Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield Interview

Hello, Diamond Mine readers! Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is on the Mine today to give us a sneak peak at her latest book Swept Into Destiny, a Civil War historical and the first in a series that you won't want to miss.

One brave decision leads to serious consequences. Maggie is secretly educating the slaves at Spirit Wind Manor. But the manor’s serenity is soon threatened by abolitionist John Brown. A new republic looms on the horizon and with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, her countrymen’s anger escalates as secession spreads across the southern states. With the fires of civil war glowing on the horizon, Maggie is swept into its embers realizing she is in love with the manor’s hardworking, handsome Irishman Ben McConnell. Ben joins the Union Army and Maggie is forced to call him her enemy. An unexpected chain of events leads her into choosing where her loyalties lie. Conscience and consequence—did she care more for Ben or for her beloved South? As the battle between North and South rages, Maggie is torn. Was Ben right? Had this Irish immigrant perceived the truth of what God had predestined for America?



When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

When I fell in love with books! I did dream of some day writing my own book, but that seemed impossible to me. I wasn’t good at spelling or grammar. I didn’t like school much and preferred being active. To me books were an active pursuit. My imagination was always in overdrive as I pursued my heroine through the written word. The colorful places, the leaps I took into another time period, wow, books continue to be an exciting adventure.

When I grew up we had black and white television sets, no internet, and, would you believe—no cell phones. So, if I wanted color, I read a book. I was captivated with the rhyming sonnet of words, the flowing musical notes of the written language!

But it wasn’t until my grandmother came to live with me that I actually sat down and put my thoughts and love for words on paper and began my first novel.

Yes, books! The love of story. Where it all begins. I couldn't agree with you more.

What inspired you to write about the Civil War?

My grandmother’s stories about the South, her down-home dialect captured my imagination. Gran was originally from Kentucky. Also, my husband is from Alabama. I realized that many southerners did not want to secede from the Union; they fought because of their loyalty to their beloved South. I also learned that only a small percentage of southerners owned slaves. However, Irish immigrants were often hired for ridiculously low wages to do the work normal people, even slaves, were too valuable to do.

I was amazed to learn about the sacrifices and loss of property the southerners endured. But what surprised me the most was the southerners’ strong Christian beliefs. In spite of untold hardships, instead of being bitter toward God, they embraced Him. I wanted to write the truth about the antebellum era, the political unrest, and the spiraling effect that people and events had in opening the door for a civil war.

How long did you spend researching before writing Swept into Destiny?

I feel like saying twelve years, because that is the length of time my grandmother lived with my family. But my serious research started about 2005, when my grandmother left to be with Jesus and my children were grown. I knew I wanted to write a sequel and I wanted the first book to begin during the antebellum era and for the last book of the four book series to end after World War II. 

I love how your grandmother inspired your writing. I wish I'd had more time with mine to tap into that wealth of history and truth. What a wonderful gift.

What were your goals on writing the book?

It is my prayer that people, after reading Swept into Destiny, will come away feeling uplifted and edified by the Irish immigrant’s fortitude and courage. This book is for every immigrant, every ethic group and every person who has felt the lash of inferiority. Ben McConnell’s faith was put to the test repeatedly. When Ben was slapped in the face with injustice, prejudice, hate, or with “No Irish need apply” verbiage, he responded, “We’ll show you through our attitude and work ethics that we shall persevere and with God on our side, we will become victorious.”

I loved Ben's drive and strength. Are any of your characters based on real people or just from your imagination?

The main characters, though inspired by my grandmother’s stories, are created from my imagination. I must admit, I had to stop and think about that. Maggie and Ben became so real to me, so alive in my imagination; it is hard for me to believe they are imaginary.

The secondary characters, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John Brown, Dred Scott, and Dr. Isaac Anderson were real people, and I attempted in Swept into Destiny to re-emphasize their forthright spirit and accomplishments. 

You highlight the Irish plight in America and their contribution to the Civil War so well. Do you have Irish ancestors?

Yes, I do. My grandmother was Irish, with a bit of Scottish thrown in for flavor. My grandfather was English. It was my mother who told me about how the Irish immigrant did the work the slaves were too valuable to do. I never learned this in my history classes or books. I had to do some extensive research to dig up this information.

