About Lori Roberts

Lori Roberts is an educator, Civil War Living Historian, and presenter for historical events and workshops. She and her husband, Doug, have three children and three grandchildren. They make their home in rural southern Indiana with their Golden Retrievers, Gracie and Maggie, and their cat, Jack.

The characters: real and fictional

When writing Lost Letters, I had no knowledge of the plantation called Fairvue.  There was only a house, a forgotten photograph from an archive of Tennessee Plantations from the 1930′s.  After the publisher took the manuscript, I had time to do some research on this photograph.  Upon a search at the Library of Congress, I found the name and location of the plantation house.  To my astonishment, and it was an “A-ha” moment, I learned that this house, somewhat neglected in the black and white photograph, was actually a beautiful home off of Highway 31 in Gallatin, Tennessee.

That in itself was enough to convince me I didn’t just choose that photograph because it clearly brought to life the image I had in my mind when writing the novel.  But as I further investigated this home, I came across an interesting website that chronicled the life of the home, from its earliest beginnings.

Learning that the home was finally owned by a couple much like Shelby and Lavina George, the home was lovingly tended by Mrs.Ellen Wemyss.  Mrs. Wemyss lived in the home until passing away at the age of 104.  This was strangely close to the age of the fictional Mrs. George, who passed at the age of 101.

Another coincidence to my findings was learning that many have reported seeing a Civil War soldier in the home.  How fitting that Raford Collins took up residence here, waiting for the right person to find his lost love, Hattie.

Each time I visit Gallatin, I have to make a trip to the house.  There is something about it that continues to draw me back.  While it no longer can be included in the National Register of Historical Places due to the changes in architectural updates, the home still possess much of the beauty and grace it held in its heyday.

I expect to come back to Mimosa Grove in the third book.

Rusks and the “real” Mimosa Grove

Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of traveling with my husband to Gallatin, TN.  The library was the site of my first book signing for Lost Letters in Tennessee .  Prior to making the trip to Sumner County, I was able to find out some of the history of the plantation that was used as the model for Mimosa Grove.  As I wrote in my previous post, the home was found within the archive photographs at the Library of Congress.  The house, called Fairvue, appeared in disarray when the documentation photograph was made in the 1930′s.  I truly believed the home had long since been torn down.  When I went back to the Library of Congress site, I found a page where the photographer had documented several photographs from various angles of the house, along with a couple interior shots.

The name of the plantation and the town/address of the home were also listed.  When I saw Gallatin, TN., highway 31, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Upon further investigation, I found the two photographs of the interior to be eerily similar to the way I had described the inside of Mimosa Grove!  It was more than a little odd that the entry hall was covered in a mural of tree limbs and leaves.

I had to know more about Fairvue, so like anyone else, I Googled the name.  To my delight, several links appeared.  I can’t explain the coincidences that have occured in the history of Fairvue and the story of Mimosa Grove, but there are many.

I’ll talk more about the coincidences in upcoming blogs, as there are too many to devote to just this post.  But today, I want to share with you a recipe that the Townes’ servant/housekeeper, Lucy, prepared on several occasions for the family.  The tasty treat, Rusks, was a family favorite, especially for Hattie Townes.  Rusks were a common food that was more of breakfast item than dessert, but both were common in the South.  The recipe most likely came to the South with the slaves from Africa.  When researching the recipe, I found several variations.  This is the one Lucy prepared for Christmas 1860 when the Collins family came to Mimosa Grove.

RUSKS

One quart scalded milk

1/2 Cup Butter and lard mixed

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup mashed potatoes

1 cake yeast

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt.

6 cups flour

Place sugar, butter, salt and potatoes in mixing bowl.  Add scalding milk.  Mix well.  When lukewarm, add yeast cake, egg and six cups of flour.  Beat well, let raise until full of bubbles.  Add more flour and knead until smooth and elastic to the touch.  Return to pan.  Let raise again, then make into rusks or cinnamon buns. Let rise, then bake. ( 350* for 30 min.)

The next blog will center more around the several coincidences between Fairvue and Mimosa Grove, and some of the facts I learned about the families who lived there.

Thanks for your interest in the book. I hope to have Willow in the hands of my publisher by the Spring of 2013.  We’ll see!

The joy of writing

I never enjoyed writing assignments in college.  I always felt like I had to write what I thought my professor wanted me to think and say.  Not a very original concept, nor did it inspire me to want to write.

When I decided to write Lost Letters: A Civil War Love Story, it was after finishing a ten-month Masters program to get my Master of Arts degree in curriculum and instruction.  It also was the beginning of another school year. Let’s just say it was a way to escape from a bad I was certain to have.

Each evening I found my little world a much happier place because I could leave the stress and drama from my workplace in the trash as I locked the door and drove away!

I wasn’t sure who would be part of the book, but I had a good list of central characters that were spinning in my head each evening.  I was afraid the stress from my work environment would keep me tossing and turning.  I found the faces in my subconscious state those of unknown people from the past.  I found that after I had written an hour or two each evening only made me more susceptible to a night of peaceful slumber.

