Civil War Historical Romance Thorns of Eden

I’m pleased to welcome Diana Ballew as my guest.  Her new release, Thorns of Eden,  set during the Civil War, is a welcome addition to the world of American historical romance.   So much focus centers on Regency England in the historical romance realm and so little on America.  Time to hearken back to our roots.  With that in mind, here’s Diana to share her writing journey.

What do you think makes Thorns of Eden different? What will draw readers to it?

And along that same line, do you feel a strong pull to the people and the time periods you write about?

Civil War romance novels are few and far between these days. That alone helps them to stand out. I wanted Thorns of Eden to be different right from the start. Rather than have the hero and heroine on opposite sides of the war, I chose to have both Rayce and Eden siding with the South and smack dab in the middle of conflict at every turn. I never shied away from the slavery issue. In fact, the subject is addressed from a surprising angle you rarely hear about.  But this story is a passionate romance above all else.

*Sounds fabulous to me, and one I want to read.  And I absolutely love that cover!  And now, back to Diana.

Yes, I truly do feel a very strong connection with the people and time periods I write about.

So do I.  How long have you been writing?

Like most authors, I’ve been writing for years. It started out just as a hobby when I was younger; mostly poetry and shorty stories. As I grew older, I needed to write full-length novels because I had entire stories and characters rattling around inside my dizzied head and they wouldn’t go away.  Thorns of Eden is one of those stories.

I well understand how that is.  So tell me, are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

I’m a Pantser—all the way. I don’t want to know how the story will unfold or how the characters will react ahead of time. They guide me as I write the story. The ending of a novel comes to me when I’m about 2-3 chapters away from the finale, and I’m usually quite surprised at the turn of events that lead up to the end.

I’m very much a pantser too, trying to become more of a plotter but not with a great deal of success.  Where do you find the inspiration for your ideas/plots? Have dreams influenced your work?

There’s a story waiting to be told in everything we do, everything we see, and even in everything we perceive.  After spending twenty years in genealogical research, I’ve always been drawn to writing historical romance. Regardless of the genre, human nature has not changed. Deep emotions are as relevant today as they were many centuries ago.

Dreams do play into my novels from time to time. I’m a very vivid dreamer. Throughout the day, I remember those colorful dreams and mixed emotions I felt while sound asleep. I have a notepad on my night table, and I’ve been known to bolt up out of bed and jot down the latest bizarre dream.

Same here and I so agree with you.  Do you write in silence or listen to music?  What is essential to your writing process, coffee, chocolate…

I usually write in silence, but sometimes I’ll write while listening to soft music. Additionally, I can’t stand the feel of anything tight around my waist while I’m writing. I need to be in loose, comfortable clothes.

The family tease me about my favorite sloppy ‘wolf’ T-shirt and I just got another.  Speaking of wolves, have you killed off any characters?  If so, how did you feel about that, and did you have anyone in mind that character was based on in real life?  I did.  🙂

Sure, I’ve killed off characters. Frankly, it wouldn’t be realistic writing a Civil War romance where everyone escapes unscathed during that brutal war. I don’t take the death lightly. I try to write the scene so the reader feels as conflicted as I do about the character’s death, yet somehow resigned to their passing. All my characters are based in part on someone I know ; )

Wonderful way to vent.  Do you research your story before you write it?  Or as you go?

With Thorns of Eden, I researched the entire American Civil War before deciding on the exact time and place this story would unfold.  Still, the intriguing storyline and vibrant characters required a lot of research as I went along, too.

I’ll bet.  That’s a lot of research.  Do you enjoy it?

I adore research. It’s a great passion of mine.

Mine too.  Do you have a favorite character?

Wow! Tough question and it really shouldn’t be hard to answer. If we’re talking about my books, I’m in love with Major Rayce Hampton. There, I said it. Yes, the man just does it for me, and I still dream about him. If we’re talking characters from other books I’ve read, I’d have to say my favorite characters are Ignatius J. Riley from A Confederacy of Dunces; Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights; Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’m with you on Heathcliff.  What is one thing your readers would find surprising about you?

When I was young, I crash landed in a fiery airplane on Wake Island.  Now that’s surprising, especially that you survived.

Do you ever stray from your genre? Your comfort zone?

All the time, but my full-length novels are always historical in nature.

Has your writing journey been a smooth or bumpy ride?

I took it slow at first, never expecting anything would happen quickly. With that in mind, I would have to say it was a smooth ride overall. Thorns of Eden sold almost right away.

What advice would you give to a new/ aspiring writer?

Write and don’t stop. Sounds simple, huh? Well, it’s not, and I can’t tell you how many writers struggle with taking the time to write. Life always gets in the way of writing, so finding the time doesn’t just appear on a silver platter—you have to seize the necessary time.

Excellent.  Thanks for sharing with us.  And I hope you’ll come back soon.

