09 February 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Ginger Myrick

This week, we're pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals contributor Ginger Myrick with her latest novel, BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD. The author will offer a free copy of But for The Grace of God to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.

Set during the American Civil War, BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD (A Novel of Compassion in a Time of War) combines a sweet old-fashioned love story with a compassionate look at the people affected by the struggle for equality.

Hannah Carter never expected to find love, especially during a time of war. By the spring of 1864, the conflict between North and South has raged on for years and still shows no sign of resolution. On her small farm in West Virginia, the young widow and her household have managed to remain untouched until a mysterious green-eyed soldier shows up, wounded and in desperate need of medical attention. Never able to turn away someone in need, Hannah risks everything to take in the stranger and tend to his injuries.

Beau develops tender feelings toward Hannah, and she is equally smitten, but circumstances conspire to hinder their happiness. Beau is a Confederate soldier wanted for the murder of one of his own, and Hannah’s farm is a rest stop for fugitive slaves en route to freedom in the North.

Will justice catch up with Beau and force him to pay for his crimes? Will he discover Hannah’s secret humanitarian efforts and betray her to the authorities? Or will they find a way to overcome their differences—to make peace, to live, and to love?
**Author Interview with Ginger Myrick**

Describe the book in your own words.
But for the Grace of God is basically a rhetorical exercise in equality. Although my characters fall outside of the norm for this genre, the story is carefully crafted to demonstrate my beliefs. I have attempted to show a wide range of views representative of the varying degrees of both the acceptance of slavery as a necessary evil and the denouncement of it as a scourge against humanity. I try to give a well-rounded perspective of the people caught on either side of the issue and portray them realistically, each with their own good qualities and their faults.  

It’s a Civil War novel. What’s so unusual about it?
Because my opinions are my own and not influenced by traditional views, this book is very different from the conventional perception of a Civil War novel. It is character driven as opposed to being constrained by the events of the time. That said, the history is accurate. Equality issues are a hot button of mine, not just pertaining to race but of any oppressed group of people, especially when the bias is based on something as trivial as a physical characteristic or different belief system. That's why it was so important for me to create atypical characters and not simply regurgitate the stereotypes.

One of the central characters is Jeb, a black man born free and trained as a medical surgeon. He is highly intelligent with a vocabulary to match. Beau is a lawyer, the son of a wealthy Southern plantation owner. He is sympathetic to abolition but still deeply inculcated by the accepted beliefs of his culture. Suffice it to say, the two men have some very interesting conversations/debates.

Are the characters based on real people?
Hannah, the main character, is based on my dog-walking companion, Caren Cassidy, and the entire story is a loosely interpreted dramatization of her life. I got a review in which the reviewer said she couldn’t stand the childlike way Hannah was portrayed, but I assure you that it is completely accurate. Caren told me that if a man was interested in her, all he would have to do to learn everything about her would be to read my book. I consider that the highest of praise! Her parents, Margaret and Dale, are as represented with the exception of their occupations. Beau is based on Caren’s husband, Mark, and is a good depiction of his personality, although he was not a lawyer. Tippy is her actual dog, and she is indeed partially deaf and blind as a result of too much inbreeding. She was slated to be put down until Caren rescued her. Jeb, Ginny, and Samuel Carter are completely fictional.

Who was your favorite character to create?
I love Ezra, Jeb’s father, a hard-working ex-slave who bought his freedom with his carpentry. Not only is he intelligent and artistic, but he has a comforting way about him, a quiet determination to do right by the people he loves. I especially enjoyed the interaction between him and young Hannah, so patient and caring and natural in spite of the vast social differences that separate them.

I also got a kick out of Obie, a runaway slave with an irrepressible spirit who goes back time and again to help others escape. He has seen the worst kind of abuse, yet he still manages to stay hopeful and never doubt that what he is doing is right.

What was the most surprising historical tidbit that you discovered in your research?
I wasn’t very well versed in the Civil War before I began this project, so I had no real conception of the Confederate mentality. I understood their objection to losing their captive workforce on a financial level, but as far as truly believing that an entire people were born with a propensity toward being subjugated, that astounded me. And for Alexander Stevens to go one step further by clearly stating in his inaugural speech that that tenet was the foundation of their fledgling nation is simply unfathomable.

Another thing that was also mind boggling to me was the fact that the slave catchers were able to remand free men into captivity, the premise behind 12 Years a Slave. There was no proof required to detain a suspect. If a marshal felt that a subject was being untruthful about his status—even if he had the proper paperwork to show for it—the person could be taken and held indefinitely or found guilty, as the court was not required to allow him to speak in his own defense. I could go on, but I won’t. As I said, it’s a hot button of mine.

Wasn’t this the second book you started writing?
Yes. I began writing this book shortly before releasing my debut novel, El Rey, in November 2011. I got about 30K words into it and set it aside in favor of two shorter projects. I picked it up again this past summer. My main concern in letting it sit for two years was whether I could recapture the initial inspiration and resume the flow so the break wouldn’t be obvious. I haven’t any comments to indicate that the story feels disjointed, so I’m assuming that I accomplished my aims.

What’s next?
I am approximately 1/3 through my WIP, the first book in a trilogy set in France. I have only let a handful of people in on my super secret story, but if you have seen any of my recent posts, you have probably figured out that it is set at Versailles during the time of Marie Antoinette. I don’t want to fully reveal my secret until I’m at least halfway done, but I can confidently say that the story has never been told like this before.

As a side note, But for the Grace of God is currently on sale for $2.99 through the end of February in celebration of Black History Month. 

Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a self-described wife, mother, animal lover, and avid reader and knitter. Along with the promotion for THE WELSH HEALER, and EL REY, she is currently crafting her third novel, which takes place during the U.S. Civil War. She is a Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core. She hopes to persevere with her newfound talent and show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.