Periodically over the past seven years my friends and family would ask, “how’s that book coming along? Are you still writing that violent battle scene? What happened to the mutilated slave? Is that runaway slave based on a real character? Did those brutal things really happen inside Elmira’s POW camp? Why is it taking so long to write your book?” I would nod my head, smile and reply, “Research. It takes a long time to write an honest and truthful historical novel.”
I lived near Elmira, New York for almost twenty years, fascinated by its historical participation in the Underground Railroad as well as its little-known involvement in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. It was almost eerie to drive by the tree-lined neighborhoods in the southern section of town and try to imagine what bravery, courage and horror had happened in those places one hundred and fifty years before. It seemed so peaceful and bucolic until I looked down at the partially caved-in sidewalk where an underground tunnel had once been carved inch by inch by desperate prisoners. A neighbor showed me a dirt hidey-hole in her basement where years before runaways had been hidden. I wondered what it felt like to remain curled in the hole waiting in terror for a slave catcher to find me. There were stories that wanted to be told.