Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), simply Harper Lee to millions across America, a Southern voice for decades based on her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Her other book though written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, did not see the light of day until 2015 and was published as a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize classic.
Harper Lee wrote what she knew best, the Deep South of the 1930s from a child’s point of view. Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama provided her with ample opportunities to portray the irrationality of adult attitudes in the racist culture that permeated the South.
A footnote worth mentioning: the character in her novel named Dill was based upon her real childhood friend, Truman Capote. What were the odds that little old Monroeville, Alabama would rear up both Truman Capote and Harper Lee? Today, Monroeville, Alabama entertains thousands of visitors who flock into town to get a glimpse at the old courthouse and homes that Harper Lee wrote about in To Kill a Mockingbird. Might I suggest you might want to visit the link below to learn more-http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/monroeville.html
What’s Coming in 2023…
Shiloh Mystery Series, Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories & Testament, An Unexpected Return. Watch for updated new book covers in 2023 and a flurry of personal appearances to promote the anniversary of all three Shiloh novels, including Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Expanded distribution and availability of the printed and e-book editions coming.
July 2023, The Last Laird of Sapelo (Koehler Books) is coming. A historical novel that explains why at the end of the Civil War virtually all the freed Geechee slaves risked their lives and found their way back to the only homes and land they ever knew. And, why for the rest of the tumultuous Nineteenth Century the Spalding family became the only permanent white residents on Sapelo Island. A unique and near-forgotten legacy linked the post-war Geechee community and the Spaldings until the last Spalding passed away and the Geechee descendants fell victim the wishes and whims of the rich and famous in the first half of the 20th Century.
Watch for more about The Last Laird of Sapelo in the coming months…
T. M. Brown invites you to share the news and links with friends and family. Whether they enjoy the Kindle, paperback, or new hardcover editions. He also invites you to leave a rating and a review for any of the three books you have read.
Watch for a special Fifth Anniversary Updated Edition in paperback & hardcover of Sanctuary & Testament coming for 2023!
As a writer, we learn our trade with the writing and publishing of each new story. I am thankful and most grateful to all those who have invested their time to read any of the three Shiloh Mystery novels. I never dreamt the stories would continue selling as they are five years afterward. Thank you for spreading the word and recommending the books to your friends and family members. Theo and Liddy’s exploits and hair-raising adventures involving their colorful, and often quirky, Shiloh friends have been truly a joy writing—I am pleased to discover how many readers like you enjoy the stories as well. Stay tuned. More plans are in store for Theo and Liddy in the days to come.
Days of Cotton and Cannons (The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story)
UPDATE: The newly suggested title of Days of Cotton and Cannons seems to catch the attention of prospective agents and publishers. I hope to share the projected plans for the book’s release in the coming weeks. I am crossing my fingers that 2023 will unfold as a very special and busy year with my books, and just so happens marks my wife’s and mine 50th-Anniversary. That’s a lot to celebrate, so expect to hear about this time next year that we disappeared for an extended getaway vacation.
In the meantime, I am busy growing Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc. What began five years ago as well was the notion there were enough aspiring and published authors south of Atlanta to form our own writers’ organization to promote local authors to the local audiences in our neck of the woods. This past month our fledgling troup of writers got word the State of Georgia accepted our application to become a new non-profit corporation. You might say, like Theo Phillips, I too am pretty busy in my peaceful, not-so-laid-back-retirement. But I love what is unfolding and keeping my life interesting. Every new dawn invites another adventure and opportunity that keeps me young at heart.
For my local friends and readers. Come, take part in the Sharpsburg Book Fair, August 27th in historic Sharpsburg, Georgia. Over 30 authors already have signed up to take part in this all-day event co-hosted by the Hometown Novel Writers Association and the Town of Sharpsburg. Proceeds benefit the promotion of literacy in Coweta County and surrounding counties.
A historical novel is a story with a particular period of history as its setting which strives to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of that past age with realistic detail and fidelity (though sometimes only provides apparent fidelity) to historical fact.
