I am a woman in my eighties, though I defy anyone to say I look it! I have been married to the same man for over sixty years, difficult as that may be to imagine. We have two adult offspring, successful in their own chosen careers. My husband dedicated thirty-five years of his life to the motion picture and television industry. We spent the off-seasons traveling the island groups of the Pacific Ocean before retiring to Hawaii in 1983 where we lived for five years. When the ash from the erupting Kilawea volcano became too difficult to live with we returned to the Mainland. We settled in the sunshine state of Florida where we have enjoyed life in the intervals between hurricanes for the past twenty-plus years.
Now, as I look back over my active and eventful lifetime I can easily recognize the experiences that most influenced my decision to write that first Historical Romance novel. Purposely, I drew inspiration from my own Southern heritage.
I was fortunate enough to have known my Great-grandfather, James McEver White, who lived to the ripe old age of ninty-two. He was still tall, and a handsome man in his late seventies and early eighties with a long, well-kempt beard, soft as cotton to my cheek when as a little girl, I sat upon his knee and listened to him tell and retell stories about the Union Army's advance across his family's land on their way to burn Atlanta. My favorite tale was of that time when as a boy of nine in 1865, he had taken cover (while lying flat on his belly) behind a fallen log to avoid being shot when caught in an exchange of gunfire between advancing Union troops and defending Confederate soldiers as they fought, row by white cotton row, across the fields belonging to his family. Those cotton fields stretched as far as the eye could see below their hilltop farmhouse -- that very same farmhouse where so many years later, my Great-granddaddy White held me on his knee.
While as a youngster, my Great-grandfather was dodging bullets on the homefront, his own father, my Great-great-grandfather, James Alexander White fought in the Confederate Army's Company A of the 8th Georgia Battalion of Volunteers. He was captured in 1864 and imprisoned in a Southern Prisoner of War Camp in Illinois until the war's end in 1865 when he was freed and allowed to return home to Georgia.
Hearing such unforgetable personal experiences first hand, helped me to breathe life into all the characters that people my stories. Readers tell me that the real Old South lives again through the lives of the fictional Heirs family, their faithful household servants, their friends, and their wartime enemies as living entities within the pages of this, my first book. Suspense and fearfulness exist, side by side, faithfully depicting the times and turmoil of a dedicated Southern family struggling, first, to tame the North Georgia wilderness and, ultimately, to contribute to the establishment of Georgia's capitol city of Atlanta. The finished novel unflinchingly brings vividly to life the difficult Civil War years and the painful reconstruction era that followed.
Cousin and family genealogist, Barbara White Hambrick generously researched my own ancestry and that of my husband, Norman Gray, and in so doing discovered that both our Southern families go back farther than five generations -- long before the days of the Civil War -- or, of combat more correctly referred to in the South as "The War Between the States" or "The War of Northern Aggression."
I had been a writer of short stories for many years when Barbara's revelations about our two families' heritage added momentum to my cause to undertake that painstaking task of researching and writing the first of three novels.
BRIARS: The House of Heirs is an historical romance novel which begins In 1838, when a young couple, after eloping to marry, flee by rail from the Richmond, Virginia and the groom's disapproving and authoritarian father. The pair ends up in a crossroads village at the end of the Atlantic and Western Railroad in rugged northern Georgia, surrounded by untamed wilderness with no work available except for the railroad. Resourceful young Morgan Heirs sets about building a life for himself and his bride, Lillian, any way he can. Morgan's station in life advances when he wins a large plot of land in a barroom bet. Years pass. Then, "The War Between the States" begins...and changes everything.
In the sequel, The INTANGIBLES File: A Gathering of Heirs, I determine to entertain readers in a lighter mood as I aim to draw them into a suspenseful mystery that throbs with ghostly overtones. Characters familiar to readers from the first book reappear, populating the pages while becoming physically involved with our ghost's spine-chilling recurring episodes of unwrorldly combative behavior. Children, who find high adventure in trying to apprehend the now-appearing and now-disappearing phantom, frequently become intimately intrigued by the ghostly presence, while their edgy parents vainly attempt to constrain their curious youngsters.
Finally, in They Will Soar on Wings Like Eagles, I hope readers will be moved by the shocking conclusion of this first (for me) Christian book. Matrarch Lillian O'Donnell Heirs''s young Irish cousin and immigrant preacher, Michael Matthew O'Donnell, arrives in Atlanta completing a mission contracted earlier in his homeland. Through his distant cousin, Lillian O'Donnell'Heirs' Atlanta-born daughter, Morgana, he meets all of his American kin and -- one by one -- changes their lives for the better. The exception, of course, is the self-absorbed businesswoman, Morgana. Convinced she needs no Godly guidance, she firmly and haughtily declines Michael's invitation to join his church. However, soon, all of Georgia learns of this young Irish minister when his touching sermons, his caring visitations, and amazing deeds draw people to his church from counties far and wide. Word soon has it that Michael performs miracles. Can it be true?