|Shire Horses ~ Wikipedia|
The working methods with the great horses were largely unchanged from the 1860s. I imagined a character called Shire, a play on the horses and his rural English roots. I instantly loved the idea of an English protagonist in an American war. It would make him an outsider, which always helps, but also it had echoes of my own experience of America. As a very young man I spent eighteen months in Upstate New York as a wide-eyed student. The story of America has held a fascination for me ever since. I wondered what it would be like for Shire to arrive in America a century earlier and in the middle of a great civil war. I wanted to write it through his eyes rather than someone born to America.
|Image by Techfun ~ Pixabay|
I didn’t consciously put my father’s characteristics into Shire, but looking back I can see they have the same unswerving urge to do the right thing, and the same romantic outlook on the world. Whether Shire will still have that outlook when the trilogy ends, we’ll have to see. He has a lot to go through.
|George Alfred Trenholm ~ Wikipedia|
If I do have a ‘Kepow!’ moment I think it was in the Chicago Institute of Art where I found my theme. I’d flown out alone to begin a two week road-trip down to Atlanta. Having completed draft one of the unnamed novel, I had an itinerary of museums, plantation houses and battle sites to visit where I hoped to harvest lots of believable detail. The two days in Chicago was an indulgence. I wandered into the folk-ark section of the Institute and found my Whirligig, a wooden, five-foot high piece of early Americana composed of cogs and sails painted red, white and blue with a marching soldier on top. Craftsmen used take these devices to county fairs or markets and people would give them penny’s to watch the sails turn. I knew right then that I’d found something that mattered. As I started down through Illinois and the Whirligig stayed in my mind.