March 15, 2012

Taking History to Heart with Beth Trissel

Thanks for having me in your little corner of the universe, Sarah. I’m reflecting on how taking history to heart has influenced my writing, especially American historical romance Red Bird’s Song.

Back when I was doing research for the novel and read A Sorrow In My Heart, the Life of Tecumseh, about the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, I was devastated to read he was killed in battle in 1813 at age 45. Tecumseh was so awesome and vital to his people. I rushed out into the garden, wiping at tears, and railing against the injustice of life while aimlessly weeding. I should have seen that one coming, but there are tons of notes at the end of the book and I thought he had pages left to live.

So, what do this and my numerous other grapplings with history have to do with Red Bird’s Song? Simple, it’s historical, a poignant romance, and written more deeply from my heart then any of my other books. Many of the events depicted in the story and the inspiration behind it are true. Red Bird’s Song is based on events that happened to my early American Scots-Irish ancestors in the Virginia colonial frontier and further west. And it’s the first novel I ever wrote and rewrote and learned how to write in the process. The novel began as carefully researched historical fiction with a strong romantic element but evolved into a historical romance, still painstakingly researched and pulsing with emotion. The romance between Wicomechee and Charity throbs with tension and tenderness, passion and angst.

*A bonus for readers, at the end of the book is the account of this Shawnee warrior I discovered in distant branches of the family tree. Yes, Wicomechee really lived and he comes vividly to life along with the others characters in this adventurous romance with a strong The Last of the Mohicans flavor.

The romance between Charity and Wicomechee is also inspired by an account I read of a Scots-Irish captive who fell in love with and wed the son of a chief and was later forced back to her white family. Her warrior husband did the unthinkable and left his people to go and live in the English world, but before he could reach his true love, her brothers intercepted and killed him. Heartbroken, she grieved herself to death shortly after giving birth to their daughter, who survived and has descendants to this day, I might add. So affected was I by this heartrending account that it also played out as a profound influence in my historical fantasy Daughter of the Wind.

Obviously when writing a romance, the death of the hero and or heroine does not qualify as a HEA ending, unless you’re Nicolas Sparks. (And don’t tell me he’s not writing romance). More research, dreams, and visions helped me contrive a far more satisfying ending for Red Bird’s Song. Also for Daughter of the Wind, I assure you. After two novels, I hope I’ve worked through the affect that tragic account had on me.

Who cares that it happened over 200 hundred years ago? IT WAS REAL. I suspect I’m what some might refer to as sensitive and deeply attuned to those who have gone before us. My parting advice for authors is to draw from the events and people who touch your heart, either from the present or the past, and interweave this poignant wealth into your writing.


Red Bird’s Song and my other stories are available at the Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers. For a taste of my work, I have a new SHORT historical romance out at Amazon, The Lady and the Warrior.

For more on me my blog is the happening place:

Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia surrounded by my children, grandbabies, and assorted animals. An avid gardener, my love of herbs and heirloom plants figures into my work. The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration. In addition to American settings, I also write historical and time travel romances set in the British Isles.


Beth Trissel said...

Thanks for having me, Sarah!

Melinda said...


I love all of your writings. Writing from the heart is just a great thing. I write from my heart. Thank you for sharing and it would have touched my heart too.

Love you girl

Beth Trissel said...

Yes, it definitely would have touched your heart. Thanks so much, Melinda. Love you too, my dear friend,