A quote from The romance Reviews says it all:  ‘Holy smokes! This is one AWESOME novel! Diana Ballew knew EXACTLY what she was doing when she penned the words that make up this incredible historical novel. Her readers will instantly fall in love with, not only the beautiful characters, but the scenes, the sounds and the feel of a nation torn in two.’   by ReviewsbyMolly

For more in Diane and her new release please visit her website at:

Thorns of Eden is available at Kindle and Print  B&N for NOOK and other online booksellers.

*Images of the Civil War, the beloved Confederate Generals Jeb Stuart and  George B. McClellan.  General Joseph E. Johnston, commanders of the Union army in the Peninsula Campaign.  The very hot Major Rayce Hampton, the hero in Thorns of Eden, and the lovely heroine Eden Blair.

38 responses to “Civil War Historical Romance Thorns of Eden

  1. Thorns of Eden looks really good. I am going to have to read it.



  2. What a great cover!! I think the civil war is so interesting yet kind of sad at the same time cause so many died. Don’t think I would ever go in a plane again if that happened to me. Yikes! Enjoyed your post.
    Sue B


    • Definitely a real mix.


    • Oh, the cover! Thanks, Sue for reminding me. Isn’t the cover lovely? The author has very little (if any) control over the cover of their book. I spent as much time as I could finding images of people I thought depicted Major Rayce Hampton and Eden Blair. Right from the start, the publisher had said the cover artists often prefer images rather than people on historical covers, because it’s so hard to capture the details of the clothing of that period. I was determined. Luckily, I had a fabulous cover artist, Rae Monet. I explained that I wanted the hero sweeping the heroine off her feet. It was important to me they try to capture that kind of image along with images of the war. Anyway, I was in line at McDonalds getting a sweet tea when I got the image of the cover proof on my cell phone. I was so excited. After I paid for my drink, I drove off without picking up the tea, and didn’t even realize it!


  3. Congrats on the fantastic review, Diana! This book sounds like a must read for me. I love the conflicts surrounding the Civil War. Interesting how you kept the hero and heroine on the same side, but I believe more variety will help to reignite this genre for readers.

    Best of luck with it! Great cover!


    • Thanks, Susan! There are so many ways to ignite conflict within a romance novel. From the very start, I knew Rayce and Eden would be on the same side of the war. Compared to Rayce, However, Eden has a lot to learn . . . and a lot to lose. She had lived a fairly sheltered life before the war. Along with the sweeping devastation consuming the Peninsula, inner growth, patience, and rapturous passion are about to unfold while the war rages on.


  4. Really enjoyable blog. Thanks. I have a question. when you say you’re a pantser, do you have to stop a lot while writing to get the research/history you need to fit your pantsing approach for the day? Or do you have a firm handle on your research before you begin? (that doesn’t sound like a pantser, though)
    And my favorite book character is Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird, too.
    So happy for your great reviews, and being the 150th anniversary of the civil war, I suspect this book will do great!


  5. Thank you, Ray. I loved writing Thorns of Eden. It has some twists and turns, so I was careful not to share any of those juicy details ahead of time. I hope you enjoy the book–It’s fun hearing back from the readers!


  6. I loved this book! Your descriptions made me feel as if I were actually there, in the middle of the action. I can’t wait until your next book!


    • Thank you, Joan! I’m delighted you enjoyed the book. I’m polishing my second book right now, Immortal Prey–an historical paranormal romance spanning 300+ years . Next up, I’ll be finishing the juicy sequel to Thorns of Eden.


  7. Good question, Lynne. While the story usually unfolds in a way that surprises even me, the research is ongoing the entire time I write. When I researched the entire Civil War before I stared the book, I was looking for the perfect place to insert my hero. I found that spot in the Peninsula Campaign during the spring and early summer of 1862. As I wrote the book, I had to research almost every day. I wanted to make sure the real-life characters were truly in the spot I said they were on the exact day. The scene with General J. E. B. Stuart and his cavalry performing the drill in the streets of Richmond is from true accounts. There’s also a scene in Libby Prison in Richmond. I needed first-hand accounts of what it looked like, inside and out. The Civil War is so well documented. You really want to be on top of your toes with research when writing a book during that time period.


  8. Diana, I love reading historicals about the Civil War. Some twenty years ago, they were written by Heather Graham, and some big names. Now we don’t find too many. Like you, I like to write in loose clothes or I undo my belt to breathe better while writing. LOL Congratulations on a great review.


    • Thanks, Mona!
      I loved Heather Graham’s Civil War novels, too. You’re right; American Civil war romance novels are hard to find there days, yet, I hear from readers how much they have always loved them. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. In my opinion, there’s no better time to be reading and writing these books.


  9. I have shelves of old books about the War of Northern Aggression. I adored them in the old days and am ready for some new and different ones. Thanks, Diana.


