I think all writers put themselves into their characters to some degree. I, like
Laurel, am a teacher, I
wear glasses, and grew up in rural Arkansas.
Other parts of her personality are borrowed from friends’ lives, imagined
incidents, and character studies from my background in counseling. When I look
carefully at Laurel,
I see pieces of at least four people in my life that go into making her the
complex person she is. She is much more interesting because she has all these
pieces in her. At the same time, I see at least one part of Mac that is most
definitely me. He’d have been a much more sympathetic character, perhaps, if
I’d noticed it earlier and written that part of me out of his personality. That
flaw becomes more noticeable in later volumes of the saga.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I boiled a dozen eggs in a microwave oven one Christmas morning when I received the appliance as a gift. That was pretty stupid! Needless to say, they didn’t work very well to make deviled eggs for Christmas dinner.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I am still surprised by it every day. When I think of my profession, I think of myself as a teacher. I feel so totally blessed and awed when people compliment me on my book. I guess I have been writing a good part of my life as a part of my work as an English teacher, but I never tried to write anything to share with others until I retired. In Search of
is the first thing I have published. I wanted to tell a story that showed my
state in a positive light, and I’m overwhelmed with the reception it has
received. Am I a writer? I think that may be up to my reader to decide.
I read historical fiction,
Arkansas history, Christian inspirational
books, and books to help me prepare Sunday school lessons and Bible study classes
when I teach those. I especially enjoy Francine Rivers, Janette Okes, Margaret
Mitchell, Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado, Andy Stanley, John Jakes, Irving Stone, and
even William Faulkner, but I avoid his books when I have a headache because of
his convoluted sentences.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Priorities on what is important are a must if we are to make time to write (and edit). Faith and family have to come first. I volunteer at my church, I lead water wellness at the local gym twice a week, and I make time for my wonderful family. I look after my eighty-nine-year-old mother, and communicate nearly daily with my beautiful daughter, and as often I am able with my grandchildren, a college sophomore and a high school junior. Then I try to do something with my writing every day—either work on my platform or edit or write.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Names come from lots of places in my writing. Some of them are from my genealogy. I have been a root digger for more than twenty-five years and at times I come across a name that has a significant story attached or becomes meaningful to me for some reason. I also find names in census records for particular regions. I think that helps to keep the story authentic. I use the name of historical characters when they are pertinent to the story, but my primary characters are fiction. I chose the names of MacLayne and Campbell because those two names represent the ethnic groups that were prominent in settling early
both the Irish and the Scotch. My heritage is also predominantly Scotch-Irish.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am very proud of my book In Search of Shiloh, but it is a small accomplishment compared with the wonderful daughter I raised as a single parent and the forty years I spent as an educator in the
Arkansas public schools.
I also have a fantastic granddaughter and a fine grandson, but I can only take
partial credit for them.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Would it not be glorious to be an eagle? Imagine what it would be like to view the world as you soared hundreds of feet above God’s beautiful creation. I can only imagine the views available to eagles with their keen vision and gift of flight not granted to us humans. A second honor would be to represent our great nation. That would certainly be a source of great pride. One drawback would be living in the South in hunting season! Every year, overly zealous hunters mistake eagles for game birds, and we lose some of these magnificent birds.
What is your favorite food?
Believe it or not … I love fried rabbit, especially the back legs, and banana pudding. I truly believe it is the food served in heaven. Both have to be made by my mother though. I’m really picky when it comes to the custard in my pudding.
Several times in our married life, we raised rabbits to eat. I love rabbit, too. I haven’t had any in a long time, but I want some. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The original manuscript of ‘Til
Shiloh Come, the first
handwritten draft of the story was 685,000 words. Being a novice writer, I had
no idea that was a bit long for a story. The first publisher I talked to about
my story laughed at me and told me no one would consider my book because they
couldn’t guarantee the pages would stay in the binding. He later went on to
give me some more helpful advice and told me that I needed to break the long
manuscript into readable parts. So, I have spent nearly a year breaking my long
story into four novels, the first of which is In Search of Shiloh. The roadblocks
have come in the form of having to develop new opening chapters for the novels
and making sure they can stand alone as independent stories. I have spent hours
reworking the original manuscript to meet these new standards, but I think I
have finally finished the second volume. The
Dream of Shiloh, the second in the series, will be finished on Valentine’s
It’s good that you took the advice. I have a dear friend who has written a very long book like that. I and others, including an editor or two, have urged her to make it a series. But here we are way over a decade later, and the book is still too long and unmarketable. Tell us about the featured book.
