Today my guest is Sylvia Dickey Smith, a historical novelist who is published by a traditional small press in Wisconsin. In this author essay, Sylvia reveals what it is that compels her to write about a particular time in American history.
U. S. residents may comment on this post by August 10 to be entered to win a signed paperback of Sylvia’s 2010 release, A War Of Her Own, which National Press Women of Texas named as their Award Winning Novel of 2011. Subscribe via Feedburner for extra points. You may want to comment on the time period that you like to read about and why you think you are drawn to material set during that period.
Sylvia Dickey Smith was born in Orange, Texas, and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. At 34, her curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when she moved to the Caribbean and began a journey of study and self-discovery.
Returning to the U.S. at 40, she started college and didn’t stop until she achieved a B.A. in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. For the next twenty years she worked in the field of human services and for a couple of those years, taught as an adjunct professor. Her writing career didn’t begin until after she retired.
An advocate for women, her writing features those who recreate themselves into the people they want to be, strong women who take charge of their lives and get things done.
Her next novel, due out near the end of this year, is The Swamp Whisperer, a humorous yet serious tale of balance and imbalance through the eyes of a nosy old swamp woman.
Sylvia Dickey Smith:
A War of Her Own came about as a result of my sense of a sacred trust—a compulsion as it were—given to me to tell the story of a significant time in history and the people and events surrounding it.
This historical novel is set in 1943, in Orange, Texas, a sleepy little town alongside the Sabine River. The impact this small town made on World War II defense, and the impact the same war made on its people, has always fascinated me.
A toddler during those years, I have only flashes of the time period. However, these memories blend in and become one with events that I do remember, along with the happenings of my childhood. My mother, a victim of the upheaval dividing marriages, moved us in with my grandmother and went to work at the shipyard to support herself and her three children. The daughter of a Pentecostal mother, it was unheard of for women to wear pants and walk the streets late at night, yet my mother did just that, as did many other women of the day.
In A War of Her Own, Bea Meade is just such a woman, battling both the external world at war, as well as her internal battle within.
My fascination with the era involves the social impact on a small town growing from 7,000 to 70,000 in less than three years. People still suffering from the backlash of the Great Depression flooded the town for jobs. The question then was, where do we live, what do we eat, and what do we buy? The abhorrent living conditions people subjected themselves and their families to—all for jobs, and to help their country at war was phenomenal. Hundreds of destroyers, destroyer escorts, landing craft and the like were produced in the local shipyards in record numbers by unskilled workers—many of them women going to work alongside men for the first time.
To me, that is significant—and we dare not forget. We dare not forget.
I can’t explain this sense of sacred trust that I feel. It is just there—this history, this accomplishment, and this time of coming-together to accomplish a cause greater than the sacrifice of each individual. To honor the contributions made by thousands, and to acknowledge the social revolution this effort made to change our world forever. I accepted this sacred trust to pay tribute to the people of this small town, replicated all across this country, by telling their story through the eyes of a young woman named Bea Meade.
Bea is the mother of an infant son, who finds her life shattered when her philander¬ing husband announces he is leaving her for another woman. To make ends meet, she takes a job at one of the shipyards as a riveter. Life is good for ’most everyone in Orange—except for Bea, who has to fight her battles against a no-good husband, the prejudice facing women in the workplace, and the mysteries of her past that keep her awake at night.
Visit the author at www.sylviadickeysmith.com.