Book Nerd Guest Post
A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.
She has a love/hate relationship with Mardi Gras and can sneeze 18 times in a row.
What’s Real and What’s the Product of a Twisted Imagination
By Stephanie Lawton
Making stuff up is one of the coolest parts of being a writer, and there are lots of fans of books that combine real historic events, people, places, etc., and blend them with elements that may or may not have been plausible. The “what ifs” are endless and so much fun to consider! When I started brainstorming Shrapnel, I knew it would be set against a particular series of events from the American Civil War, and I’m sure readers will wonder what parts really happened, and what parts are fiction.
The Knights of the Golden Circle were (are?) absolutely a real organization charged with protecting the Confederate gold. Descendants and treasure hunters insist they really left behind markings on trees to guide members to its top-secret location. I played with its alleged journey from Virginia into the Deep South, though no one really knows where it ended up. Many think it made its way to Arkansas. I took it on a detour through Mobile on its way into what was then the Western Territory, having it stop at Fort Blakeley, a real place, and Fort Jeb Stuart, which was also real. Now it’s an empty lot in a residential neighborhood.
The character of Jackson is completely made up, but there were definitely Union sympathizers in northern Alabama. Additionally, Oakleigh Mansion still exists in Mobile, AL, and was once home to the Irwin family. Brothers Lee and Thomas were Confederate generals, and their mother was an Irish subject of the British crown and hung the Union Jack from the second-floor balcony. She was truly a “Southern belle with balls.” Ethan, however, is my creation.
Nearly everyone has an opinion on psychics and psychic abilities, but those who study the phenomenon generally agree that there are different kinds, a number of which are represented in Shrapnel. Dylanie is a medium (she sees spirits in her head and with her eyes) and clairvoyant (she can sometimes see the future); Jake is empathic (he can sense others’ emotions); and Ashley has precognitive dreams (they show future events). Most psychics never experience the drama portrayed in Shrapnel—I took a lot of creative liberties on that front, but who knows? And because not everyone buys into paranormal abilities, I tried to make their back-stories as real as possible.
Finally, all descriptions of Dauphin Island, Mobile, and Oakleigh are accurate, from the beautiful live oaks that line midtown and downtown to the architecture and layout of the mansion. None of the characters are based on anyone real, though I’ll admit I was told by a docent that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the house. (Not that I was bitter or anything!)
Unfortunately, bullying and hate crimes are all too real, but the ones in Shrapnel aren’t based on any cases that I know of.
Thanks for reading, and a huge virtual hug to Jean Book Nerd for having me today!
Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.
None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.