In 1857, the new state of
Arkansas is seven years younger than Laurel
Campbell. Single at the ripe old age of twenty-eight, both Laurel and the people of Hawthorn consider
her the local spinster. When Laurel’s father
announces he’s arranged a marriage for her, Laurel’s world transforms overnight.
Suddenly, she’s Laurel MacLayne, wife of homesteader Patrick MacLayne. Proud and headstrong,
resents being married off but has little say in the matter.
As for Patrick, a painful past keeps him from getting too close to his new bride. He’s a good man, though, so when he asks
Laurel to step out into
the world with him in faith, she agrees. She may not love him, but she at least
can give him her respect and support. Whether or not that’s enough to build a
marriage on will be decided on the road to Shiloh.
They spend the next four weeks traveling across three hundred miles of wilderness
from Laurel’s Washington
county home to Mac’s homestead in . They cross
military roads, barely hinted at paths, lazy trickling creeks, and rolling
rivers, both on ferries and in their wagon. They find shelter under a wagon bed
and in the homes of new Christian friends along the way. They see the riches,
the glory, diversity, and beauty the Lord has blessed their chosen state with
and find hope. In their travels, they meet promise and problems, and at the end
of their journey, they know the promise is theirs for the taking. If they are
willing to work hard, keep the vows they made, and trust, the dream of Greene
County Shiloh is within their reach. They have found Shiloh lies
within the shadow of Crowley’s
Please give us the first page of the book.
And we know all things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to
them who ae called according to His purpose.
Laurel, I wanna talk to you. Darlin’, leave
the dishes and come set with me a spell.” Mark Campbell pointed to the chair
near his bed.
With a confused look on her face,
Laurel looked across the room to the nook on
the other side of the hearth where her father lay. Mark Campbell was not given
to endearments, nor had he ever asked her to leave morning chores to sit with
him. “Papa, are you hurtin’ this mornin’?”
“No more’n usual. Come over here and set yerself down, like I asked.”
Even at such an early hour,
Laurel saw the weariness in her father’s
eyes. He was mortally ill, and she knew his main concern was what would become
of her when he was no longer around. Laurel
sat in her Granny Wilson’s chair, brushed her fingertips across his cheeks, and
breathed a sigh of relief that she felt no fever.
“Daughter, my time’s short. This blame cough’s gittin’ worse ever day, and my strength’s all but gone. Don’t mind so much for me…” Her father glanced up at the pen and ink drawing of her beautiful mother, which hung over the mantle. “Spendin’ eternity with your mama in paradise ain’t exactly a scary thought.” A severe bought of coughing interrupted his remarks.
Laurel handed him a
handkerchief and turned her head. She knew the cloth would be stained with
blood. He’d often told her that he hated this weakness. He closed his eyes and
took a couple of sharp breaths.
“Rest now, Papa. We’ll talk more after your nap. Just sleep a while.”
Laurel’s father’s sharp
reply suggested a renewed strength Laurel
hadn’t seen in days. “We gotta talk. Gotta tell you the plans I made for ya.” Again,
a hacking cough stopped him.
I’m eager to hear those plans, too. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I have an author’s page on Facebook at Patricia Clark Blake.
Thank you, Patricia, for sharing this book with us. As a native Arkansan, I’ll love reading it.
Readers, here are links to the book.In Search of Shiloh: A Journey Home Through Arkansas (The Shiloh Saga) (Volume 1) - paperback
In Search of Shiloh: A Journey Home Through Arkansas (The Shiloh Saga Book 1) - Kindle
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