by Carrie Dalby
Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.
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What Inspired Me to Write Fortitude
This novel began as a short story, “Of Goats and Gators”, that I wrote specifically for a contest. While I was mulli
ng over possible ideas for a young adult short, I came across an old photo online of a goat in a tree on Dauphin Island, Alabama. (You can see the photo, as well as other visuals for the book on my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/19492210857092970/) It turns out the goats slept in oak trees to avoid being eaten by alligators and there is a dedicated marker on the island paying homage to this historical tidbit.
The quirky fact stuck with me, then Claire and Kevan joined the picture soon after. My love for L.M. Montgomery novels made my choice of a time period easy. Readers familiar with the Anne of Green Gables series will notice several nods to her stories. I set the short story in a turn of the century period, but when I started thinking about expanding the story into a novel I knew I needed a concrete year. Since I was already working on another manuscript (Corroded, coming in spring 2016) I kept the search in the back of my mind while I continued on in my regular reading and writing habits.
I often exchange books with ladies from church and Ginger, a dear friend of my mother’s thought I would enjoy a book she’d pick up on her travels—Lady from Savannah: The Life of Juliette Low by Gladys Denny Shultz and Daisy Gordon Lawrence. Though I enjoy historical fiction, non-fiction in my life was mostly regulated to religious or writing related topics. Because I didn’t want to offend, I decided to give the loaner book a try and it turns out I liked it! (Yes, this was a surprise to me. To this day, I believe she was inspired to pass the copy to me. I’ve since bought my own.) When I reached page 216, in the chapter about “Daisy’s” father’s involvement in the Spanish-American War, I was intrigued and horrified by the conditions the gathering troops suffered from in the Florida camps. I remembered nothing of this war from history classes, but the information struck me with such intensity, I knew I had to share the information with others.
Reading those few pages about the war camps in the life-long biography turned into several years of library books, special orders, reading microfilm at the local history library, scouring websites devoted to the Spanish-American War, and more. From the start of the short story to finishing the first draft I’d gathered information for over five years. And during revisions, I had to go back to digging to address a few things I’d taken liberties with to appease my editor—which is a god thing. The major scene from the short story (dealing with a goat and alligator) can be found in Chapter Three of Fortitude. No, I didn’t win that contest but finding inspiration is a reward all its own.
Born and raised in California, but a resident of Mobile, Alabama since 1996, Carrie Dalby is a homeschooling mom with a love of literature for young adults and children. Some of Carrie’s favorite volunteer hours are with Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author workshops.
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