The Whisper of a Distant God is about the untold story of the Angel of Santa Fe and the Gettysburg of the West. The author David L. Gersh talks to Book Glow about his new historical fiction novel that takes place during the American Civil War.
Describe the book in one sentence.
The Whisper of a Distant God explores an unknown battle in the Civil War and the struggle with duty, honor and compassion by the Union commander’s wife that made her the Angel of Santa Fe and a traitor.
What led you to write it?
I’m a history buff and a student of the Civil War. I have read easily 50 histories of the War and its principals. I knew that the Civil War was fought East of the Mississippi. Imagine my shock to learn, from a mention on a tape about Southern politics, of a Confederate campaign to take over Nevada, Colorado and California. Gold, silver and a port on the Pacific could have changed history. I stopped the car in the aisle of the parking lot and rewound the tape.
I knew I had to research that battle. It was fascinating, but there were no original source documents available to me. So, I wrote this historical fiction, The Whisper of a Distant God, which I believe reflects the facts and the truth.
I wanted to write this book as if it were history. The only voices that would appear would be the people themselves, not the author. It was really difficult, creating their voices and their documents to tell the story.
How long did it take to write?
The book took six years to write. I spent over a year reading the diaries and letters of Confederate and Union women before I found Louisa’s voice.
I love research and this was an immersion. It seemed every sentence required more. It was a joy, but I’m lucky to have surfaced long enough to write the book.
Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
I have written mysteries, comic novels, a book on collecting art and this historical fiction. I did each of them because I had to. I never really had a choice of genres.
What book most influenced your life?
That is like asking about the pinball game of my life. John Barth got me started on fiction. I loved discovering the humor and romance of E.E. Cummings. Barbara Tuchman’s histories were thrilling.
Any writer must be an avid reader. The love of reading comes first. There are scores of books that bumped me one way or another.
Where do you write?
I write on the kitchen counter. Or I drag my computer along to the coffee shop. I have a pad by my bed and I scribble notes on spare scraps of paper in the grocery store.
Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Any advice for novice writers?
Perhaps I should explain that. Don’t copy words. Figure out what makes a novel gripping. How the writer paints pictures in your head. How he or she gets you to turn the page.
Copy that. It will be yours.
I started another art world mystery, All’s Fair, over a year ago, when I also started writing my comic novel, Pot Luck. I was going to write both books at the same time. That didn’t work out so well. I went back to All’s Fair when Pot Luck was published, but abandoned it again to get The Whisper of a Distant God into print.
My characters are getting really pissed at me for ignoring them for so long.