Jessica James – Noble Cause: A Novel of Love and War

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Noble Cause: A Novel of Love and War

I’m really excited to be releasing this novel in Charleston, S.C. in April—the same date and place as the Civil War began 150 years ago!

Originally released as Shades of Gray, Noble Cause is the tale of Colonel Alexander Hunter, a dauntless and daring Confederate cavalry officer, who, with his band of intrepid outcasts, becomes a legend in the rolling hills of northern Virginia. Inspired by love of country and guided by a sense of duty and honor, Hunter must make a desperate choice when he discovers the woman he promised his dying brother he would protect is the Union spy he vowed to his men he would destroy.

Shades of Gray won numerous national book awards and even hit #1 on the Amazon Bestseller list in its category, so I have high hopes for Noble Cause as well.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a former newspaper editor who lives in Gettysburg, Pa. I’m not sure there can be anything harder than going from straight, objective reporting to writing fiction, but once I got the creative side of my brain engaged it slowly became more natural. I started by jotting down thoughts and dreams with no intentions of writing a novel, but eventually realized that I might have enough for a book. Actually, I discovered that I had more than enough—in excess of 1,000 pages when all was said and done. I spent the next two years cutting and re-editing.

What inspired you to write this book?

Living in Gettysburg, Pa., you would perhaps think I always had a love for the Civil War. Actually though, I didn’t get the bug until I moved to Virginia to work as a veterinary technician at a horse hospital in the 80s. That was there I learned about Colonel John S. Mosby—one of the most romantic and gallant figures of the Civil War—and he became the basis for my main character, Colonel Alexander Hunter.

How did you choose the title?

The first title of the book, Shades of Gray, was chosen because the novel is about the strong emotional feelings induced by the war and the fact that when someone is fighting for principles there is no right or wrong, or black and white answers. I changed the title to Noble Cause for the new version to illustrate the courageous stand made by Confederate soldiers against tremendous—and insurmountable—odds.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Though I’d always been a writer (first as a journalist), writing fiction didn’t enter my mind until I caught the Civil War bug. The more I read about the war, the more inspired I became to put a story down on paper that reflected the values, principles and emotions of that era, as well as the affection and devotion that existed between those who vowed “’til death do us part.”

Another thing that inspired me to try my hand at fiction writing was the sudden swell of political correctness and historical inaccuracies being passed on as truth and fact. I wanted to set the record straight in a way that both educates and entertains.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I learned many, many things—both from a writing perspective and a history perspective. As far as writing, I learned more about the craft itself, and how very difficult and frustrating it can be.

From a historical perspective, I learned a lot about the private lives of the men and women who were thrust into a war not of their making. Many people’s eyes glaze over when they hear “Civil War,” thinking it’s going to be a history lesson. But stories like the wedding of Confederate Gen. John Pegram to Hettie Cary in 1865 in Richmond show the emotional toll as well. Pegram was a beloved son of the South and Hettie was the most celebrated Southern belle of her time. Their wedding was the biggest event in Richmond since the start of the war, drawing thousands to witness the event—and the funeral of the groom three weeks to the day later drew a crowd equally as large.

This is the type of story I want to share and the type of emotion I want to re-create.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I actually enjoy reading non-fiction more than fiction—mostly diaries and first-hand accounts of the war. However, I am currently reading a novel from 1866 called Roebuck. Reading fiction from that era really helps me with language and cadence when I’m writing about the 19th century. To my surprise, I was asked to review the dialogue in a script for a proposed Civil War movie due to the authentic dialogue I used in Shades of Gray.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am working on another Civil War novel called Above and Beyond.

The heroine in this novel is not based on any real person in history, but I have read many accounts such as hers. In a nutshell, she is so convincing at pretending to be a strong Unionist while living in Virginia, that all her neighbors, and even her own brother, believe the ruse. By allowing Federal soldiers to stay in her home she becomes an outcast and a scourge in her own community—but all the while she is passing on valuable information to the Confederacy.

One can only imagine the courage and strong will it would take to be despised and maligned by family and friends while you are nobly serving a cause. It could be argued that it would take more fortitude than fighting an outright battle with hundreds of your comrades surrounding you.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

You just have to keep writing. Believe in yourself and believe in the story you want to tell. The hardest part is getting past those days when you read what you’ve written and think, “this is terrible.” Instead of shoving it all in a drawer, just move onto another section and come back to the “terrible” chapter on a day when you’re in a less critical mood.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Civil War buffs, of course are a part of that audience, but it is not simply a Civil War story. It’s a story full of hope and heartbreak as the loyalty and love of the two main characters clash with honor and conviction. Anyone who loves a good old-fashioned love story will enjoy it, as will those with a love of history.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Readers can visit by website at www.jessicajamesbooks.com or my blog Life in the Past Lane at www.jessicajamesblog.com. All of my books are available through Internet retailers including Amazon.

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