THROUGH THE FIRE opens in 1758 at the height of the French and Indian War in the Allegheny Mountains in what is now West Virginia, but was western Virginia then. The state wasn’t divided until the Civil War when West Virginia broke away and joined the union as a separate state. But that’s another story. At the time of THROUGH THE FIRE, the Virginia colonial frontier was vast. The fort assault in the story is a compilation of assaults I researched with the invaluable aid of a local anthropologist/archeologist who goes on frequent digs to try to discover the sites of these old Virginia forts.
The number of Catawba warriors involved in the novel is a stretch as there were never that many taking part in a pitched battle in Virginia, however the tribe fought for the British during the French and Indian War, and were fierce enemies of the Shawnee. Plus the Catawba often sent war parties into the Virginia frontier. The warriors thought nothing of traipsing from their home base in the Carolinas to kick butt in Virginia and farther north. A hardy, resourceful, and tenacious people as were other tribes such as the Shawnee whom I feature in my work .
In the movie, The Last of the Mohicans, the story supposedly takes place in the colonial frontier in New York State, but was actually filmed in Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina which the producers felt most closely resembled the Adirondack Mountains. Some of the scenes took place across the valley in what was once known as Carson City and Hickory Nut Flats. For more on the setting for the movie click here.
A great deal of conflict with Native Americans occurred in the Virginia frontier–more than we know because people were too busy fighting to survive to record it all. Historian Joseph Waddell says we know only a fraction of the drama that occurred in the Virginia frontier during the Indian Wars. Historians can only conjecture as to the rest of it all.
One point I disagree with in the film is the implication that the only land available to poor people was somewhere farther north in New York State. Heck, plenty of Scots-Irish headed back into the Alleghenies to stake out homesteads and erect forts. Other than this, I felt the film was mostly correct and is one of my all-time favorites.
Back to THROUGH THE FIRE, the opening was inspired by a dream in which I saw the heroine, Rebecca, her sister Kate, the attack on the frontiersmen the women were traveling with, Rebecca’s fall from the horse, Kate’s escape on her mount, and the hero, Shoka’s, arrival on the scene. All of this made a vivid impression on me. Also, that Shoka didn’t approve of Rebecca.
Research on top of research, yet more dreams, and inspiration followed to bring this novel to completion, along with the help of historians and the Shawnee themselves. A letter I came across from Virginia’s Governor Dinwiddie (a prodigious letter writer) asking what happened to the militia he sent out from Fort Loudon in Winchester to a fort in the interior of the Virginia frontier also lent inspiration to the ‘what ifs’ behind the novel.
Yes, this adventure romance has a The Last of the Mohicans flavor, but it was never my intent to reproduce that story, and many elements of Through the Fire are quite different, including its mystical weave. Research into my colonial American roots were the initial impetus for the leap into writing this and my other American historical romances.
My fascination with stirring tales of the colonial frontier and Eastern Woodland Indians is an early and abiding one. My English/Scot-Irish ancestors were among the first settlers of the Shenandoah Valley and had family members killed and captured by the Indians. Some people returned and left intriguing accounts of their captivity, while others disappeared without a trace. On the Houston-Rowland side of the family, I have ties to Governor Sam Houston, President James Madison and Malcolm 1st of Scotland.
Family annals list early names like Beale, Jordan, Madison, and Hite (a German connection I discovered). A brief account of my grandmother (nine generations removed) Elizabeth Hite, says her sister Eleanor was taken captive and sister Susan killed, though not by which tribe. Their brother Jacob was killed by the Cherokee in South Carolina.
Another ancestor, Mary Moore, is the subject of a book entitled The Captives of Abb’s Valley. A Moffett forebear captured as a child became a boyhood companion of the revered Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. When young Moffett grew up, he married into the tribe and had a son, the inspiration behind my Native American historical romance novel Red Bird’s Song. An ancestor on the Churchman side of the family was invited by the Shawnee/Delaware tribes to help negotiate a treaty with the English because he was Quaker and more sympathetic to their plight.
In THROUGH THE FIRE, I invite you to journey back to a dramatic and fascinating time long forgotten by most.