Thursday, February 10, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome back, Sandra Merville Hart

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Back, Sandra Merville Hart

Linda: Welcome back to my blog. Your book Avenue of Betrayal sounds intriguing. Tell us your inspiration for the plot. 

Sandra: Thanks for hosting me again! I wrote a series of articles about Civil War Women on my blog,  Historical Nibbles. The number of spies in the war astounded me, as did the ways they communicated their secret information to others. I learned about Belle Boyd, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose Greenhow, and many others. 
This piqued my interest to research about other Civil War spies. Allan Pinkerton’s detectives are well-known and I was fascinated to learn more about them. 
Then I considered what I heard as a child—that this terrible war pitted brother against brother, father against son, friend against friend and some of that turmoil happened outside the battlefield. The story grew inside me from there. 

LM: You are part of a couple of story collections. How did those projects come about, and do you plan to do any in the future? 

Sandra: These were such fun for me to participate in! I’ve learned that writing novellas is much faster than writing novels, not only because of shorter word counts but also for less research. 😊 One of the collections I’m in with Mt. Zion Ridge Press, From the Lake to the River, came about through my involvement with ACFW Ohio Chapter, where Ohio authors wrote stories set in Ohio, any genre. The opportunity to write for Christmas fiction off the beaten path also came through that publisher. 

My editor at Smitten Historical Romance gave me the honor of asking me to write a novella for The Cowboys. That story was so much fun to write. Research and all writing were completed in less than a month. 

Yes, I’d love to write for another novella collection! It’s a refreshing change from my novels. 

LM: Most of your books are set during the Civil War. What draws you to that time period? Is there an intriguing little known fact about the era you can share? 

Sandra: I am fascinated with the Civil War era, a tragic period that reverberates down through our 
Photo: Pixabay/David Mark
country’s history. I discovered that there’s much our current generation doesn’t know about the attitudes, beliefs, and customs of the time. It’s a disservice to judge a previous era with current standards. (If those living then judged the current society, we wouldn’t fare well in their eyes either.) I do a lot of research to shed light on what really happened and how people who lived at the time felt about it. I hope to bring healing. 

LM: How do you decide where to set your stories, and have you visited the places in your books? 

Sandra: So far, I’ve visited the main setting in every novel. Walking the same streets my fictional characters walk sparks my imagination. 

It’s funny you ask about the decision for the setting, for what inspires a book varies for me. For instance, when it came time to write A Rebel in My House, I knew there was a story waiting for me in Gettysburg and I traveled there to find it. Inspiration for another story, A Musket in My Hands, came about when a friend asked, “Did you know there was a husband and wife who fought together in the Civil War?” I did, but hadn’t considered it as a story idea until he suggested it. 

One more example. Long before I began writing, a story of a flood came to me again and again. I was finally able to write those scenes in Surprised by Love, my novella set in the tragic 1913 Great Miami River Flood in Troy, Ohio. It’s part of the From the Lake to the River collection. I really love that story about everyday heroes. 
LM: Are you an outliner/plotter or “discovery” writer (i.e., just sit down and start writing)? 

Sandra: I’m a “discovery” writer. What a fun way to write! Yet, I must remain true to history. Research shows me the historical events and I drop my characters into it. 

LM: Now that you have several books published, what is a piece of advice you can give fledgling writers? 

Sandra: Persevere. Keep working hard. Take classes and workshops. Attend writer conferences and apply what you learned there to your WIP. Rejections cut deeply. Remembering that all authors experience this sting may help you pick yourself up and find the courage to write again. 

LM: What is your next project? 

Photo: Pixabay/StockSnap
Sandra: I’m so happy you asked! In addition to this “Spies of the Civil War” series, I am writing a series that begins in 1877, so this one isn’t set during the Civil War. In Ginny’s Shadow is the first book of the as yet unnamed series. Rose understands Samuel only considers his children when he proposes a marriage of convenience after losing his wife. He feels his schoolteacher friend can help raise his children, but can she find love with her schoolgirl crush when the family pushes her away? 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 

Sandra: I’d love for readers to connect with me on my blog, Historical Nibbles, where I share historical recipes and food-related posts, American history posts, and book reviews. I also share recipes from my books and historical background for my stories. It’s a lot of fun—and a fair amount of work—to maintain this blog. I invite readers to check it out. Readers can also look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and my Amazon Author Page.  

About Avenue of Betrayal: Betrayed by her brother and the man she loves … whom can she trust when tragedy strikes? Soldiers are pouring into Washington City every day and have begun drilling in preparation for a battle with the Confederacy. Annie Swanson worries for her brother, whom she’s just discovered is a Confederate officer in his new home state of North Carolina. Even as Annie battles feelings of betrayal toward the big brother she’s always adored, her wealthy banker father swears her and her sister to secrecy about her brother’s actions. How could he forsake their mother’s abolitionist teachings? 

Sergeant-Major John Finn camps within a mile of the Swansons’ mansion where his West Point pal once lived. Sweet Annie captured his heart at Will’s wedding last year and he looks forward to reestablishing their relationship—until he’s asked to spy on her father. 

To prove her father’s loyalty to the Union, John agrees to spy on the Swanson family, though Annie must never know. Then the war strikes a blow that threatens to destroy them all—including the love that’s grown between them against all odds. 

I had a wonderful time being a guest on your blog today. Thanks, Linda!