When I meet another mature author like myself with a debut YA novel, I want to break out the tiara and present her with a bouquet of roses. Or whatever a male author would like, I want to do that.
Today I interview Angela Moody, author of No Safe Haven. I remember when her manuscript was up for critique on the main Scribes loop of ACFW a few years ago, and I am tickled that she remembered me. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.
Angela, welcome to The Scriblerians blog!
Thank you, Cynthia. It’s a pleasure to be here.
We don’t often interview authors of historical YA fiction. When and how did you decide to write it?
I’ve always loved historical fiction. Even as a young reader if it had to do with history, I was reading it. There are always those who say that writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc., were not historical writers because they wrote in their contemporary time, but they were historical to me, and I loved all of those writers. As I got older, I read John Jakes, Anya Seton and countless other historical writers, including historical romance writers.
Did you always want to write about the Civil War?
This may sound geeky, but yes. I remember in eighth grade writing a story for our social studies class and setting it in the Civil War period. The assignment was that we had two pieces of historical items that we had to research and find out what they were, and then write something about them. Everyone else did you standard essay, but I wrote a story. I remember my two items were a butter mold and a spittoon (which I originally thought was a chamber pot!) My story was about a young woman whose husband was off fighting for the Union Army and how much she missed him. She would often clean the spittoon that his father had given him as a wedding gift. Something like that. I do remember getting a good grade for the assignment because my teacher loved the story and its strong emotional content.
As I got older, I wanted to write a story about the Civil War set in the North, specifically Vermont, because I’m a Vermonter and all the stories I read seemed to center on the war as it affected the South. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), only one incident of the war reached Vermont, and that was the great St. Albans Raid. No battle was fought here though, so I never could think of a story compelling enough to set here in my native State.
How did you come to write a story based on a real girl in her teens during the Civil War?
My daughter went to Gettysburg College for her undergrad years. After her first year was over, my husband and I decided to travel to Gettysburg a week early, while she was taking her exams. We would be tourists for a week and then bring her home. As we were coming back from the battlefield one afternoon, I happened to see a museum that had a line waiting at the door. On impulse, we decided to stop and actually found a parking spot right in front of the building! If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you’ll know that’s next to impossible. We got in the back of the line, thinking we could just wander through, but the man at the head of the line told us it was a paid tour and if we wanted to pay at the end, we were welcome to join the tour. We agreed and went through the Shriver House Museum. The Shriver House is located two doors down from Tillie’s home. The owners restored it back to its 1863 appearance to tell the story of the plight of the townsfolk. That was a revelation for me. Throughout the tour, I bombarded the man with questions, which he patiently answered. My brain was whirling with ideas about how to turn this into a story, and my husband leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “I smell a novel.” At the end of the tour, as I was paying him, he led me to a bookshelf and started pulling books off the shelf, saying I might be interested in reading them. As an afterthought, he tossed one more book on the pile, a slim little thing that turned out to be Tillie Pierce’s memoir of her experiences. When I read the book, she just jumped off the pages at me and I knew I had to write it.
How did you write the story to appeal to both northerners and southerners even though the girl and her family were Yankees?
Research, research, research. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Civil War, mostly first person experiences. They aren’t hard to find. A great many soldiers kept diaries, as did a number of civilians. They seemed to have a sense that they were living a period of important historical impact and wanted to record everything they could. What stood out to me the most was that they were all just people who had the same dreams and desires we do. They wanted to go home, back to their wives and children, to live their lives as best they could, but knew they needed to do this terrible work first.
Interestingly, I found myself very disappointed with the abolitionists. We all think they wanted to end slavery and elevate the blacks from their social position. I do believe that we northerners have elevated the abolitionist almost to sainthood, so I was disappointed to realize that while they wanted abolition, they never thought past the end of slavery and what that meant, for the former slaves, or themselves. Really, in their minds, they felt that blacks should still be servants, but they should be paid servants. Even William Lloyd Garrison wanted to free them and send them back to Africa. As far as race relations goes, I wondered how much progress we’ve made, which helped bring those people down to the human level for me.
How did you feel about writing your first novel at a mature age?
I feel great about it. I don’t regret the time spent not writing. During that time, I married and raised a family. I did what was on my plate to do. I did write a novel back in the early 1990s that, Lord willing, will never see the light of day! That novel, however, taught me that I could write one. But, I’m a firm believer in the Lord working things out in His own timing to glorify Himself, not us. He needed me to go through things and to come to faith before He would open the door to writing my first published novel. I’m just humbled and honored He found me worthy.
What advice can you give authors who did not start writing straight out of school but may have been homemakers or had a completely different career for decades?
I would say if you want to write, if it’s your passion, then do it. Don’t let your age stop you. You’re never too old until you’re dead, as my father likes to say. I have always wanted to write, even as a kid. I knew that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I can follow my passion. If that’s where you are, then I say, “Go for it.”
Angela Moody lives in Vermont with her husband, Jim, her daughter, Alison and their two cats. Their son, Stephen and his wife, Amanda live nearby.
Angela has been writing short stories and novels from an early age, always in the historic fiction genre where she feels she shines.
One of her passions is crochet. From the time she learned the craft, she was “hooked”. She loves reading, writing stories and spending time with her family. One of the items on her bucket list is to visit every civil war battlefield site at the time of year each battle took place.
No Safe Haven is her first Christian novel and she has plans for two other historical fiction novels as part of a three book set entitled “Young American Heroines.”
Angela is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can find her at:
Thank you, Cyn for featuring me and my novel, No Safe Haven. It looks wonderful.
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I’m so happy you could visit with us. No Safe Haven is a wonderful story that brings to life the challenges of civilians during the Civil War. It was a pleasure to read.
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