When I finished writing Red Bird’s Song, for the FIRST time, I felt utterly at a loss. I’d put my whole heart into researching and writing that novel, my first historical romance, and couldn’t fathom going on to write the next after such a life altering adventure. But I did; I also revisited Red Bird’s Song innumerable times during all the rewrites. We weren’t parted for long. 🙂
Several months after completing that initial draft, the close friend of my youngest daughter, Elise, was killed by a drunk driver two days before her birthday. She was turning eight. Garry was ten. She’d already lost her young cousin, Matthew, in a farm accident several years before.
The little boy, James, in Red Bird’s Song is a tribute to my nephew Matthew, friend Garry, and other lively little boys I’ve known and loved, including a childhood friend who succumbed to illness. These precious souls are gone before us, but never forgotten. As the author, I decided the fate of James and he lives! He’s also based on the child taken in the attack at the beginning of Red Bird’s Song, a boy named James, and he lived to a ripe old age, recounted his capture in great animation for the rest of his days.
As is often the case in my writing, personal and ancestral tragedy inspired much of Red Bird’s Song. The heroine’s brother, Craig, who died of fever, came about because of all the young men who die before their time. Some in our family. One such young man I read about while researching my ancestors is Hugh Brown Craig. He sounded like such an admirable fellow, typifying the finest of the South who fell in that most uncivil of wars, The Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor. The estimated loss of men in that single battle was 15, 500. His fiancée was knitting socks for him when she received the terrible news. She never married. So tragic. He’s buried in the beautiful old cemetery at Tinkling Spring Church in Augusta County not far from where the attack at the opening of Red Bird’s Song took place along Middle River.
Red Bird’s Song opens in the fall of 1764 at the tail end of Pontiac’s War, a different war, but war all the same.
Shortly before Garry’s death, he remarked that he wanted to live to be ninety. I often think of that. A frequent visitor in our home, he was engrossed in accounts I told of Eastern Woodland Indians (especially the Shawnee) and Daniel Boone. Garry even did the dance of joy with me after I completed that first version of Red Bird’s Song. He loved history, particularly stirring adventure from colonial America.
We danced around the kitchen to the fabulous song by Adiemus in their album Songs of Sanctuary. You just never forget things like that. And writing is as much therapy to me as anything. A wonderful way to work through life’s complexities and sorrows. To boldly go wherever I dare without leaving my couch. 🙂
The senseless death of dear little Garry filled me with such anger. When I launched into the next novel in my colonial frontier series, Through the Fire, the heroine reflected that anger. I vented through Rebecca, my favorite heroine. She’s also wounded and scarred. But a real fighter. As I see it, we have a choice, to go on and fight or give up. With faith, hope, love, and help from out friends, we persevere.
*Most importantly, the romance between Charity and Wicomechee, the hero and heroine in Red Bird’s Song, was inspired by an account I read of a Scots-Irish captive who fell in love with and wed the son of a chief and was later forced back to her white family. Her warrior husband did the unthinkable and left his people to go and live in the English world, but before he could reach his true love, her brothers intercepted and killed him. Heartbroken, she grieved herself to death soon after giving birth to their daughter, who survived and has descendants.
So affected was I by this heartrending account that it also played out as a profound influence in my historical fantasy Daughter of the Wind.
I couldn’t allow this tragedy to befall my couple in either novel. Not only because that’s a big ‘no no’ when writing romance novels of any kind, but because this is my way of rewriting that sad tale I came across. I do that to stories or movies when I don’t like the ending, at least in my head.
So I delved back into history, reached into the inner recesses of my heart, and pondered an alternative ending. Please let me know how you like it, (both endings if you also read Daughter of the Wind). I suppose the ending in these novels is bittersweet. But more sweet than bitter. That’s life, though.
I leave you with the spirit-soaring song by Adiemus.