Before long, I was having no trouble writing a chapter every couple of days. The little book I was writing for my own pleasure and the opportunity to leave something for my two recently born grandchildren had quickly become a novel.

As a teacher, I have a habit of writing things out…a  road map of what I’m going to teach or how I am going to present a particular history unit to my class.  It was with this same mindset that I started Lost Letters.  I brought home a large sheet of poster board and began to map out the different time settings as well as who would be involved in those locations and times.  It worked well- I was able to keep track of names and places much easier during the movement of the book.  I also wanted to have a face to go with the people in my novel.  As I wrote, I needed to ‘see’ their faces.  I decided the best place to begin was online where there would be no copyright infringement with any of the likenesses I would choose.  I went though the Library of Congress, having recently been to their D.C. location, it was a gold mine for this teacher who cabbages on to any and everything not nailed down. (all obtained in an honest manner, naturally).

As I went through over 1000 images one afternoon on my lunch break, I had my first cold chill run through my spine.  There would be several throughout the course of writing this novel.  In a grouping of Civil War Unknown soldiers, was the likeness of the young Raford Collins.  When I saw his  tin type staring back at me, I almost screamed out loud- he had a hankie tucked in his jacket!!!  When you read the story, you will see why this was such a ‘moment’ for me.  Mind you, this all had been written prior to finding his tin type.  There were only four other people at this time who even knew about the book, so my joy was shared later that evening with Doug, my husband.

As I continued my search, I found likenesses for all my characters and minor characters throughout the novel.  I had only pencil sketched my idea for Mimosa Grove.  I knew what I saw in my mind, but putting it on paper was all together another story.  I went looking in another direction for the home that would be the setting for the story.  I spent a few weeks going through several dead-ends; then, one evening over Fall break, I found a site from a random search of Tennessee plantations.  Not only did it bring me to Middle Tennessee, but not more than a few miles from where my story actually takes place.  When I uploaded the series of 1930′s photographs, I had yet another moment where I had to call someone to actually confirm I had found Mimosa Grove!  When I downloaded and printed off the photo, one couldn’t have described the plantation any closer without having seen this prior to writing the book.  The plantation house was saved, restored, and is in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  I later located it and found it in all of its glory after I had sent the manuscript to the publisher for the first round of edits.  As I said, just one of the many moments in the writing of this book that left me with chills.

I began writing the novel in August of 2011.  By Christmas morning, 2011, I finished the book and went to sleep.  I was very proud of my first attempt to undertake such a project.  Next, I would have to let go and put myself out there for others to judge.  I hope it does well!

Book Signing

Tomorrow I will be taking part in my first book signing event for Lost Letters: A Civil War Love Story.  I’ve decided that I really need to think about getting a new phone with credit card capabilities.  I don’t want to limit the number of books that can be sold because someone doesn’t want to pay cash or write a check.  I know how convenient the debit/credit card is!

This weekend will be busy with another book signing on Saturday in Bedford.  I am working on getting more events planned in the South.  Since the setting of the book takes place in Tennessee, I am trying to set dates for signings in that area.  Right now, I will be in Goodlettsville Public Library in September, but would rather do evens during the summer when I am not working.

I look forward to the two events this weekend! I do have books that can be ordered from me.  If you would like a copy in the softcover, please leave me a message!~

Waiting

I am beginning to see that marketing is not something I am particularly fond of.  I know in order to get the book ‘out there’, I need to make sure it gets the exposure needed.  This week I will be holding two book signings.  I’m hopeful that this will be the starting point for    getting the word out about Lost Letters: A Civil War Love Story beyond Facebook and friends/family.  Because the book is self-published, it is not as easy as I thought getting it on a library shelf in the bigger libraries.  I have had the book on the market for one month now, and it is doing well!

I am hoping to contact more historical societies and Civil War groups.  Thank you to everyone who has purchased a book!  I have a few events coming up where the book will be for sale, so I will post those locations and dates as they get closer.

On a different note, I am thinking about another book.  Right now, the characters and plot are still just ideas in my head.  I would like to see Lost Letters take off first!

Thanks for reading the blog, and please feel free to leave comments and your thoughts about the characters. 

 

Lost Letters: A Civil War Love Story

Lost Letters~ A Civil War Love Story is my first novel.  I never thought about writing a book before attempting this one, so having a life-long dream to become a writer was never something I aspired to do.  History has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember.  Growing up in southern Indiana, my parents both enjoyed traveling.  They took my sister, Lisa, and me all over the United States from the time I could walk.  Trips always centered around something historical or of historical importance, but always disguised as fun!  I remember vividly the first time I was taken to a Civil War plantation home, I was hooked from then on.  I am blessed to have a husband who enjoys reenacting with me, as well as encouraging me to do what I would have thought impossible before.

      I chose my characters carefully, getting a mental picture of each before writing the book.  I feel as though I have known them all my life, and I can see having Ellie Morgan as a close friend.

     The book was written for my two grandchildren, Haden and Hadley.  I wanted to leave something for them to have personally from their Grammie.  Now that I have another grandchild on the way, I will have to think about book #2.

      It’s my hope that readers will enjoy meeting the characters, and give me their opinions about the book!