To show you how well kept these facts were, I happened across a gentleman in Lexington, Kentucky, and he said the same. That he didn’t learn about the Irish immigrant or their plight until he took a college course.

When I went to Gettysburg, I saw a Celtic cross dedicated to the Irish Brigade. I thought Ireland sent a brigade to the United States to fight in the Civil War? You can imagine my astonishment to learn it was Irish immigrants who formed three Union regiments and two Confederate regiments that fought in the Civil War!

Needless to say, I include in my Author Note at the back of Swept into Destiny some interesting facts about our Irish immigrants. There is also in the back of the book, Book Club Discussion Questions.

What was the most difficult part in writing this book?

Keeping my word count down! I wanted to tell my readers oh, so much. I view history as a springboard into the future. I wanted to encompass more about the history Swept into Destiny introduced. For instance, like the plight of the Irish during the Irish Rebellion against the British of 1798 and the song “The Wearin’ of the Green.” Wearing green clothing or wearing the shamrock was considered a rebellious act, punishable by death. “They were hanging men and women for the wearin’ of the green.” Much like what is happening with what ISIS is doing to Christians.

How important is it to include a spiritual emphasis in your writing?

Very! I write because of my Savior, Christ Jesus and getting His truth out to those who do not know Him is important to me.  

I don’t believe that in heaven God will segregate us into ethnic groups. We can’t determine what nationality, eye color, physical features, not even the mental capacity we will be born with. But we alone determine what we do with what we are given.

My heroine, Maggie, was right in saying that we are all slaves. Slaves to ourselves and our sins and without the blood of Christ to wash them away, our destiny on earth is hopeless. In Galatians 4:7 we read, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then heir of God through Christ.”

Would you like to see this book made into a movie? Who would you choose to play the hero and heroine?

One of my dreams is to have the Destiny four book sequels placed on the motion picture screen. I just finished hearing a lecture by Stanley D. Williams about how to structure your story to make it a worthy candidate for film adaptation.

Because of my love for Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice, I’d probably pick Kiera Knightly for Maggie and Matthew Macfadyen for Ben. For Mrs. Gatlan, Jane Seymour and for Mr. Gatlan, Tom Selleck. He has a no-nonsense personality like my character.

YES! Love Kiera and Matthew for the leads. They would be perfect. :) And one of the reasons I thought of the above question was because the whole time I was reading the book, I kept thinking how great it would be as a movie. Hope I get to see it someday.

Could you share a few thoughts about the continuing story in your next book in the series?

Out of Kentucky’s bluegrass, debutant balls, and old-world charm, and into the burning ashes of a defeated cause sweeps … Into Destiny’s Whirlwind… Ben McConnell swears his oath before God Almighty and renames his estate Shushan. 

Upon the dawn of the Spanish American War, Collina McConnell promises she’ll uphold Shushan’s legacy… and ponders the mystery that lies beneath her father’s dying request. A dashing Rough Rider named Franklin Long steps uninvited into her world, and her heart suddenly has a will of its own…

Can't wait!


Catherine is an ardent receiver of Christ's rejuvenating love, as well as a hopeless romantic and
patriot. She skillfully intertwines these elements into her writing as the author of Wilted Dandelions, published by CrossRiver Publishing, an inspirational historical romance, along with her first Christian Romance novel, "The Wind of Destiny", and her other history books,  Images of America,The Lapeer Area and The Images of America, Eastern Lapeer County. published by Arcadia Publishing.

Catherine was a former staff writer for Michigan Traveler Magazine (Breckenridge, MI), has free lanced for numerous other publications; Woods-n-Water News, Michigan History Magazine and Tri-City Times Newspaper, L. A. View Newspaper, and The Romeo Observer Newspaper.

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books; Extraordinary Answers to Prayers, Unexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker Books, Revell, The Dog Next Door, and The Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Publishing, The Benefit Package, and Abba’s Promise; and Bethany House, Jesus talked to me Today.

Catherine lives in Addison Township, MI., with her husband Edward of forty four years, and her beautiful Arabian horses. She enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. Her children are now grown and married with families of their own. Catherine and Edward are now the blessed  recipients of two handsome grandsons and one preciously adorable granddaughter.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

Abigail Wilson, I just wanted to thank you again for that wonderful interview you did!