    • Hi Mary!
      While writing Thorns of Eden, I wanted to recapture that feeling we shared reading the Civil War books from years ago, but turning the heat up a notch or two ; ) Thorns is reminiscent of those older books that made our heart pound as we wondered if our feisty heroine or dashing hero would escape the perilous situations. In Thorns, we find a brazen, Confederate officer dedicated to the war effort and a heroine of substance with a mind all her own. Both battle the war (and their emotions) in their own way, while trying to reconcile the driving force constantly throwing them together. Sparks fly as the war rages on, and passion and deceit lurk around every corner.


  10. Loved the interview and the link to the review! I love stories that pull you into them with rich settings. There is something about that period which is so fascinating. I’m going to ignore my family and start this one today!


  11. Diana…what a wonderful blog chat. I so enjoyed getting to know you. And like you, I too have a love of the Civil War period. (my civil war saga finaled in the Golden Heart). Your book has just been purchased and is now nestled inside my Kindle…can’t wait to fall in love with your Major.

    Thanks for giving us an easy reach to all things Civil War.

    Warmest regards,

    Cindy Nord


    • Hi Cindy! I’m so happy to connect with other readers and writers who love the Civil War time period. I’m delighted you purchased my book. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Major Rayce Hampton, just as I have. He’s a bad boy with a jaded heart, in need of some serious taming and good ol’ Southern lovin’ by just the right woman. Rayce is complicated, brilliant, and so totally yummy I can barely contain myself when I talk about him.


  12. Hi Shelby! That sounds like a wonderful idea : ) Enjoy!


  13. This was a great interview! Thank you, Beth and Diana. It is a really great story and I’m tickled there’s a sequel coming. I too love that you put them on the same side.
    Immortal Prey sounds awesome also! Hope we can expect it soon.


  14. Great cover. I’m looking forward to reading THORNS OF EDEN. My mom is from the South so I’ve always been fascinated by stories set during “the War of Northern Aggression” as many of my relatives refer to it. An aunt traced our family history a few years ago and found out we’re related to Robert E. Lee. Guess I shouldn’t admit to that since I live in the North. :o)


  15. Hi Katherine. Oh, you most certainly should admit to such lineage, my dear! He really was a good person- a great man. Having done genealogical research for so many years, I can tell you most of us have ancestors that fought on each side. I had a grandfather who was a Civil War surgeon for the South, but most of my ancestors fought for the North. I grew up in Virginia, and I was told so many stories about the Civil War. I was fascinated from the start. My brother and I used to dig up war relics in our backyard. He has a huge collection now. My girlfriends and I used to go to the abandoned Civil War cemetery near the house and try to creep each other out. I once fell into a looted grave at night and couldn’t get out. I still remember the smell of moist dirt under my nails from trying to claw my way back out. Ugh!


  16. I rarely read American history, so it seems like Thorns of Eden would be a good place to jump in. 🙂


    • Hi Barbara-
      Jump in–the water’s fine! I love a hero that melts my butter, so, more times than not, the setting of a book isn’t paramount. I happen to be partial to historical American settings . As long as the hero and heroine manage to sweep me away on their fantastic journey, I’m a happy camper : )


  17. Hi Lori! Placing the characters on the same side made me have to amp up the conflict in other areas. Challenging but fun! Thanks for reading Thorns of Eden. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.


  18. Excellent blog post, Diana, and so interesting to see how you developed your lovely novel. I had to read it cover to cover, no breaks! And i love how you tied in the anniversary of the Civil War with your book – the perfect time for it, indeed. I’m looking forward to the sequel, and to Immortal Prey!


  19. Thanks so much, Chassily!


  20. Wonderful interview ladies! I enjoyed learning new things about you both. I’m a panster, too. I write and see what happens. I thought I was doing it wrong for the longest time. I don’t know how to story board, plot effectively, I can’t envision scenes before I write them (though I might get snippets to help me). It has taken me a long time to get it through my head that there’s no such thing as doing it wrong. The process works for each of us differently to write the best story we can. I’m glad you found your success Diana!


    • You are so right, Calisa! There is no single way to write a book. Our brains all work differently, making that impossible. I have friends who plot every single scene in their book and that works for them. I tried to plot once and it stifled my creativity as well as my interest. For me, part of the fun is NOT knowing what’s going to happen next. I write in sequential order but that about as orderly as I get.


  21. Beth and Diana, loved the interview. I’ve spent a long time doing genealogical research, which has interested me since I was a child. Maybe that’s one reason I love historical romances. Best of luck with this one, Diana.


  22. Diana, this book isn’t just on my TBR list, it’s on my Nook. I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I love American historicals!
    Beth, I have one of your books on my Nook too. Wish I had more time to read!


    • Thanks, Lilly–you’re a peach! It’s hard to find time to read. I always feel like I should be writing, so most of my reading is done using my Nook on airplanes or other places where it’s impossible for me to write.


  23. Thanks for us both, Lilly. I understand. Same here.


  24. I’d like to thank Beth for hosting me today on her wonderful blog . Also, thanks to all of you who took the time out of your busy day to ask questions and post comments. I had a lovely time! Happy reading!

    Diana Ballew


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