Friday, September 27, 2019
Author Chat with Denise Weimer
Thank you for the invitation to join you today, Pegg!
We’re excited about your new release, The Witness Tree. It’s set in the early 1800s in the southeastern states. What intrigues you about that time and place?
Well, my past published novels have all been set in Georgia. I love to use my stories to highlight little-known lore about my home state. While I was poking about the Internet for inspiration for a new historical, I came across mention of the Moravian mission at Springplace, the school for children of Cherokee chiefs on the property of Chief James Vann. I had visited the Vann plantation as a child and even blogged about Moravian Christmas traditions, but I’d never realized the connection between the Moravians from Salem, North Carolina—a favorite weekend vacay spot of my parents, like a mini-Williamsburg—and the Vann house in Northwest Georgia.
Writing something set in the Federalist period was also new to me. My previous historicals have focused on either the Revolutionary War or Civil War/Reconstruction periods. Yet the fact that Northwest Georgia was Cherokee Territory in 1805 gives The Witness Tree more of an earlier frontier feel.
Not surprisingly for that setting, you have many Native American characters. That must have taken a lot of research to be both historically and culturally accurate. What resources did you use?
I used journal articles online and a stack of books, including some I picked up on my research trips to Olde Salem, the Vann House, and the Cherokee capital of New Echota. One was even a reprint of a late-1700s moral instruction manual for leaders in the Moravian church. But my main sources were History of the Moravian Missions Among Southern Indian Tribes of the United States (Rev. Edmund Schwarze, Ph.D., UNC) and the actual diaries written by the missionaries at Springplace, The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees: Volume 1, 1805-1813.
Many of the things that happen in The WitnessTree, such as the unusual earthquakes and the miraculous recovery of one of the Cherokee girls, were actual historical events. But it’s important to note that I consolidated these from about a ten-year timeframe into a single year. I did have to keep it under 90,000 words, after all. :)
What was the most surprising historical tidbit you found and incorporated into your book?
The progressive Cherokee chiefs sought education and advancement, but others feared that the ways of the white settlers would bring destruction. I think the thing that might surprise most people was how violently many Cherokees opposed the work of Sequoyah (or George Guess/Gist) on the first Cherokee alphabet. A troop of Georgia Cherokee Lighthorse had to rush to North Carolina to rescue him from a slow death by torture for witchcraft … for writing down the language. An 1811 Cherokee law mandated a civil trial before execution, allowing Sequoyah to prove the legitimacy of the syllabary.
The Moravians struggled to master the Cherokee language and expressed the desire to see it written down. This gave me the story idea: “What if one of the Moravians tried to do that? What would the backlash have been?”
Your hero and heroine are both Moravian. In a nutshell, tell our readers who the Moravians were.
I will try, although they were a complex group! We might burst out of the nutshell. :)
The Moravians were a lesser-known sect of “plain people.” Originally known as Unity of the Brethren, the church had been in existence since a Bohemian priest, John Huss, was burned at stake in 1415 for challenging the authority and ethics of the Catholic Church. The Hussite churches were scattered, persecuted, and influenced by Pietism. Eventually, these people found refuge on the Saxon estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, where they practiced communal living. In 1727, revival broke out and led to the biggest thrust to date in Protestant missions.
The Moravians established trade and farming settlements in America intended to support mission work around the world and to the American Indians. At first, the men and women lived separately in “choirs,” but by the late 1700s, married people raised their families in individual households. However, they still brought major church and life decisions before the elders and “the lot.” After prayer, they would draw a slip of paper out a bowl or tube that read yes, no, or wait. They based this practice on biblical references in Numbers 33:54 and Acts 1:26. The outcome indicated the will of the God and was not to be challenged.
Rumor has it that you’ve also released a contemporary book recently. Tell us a little bit about that one.
Yes, Fall Flip released with Candlelight Romance earlier this month. It’s a great contemporary read with historical undertones for anyone who is a fan of Hallmark, HGTV, and second chance romances.
How on earth are you juggling TWO releases this close together? Are you Superwoman? Do you have a matching cape and tights?
LOL. I agree, it’s kinda crazy! But when we found out both books would be releasing within a few months of each other, anyway, we (my managing editors at LPC and I) decided to tag team the releases. This way, readers have a choice—historical or contemporary. Or both!
Thank you for stopping by Stitches Thru Time, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Only that I’m doing the crazy again in March. I have a heart-warming athletic romance, Spring Splash, and a nail-nibbling romantic suspense novel, Traces, releasing together. Check out my web site for more info.
Thank you, readers, for stopping by today. I’d love to answer your questions below and connect with you on social media. There’s also one more day to hop over to Singing Librarian Books for a chance to win a massive Fall Flip or Witness Tree gift basket! (link)
Connect with Denise here: