Writers get their ideas from many sources and I am no exception. The idea for my novel “Shiloh Valley” came from an article in my hometown German newspaper around 1979/80. The article covered a local figure, Heinrich Didier, who was a member of the State Defense Council during the revolution of 1849, an event I had never heard of before. His role in the short-lived uprising was not very flattering since he botched a weapons transport that deprived the rebels of much needed weapons. All in all, the revolution often resembled one big party and was crushed by Prussian troops after six weeks.
Most interesting for me, though, was the fact that Didier’s youngest son, 19-year-old Martin, immigrated to Belleville, Illinois, in 1849. Why would the son of a wealthy man immigrate to America, I wondered. I concluded that he was perhaps involved in the revolution and therefore feared for his life when it failed. Belleville was significant to me because I had just visited this town on a trip to the U.S. with my folk dance group.
The idea for a novel was born but it would take decades to its publication. After a research trip to St. Clair County, I spent several years writing and typing the first draft in German. My attempts at finding a publisher failed miserably (I was very naïve back then). Life intervened and I did not write again for many years.
Several years after moving to the U.S. I decided to translate my novel into English and revise it. The Civil War section of the novel required extensive research. Thankfully, by then the Internet allowed me to research regimental histories and even letters from soldiers. Still, I could not interest any literary agents in my work. In the meantime, I had written another novel, “Oktober Heat”, which covered the early years of the Cold War in my home county. I published this cozy mystery in 2015 and turned my attention to picture books next.
But in the back of my head I could not let go of “Shiloh Valley.” I had fallen in love with the characters and wanted to share them with the world. I hired a content editor and spent the next year revising the story again. Now I am ready to present it to the world.
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