Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Blog with Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver

Today we have a guest blog by co-authors Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver.

It is an honor to be featured on the Heartsong Connection blog this week. A big thanks to JoAnne, Erica, and Jeri for what they are doing to promote our books.

When planning this historical series set in Tennessee, we wanted to show the transition of the state in the nineteenth century. We chose to use three generations of one family so that three different periods in Tennessee’s history, along with three different areas of the state, could be used as the settings—from the period of the War of 1812 in Nashville, to the years right before the Cherokee Trail of Tears in the area that would become Chattanooga, and on to the divisive years of the Civil War in Knoxville. Each of these periods provided its own conflicts and struggles for our characters to face and ultimately triumph in with the Lord’s help.

We decided to use symbols of the states in the titles, which helped give us plot points and themes for the books themselves. We used the state tree in Under the Tulip Poplar, the state flower in A Bouquet for Iris, and the state bird in this week’s featured title, The Mockingbird’s Call. We wanted to work the mockingbird into the plot of the book and came up with the idea of our heroine, Amelia Montgomery, getting named the “Mockingbird” as she begins to work on the Underground Railroad. This worked very well as the mockingbird can disguise itself by mimicking the calls of other birds.

Historical facts of the mockingbird during the Victorian period added greatly to our story. Pins of different types of birds were very popular in this period, including some of mockingbirds which we found pictures of. We also discovered in our research that owning a mockingbird as a pet was a big trend. In fact, the mockingbird population at first began to diminish in the late 1800s due to this. Ultimately, however, this practice led to the bird’s territory being greatly expanded, even as far as the Hawaiian Islands, when owners tired of caring for them and set them free. This gave us so much more to work with as the idea of our heroine being caged by her deceptions and ultimately finding freedom in Christ through His truth was hatched. (Couldn’t resist that one.) As the saying goes, with a little addition, it’s great when God brings His plan together!

We were also able to incorporate our other careers into this story. I (Diane) was able to include my expertise in political situations and I (Aaron) was able to add my knowledge of educational institutions. The politics of the heavily divided state, and specifically the area around Knoxville, in the mid 1800s almost led to the state dividing into two as Virginia did, but the state’s secession ended the attempt. Also, our hero, Jared Stuart (He is a beta hero, Myra.) attends East Tennessee University which was the third name (after Blount College and East Tennessee College) the school had before settling on the University of Tennessee soon after the Civil War ended. We loved showing the school’s earlier years when it emphasized a more religion-based curriculum and conducted chapel services every morning.

We hope all of our readers enjoy our journey through several years of Tennessee history. We also hope you will join us on our future historical series set in Mississippi, where you will find some familiar faces from our stories in the Volunteer State.

Question of the Day: This past fall I made strides in overcoming a fear of mine. I've never been a big fan of birds. I don't mind the web-footed, smooth-billed ducks and geese, but the grippy feet, pokey beaks, and beady eyes of other winged creatures always gives me a shudder. But this past fall I faced that fear and actually went into the Budgie Encounter at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO. I had birds sitting on my shoulders, my hands, my hair (that was a scary one for me) and my feet. Birds fluttered and flew everywhere.

So, are you a bird-watcher? Do you have a fear of birds?


  1. Great post, Aaron and Diane. I love to watch birds. Other than when I saw the Hitchcock movie about birds, I'm not afraid of them.

  2. Great post pic! I like birds and have feeders in my apple trees. Fortunately I've never seen Hitchcock's movie. I am really looking forward to reading more of Aaron and Diane's books. They really have a gift for bringing history to life. And I love how they are going to bring characters from other books into future books. I think readers love this!

  3. This sounds so interesting. I love the idea of following one family through the different times and places.

    I like seeing and hearing birds, it seems extra special in the Spring, but I don't need one sitting on me, unless maybe a hummingbird :o)

  4. Thanks, Margaret. And, Erica, love the picture of the mockingbird. I don't like spiders and snakes, as the old song says, but I love birds. My dad always put up houses for different types, especially purple martins. (They are "friendly to farmers" as they nest in large groups, making for many birds in one area, and they kill lots of insect pests. He also set up bird feeders so we could watch them. My mother loved them, too, so I guess I come by it honestly.

  5. Thanks, Linda. But are you sure you wouldn't want an ostrich for a pet? :)

  6. Thanks, Laura. One of my great pleasures from ACFW in Denver was meeting you! You are a true blessing.

  7. All of these books sound terrific. I really like how you used the state, flower, bird and trees in your book's themes. Why can't I come up with something like that! ; )

    I don't like it if a bird swoops at me or flys down and pecks my head (yep, happened when I was a little girl) but I'm not afraid of them. We put bird feeders in our yard last fall and have enjoyed watching all the birds use the feeders this long winter but my favorites are the blue jays (I know they have a "mean" reputation but pretty just the same) and the north american woodpecker.

  8. Rose, I was thinking the same thing! Why can't I think of things like that???

    Yesterday a woodpecker woke us up bright and early jackhammering on a tree.

  9. Great post Aaron! I love the idea you and Diane came up with in using the mocking bird in this story and all the information you found on them as pets. I've had birds as pets off and on during my life, although they weren't mocking birds. But I love the way you used Mockingbird as Amelia's 'code' name! Great job with this series!!!

  10. The books sound wonderful. i love birds by the way. I love to sit on my patio in the spring and summer and watch the robins, sparrows, and cardinals.

  11. Thanks so much, Rose. I hope you do enjoy our stories. And, Frances, a great writer yourself, thanks for the kind comment. Erica, you are so talented! And so wonderful to do this to promote HP books. And, Janet, woderful, wonderful, friend, I love you and Dan so much. Thank you for all of your support! I like bluejays, too, but one of my favorite bird sightings is a male cardinal against a snowy background. Beautiful!

  12. Jacqueline WheelockMarch 24, 2010

    There is much to be admired about Mockingbird, but I especially love the Huck Finn-type attitude of Amelia and Jared that causes them to follow their own moral compasses. Diane and Aaron, my hearty congratulations.

  13. lori beattyMarch 25, 2010

    I have the book sitting her beside me waiting to be opened. I know it's going to be as good as the first two. as for the birds, I love em. the more the merrier. now if I could only get rid of the squirrels....

    YOu can always count on historical accuracy with Aaron and Diane's books. they are fierce about their details.

  14. Joy GriffithMarch 25, 2010

    Congratulations on completing this series! I'm looking forward to reading The Mockingbird's Call and can't wait for the series set in Mississippi! FYI, I like to admire birds from a distance! :)

    Joy Griffith

  15. Brenda Sebren (Mac)March 29, 2010

    Great interview Aaron, look forward to reading all your books. May God continue to use you and bless you. I am glad you and Diane work so well together. Thanks for being such a great friend.