Historical novels capture the details of the time period depicted as accurately as possible for authenticity, including social norms, manners, customs, and traditions. In my estimation, a historical novel should offer a plausible, credible, and believable narrative, though created by the author, befitting the historical characters, settings, and events portrayed in the story. Through intensive, diligent research, the author’s interwoven narrative should not only engage but also edify and expound the historical past reflected in the story.
Why Write a HISTORICAL NOVEL?
Well-researched and written historical novels offer an “awareness that the events of our past impact contemporary events.” Historical narratives invite insight into the mind of a member of a past society and induce empathy through a written portal linking them and the reading audience; bringing an understanding of the past into the mind of the present reader.
Dividing Historical Fiction and Historical Novels
Of course novels are works of fiction—they certainly are not non-fiction—but two aspects are really important:
Creating an authentic picture of the period, based on intensive research and present as close a reflection of the real persons, places, and events, as is possible, given the historical evidence available.
I propose to include this Author’s Note in my historical novel: This book is a work of fiction, and although based on extensive research, the historical characters, places, and events depicted in this narrative are based upon my interpretation. I pray I have done justice in portraying past people, places, and events in writing this historical novel.
It is that final sentence where one discovers my moral obligation to historical characters, places, and events, however long ago, where any division of opinion may emerge. The essential nature of good research underpins all my writing, whether true fiction or intertwined in history, and I do so because the needs of crafting a worthwhile story are paramount and trump the evidence.
I have no problem tweaking minor points of history if the story demands it; but I attempt to never disparage a historical character without proper evidence. And this was the crux of the debate between Historical Fiction and Historical Novels. One author mayo make their main (historical) character have an affair because they felt it added to the impact of the story, despite the lack of any evidence. Thus, this is historical fiction, i.e. historical fantasy or historical romance or alternative historical fiction.
Writing historical novels comes with a responsibility to living descendants of the characters in the historical narrative, whether realistic or otherwise depicted. Likewise, like it or not, many people learn their history from fiction. Therefore, as well as a moral responsibility to the characters in our stories, authors are obliged not to mislead their readers. Of course, authors of other forms of historical fiction feel misinterpretation of history remains the reader’s personal responsibility.
The distinction between an ‘historical novel’, in which the author seeks to remain true to the history that underpins it, and ‘historical fiction’ in which, while the background is of importance, the story is king, may not always be distinctly black and white. But I, for one, will always attempt to write stories anchored in history, reflecting as near as possible the true nature and accuracy of our past.
My working title for the historical novel about Randolph Spalding is “The Last Laird of Sapelo” but someone proposed “The Days of Cotton and Cannons” to reflect the story’s timeline and the conflict Randolph Spalding faces in the story.
When will it be published? Stay tuned, subscribe to receive my newsletters. I am praying for a 2023 book launch, but this story will make its debut at the right time, and not before. Thanks for connecting. T. M. Brown
In my upcoming historical novel, Sapelo Island is the home of South End, Chocolate, Bourbon, Kenan Fields, High Point, Marsh Landing, and Blackbeard’s Island–all names associated with the fifteen by three-mile barrier island off the Georgia coast as the War Between the States breaks out. The Spalding family’s legacy now rests in what was called the Spalding City of the Dead, a family burial plot near that family’s mainland home, Ashantilly, a short drive above the once thriving port of Darien, Georgia.
Today, much has changed. Darien is no longer the bustling seaport rivaling even Savannah at one time, and Sapelo Island no longer produces cotton, sugarcane, indigo, and rice as it once did. In fact, none of the coastal plantations exist any longer except for historical markers and community namesakes. Yet, Sapelo Island’s and Darien’s history goes back hundreds of long forgotten years.
