Sunday, August 4, 2019

On the State of Abigail Beson

A few people have asked what the plans are for a follow up to The Siege of Abigail Beson, so I decided to write this status update.

Scope and Schedule

Abigail Beson is a fictional teenage girl born in 1852 and living in rural Virginia outside a small (also fictional) town named Nottowell, about 15 miles from Appomattox.

I published The Siege of Abigail Beson in 2016 via KickStarter. The published book consists of two novellas, The Siege and The Excursion. The former tells of the the surprise attack on Abby's family home and the latter describes her journey to meet her older brothers they returns home following the conclusion of the war.

I have since written drafts of two further novellas, The Subversion, which centers around her relationship with her brother Jackson and his struggle to move on following the cessation of hostilities;  and The Forging, in which Abby finds herself at war with Rose Greenhow, a notorious (real) civil war spy. 

Sketches of Cover Art for The Subversion of Abigail Beson by Emily Krueger

All four novellas touch on historical themes and events. Siege and Subversion are heavily influenced by the boots-on-the-ground perspective of individual soldiers as described in Bruce Catton's Reflections on the Civil War. Excursion and Forging touch on Civil War era cryptography, as I describe here. In telling the story from the perspective of low ranking, non-slave holding people in the south (as a writer living in the north), I hoped to humanize the individuals who were caught up in the war regardless of which side they were on.

My objective has been to complete Subversion and Forging in 2019. However, after reading through the drafts my brother observed that the story is rather whitewashed. Slavery was the driving political issue that led to the American Civil War, and telling a story about the war without touching on the topic of slavery would undercut an issue that is still pertinent today. The goal then is a challenging one. In the first two novellas I strove to humanize soldiers of the confederacy, in the following stories I want to address the legacy of the Civil War.

This is no small challenge, and it's one I am not yet equipped to properly address. My goal for 2019 has thus shifted from completing the book to improving my understanding of the nuances of the Civil War era, particularly what life was like for newly freed slaves in the postwar American south. I will not, of course, be able to address every issue associated with the legacy of the civil war, but I hope to at least touch on two points:

The overall goal of humanization remains the same; a story that simply casts all confederates as evil will only foster division. I hope instead to cast both the citizens of the north and of the south as people while simultaneously denouncing the practice of slavery and the systemic racism it begat as abhorrent and evil.  At this time I cannot commit to a completion date because I want to be confident that it respectfully and appropriately addresses these issues. 

I will update you as I read and learn more.