written as creative nonfiction, I became a professional genealogist. One of the most critical aspects of this field is putting pieces of a puzzle together. To do that, I actually pretended I was one of the family members, be it male or female, and walked in their shoes during a particular time in history. It worked every single time and I found the battlefield where my great-great grandfather gave his life for the South in the Battle of Vicksburg.
Well, that is where my fifth novel in the Abraham Lincoln Series got its start, Mary Elizabeth Surratt.
At 1:22 pm on July seventh, 1865, she became the first woman executed by the United States Government. It’s 1865! I turn back the hands of time and walk in her shoes. I am a woman. Booth is as famous as Elvis Presley. She would do anything for him. But, be part of killing Abraham Lincoln, I don’t think so, at least not knowingly.
I took the actual court transcripts and entered the role of Mary Surratt while walking into that fateful courtroom daily for weeks. During the trial, Mary Elizabeth Surratt was defended by several of her priests and friends. Their testimony and her own protestations of innocence were just not enough. Playing her part and the treatment by the United States government, at times, caused me to pause and brought tears to my eyes. She was sentenced, along with the other co-conspirators on June 30, 1865.
I am through playing the part of Mary Elizabeth Surratt and, to be honest, quite exhausted.
I have a tendency to try and right the injustices directed at women in history. Take my novel The Rose of Brays Bayou. While historians and writers tend to focus on the actions at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, the women and children left abandoned during Santa Ana’s crossing of Texas are brought to light in this novel. I walked in Dilue Rose Harris’ shoes in this writing, one written from her actual memoirs of which I received an edited copy years ago after restoring an old home she wrote them in Eagle Lake, Texas.
Take the book Faith – Seventy Times Seven. Again, I walked in the shoes of a great pioneer woman minister, the Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds, in her struggles to gain ordination with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the early 1900’s. An older gentleman who knew her said, “Miss Ada sets the benchmark high for women answering God’s calling.” He said this in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church near Pleasant Hill, Louisiana a few years ago during their 100 year anniversary.
And now, I have walked in the shoes of Mary Elizabeth Surratt. Again, while most historians and authors in their books focus on John Wilkes Booth, Mary Elizabeth Surratt has been lost, for the most part, in history.
Let me leave you with the fact that her trial was unconstitutional. But, no matter, she still died at the end of a rope on July 7, 1865.
Please pick up a copy of my novel for the Kindle next week. After reading, your comments and positive review on Amazon are appreciated.
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