My wife and I stopped in Darien in the summer of 2019 after a writers’ conference on Saint Simon Island for a bite of lunch. Immediately, I pondered using the quaint time-lost feel of this shrimp boat hub on the Georgia coast as the setting for one of my southern fiction stories. We returned for a week-long stay the following summer to research the town with the notion I could bring my Shiloh Mystery characters to town, but soon found myself entranced by the history of Sapelo Island after we spent a long day traipsing the island from one end to the other (at least as far as we could safely go without getting stuck in the soft sand and mud that made up most of the roads or should I say trails on the island).
I then stumbled upon Buddy Sullivan’s Early Days of the Georgia Tidewater, The Story of McIntosh County& Sapelo. I discovered the rich history of Sapelo and Darien, dating back to Oglethorpe’s founding of New Inverness, later known as Darien–the second oldest town in Georgia. Then I read about the McIntosh clan who settled in the area.
And yes, for my Coweta County friends, the same family whence William McIntosh haled and married Senoia, altering the fate and future generations of Creek Nation lands in Georgia. But that’s another story to be told.
From the McIntosh clan, the Leake clan and Spalding clans emerged up and down the coast in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
By 1800, Thomas Spalding arrived on Sapelo Island with his wife, Sarah Leake Spalding and South End came into being. Of their fifteen children born between 1800 and 1822, only five outlived Thomas (1851) and Sarah (1843). Three daughters married and bore children with the names of Brailsford, Wylly, and Kenan. Of the two sons, Charles, the eldest surviving son, had two wives but no children; only the youngest, Randolph bore three Spalding children. His family’s story is the basis behind my upcoming story…
Why this story? As my editor shared after reading my manuscript: History is not as black and white as we might believe, much grayness exists that we should learn about. The Randolph Spalding Story offers shades of gray that will enhance our understanding of history. His is a tragic story, as is his family’s story, and important to retell.
In the meantime, follow the below link to read another modern account about Sapelo Island today. I will provide periodic insights into Sapelo Island, Darien, and other parts of the Georgia coast, including Savannah, in the coming weeks and months as we all wait for the release of my latest historical novel.
This 10-year-old video by Mattie Gladstone spurred my interests in learning more about Randolph Spalding, which led to my current story, The Last Laird of Sapelo.
My wife and I toured the property with permission from Mattie Gladstone’s surviving son and daughter who still live there. With a little imagination, one can visualize the original grand farmstead house and outbuildings built by Randolph Spalding when he moved his family off Sapelo Island in 1857. This video is amazing and has over 58,000 views with nearly 900 likes.
We have loads of pictures allowing me to write details of this antebellum home north of Darien, located in the area called The Ridge. Enjoy… History is not all black and white, they are many shades of gray we should all take time to understand.
Follow the link (it could not be embedded) for this heart-warming description of Randolph Spalding’s circa 1857 farmstead home along the tidal marshes above Darien, GA. Why did he give up living in the grand tabby constructed South End Mansion, aptly named “Big House” by his famous father, Thomas Spalding. Both historic homes play integral parts in The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story.
Watch for more historical tidbits that make up my new novel currently being submitted to agents and publishers.
My latest novel, a historical tale about Randolph Spalding, the youngest son of Thomas Spalding, the original Laird of Sapelo, is finally nearing completion. His story has consumed my attention and focus ever since Purgatory’s launch on May 26, 2020. I did not think I could take my focus off my Shiloh fictional characters, but since before last summer began, my attention has been on writing while researching Randolph Spalding and his family. My wife and I have made two trips to the Georgia coast and sailed to Sapelo Island, listened to stories, sat with and read books by renowned historians, scoured the internet, and cluttered my computer with images and documents to validate the story I have written. Though it is a novel, I based it upon his history, cut short by his untimely death in March 1862. More will come in the weeks and months ahead as I seek to find the right publisher for this gripping story.
Shiloh Mystery Series approaching its Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, the story began the series.
Watch for exciting news of new editions to this award-winning series.
A brand new Hometown Novel Nights and HNN Writers Group website coming soon… HometownNovel.com