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How it All Started

I’ve been a fan of history for as long as I can remember.  Not in a memorize dates and names of battles and all the generals that ever lived sort of way – don’t give me a quiz, I will fail miserably.  More in a fascinated by the motivations that caused people to act and behave the way that they did, that can only be studied in hind sight sort of way.  I credit this fascination to my father.  He was a history major and then taught history in high school for a spell.  I have a feeling that he was one of those teachers that made the subject interesting and memorable; the way that all history should be taught.  I guess this, because this is how he taught me history, not in the classroom but at home.  Much more emphasis was placed on the whys and wherefores as opposed to the specific dates, times and names.  My childhood was spent watching more WWII movies than I can even recount.  I still have a special place in my heart for “Father Goose” and “Operation Petticoat,” gotta love Cary Grant.  Come to think of it, I still have a special place in my heart for Cary Grant . . .

At any rate, I find history fascinating.  So when I was visiting a friend in Richmond, Virginia and she suggested that we go tour the White House of the Confederacy I said yes.  We wondered through all of the exhibits, read about the little toy cannon that actually fired tiny little cannon balls that Jefferson Davis had made for his son and, like all museums, I wound up in the gift shop.  While perusing the merchandise, I came across this little booklet.  It was less than 70 pages long and it was about female spies in the Civil War.  To say that I was intrigued would be an understatement.  I sat down in the middle of the gift shop and started reading.  It was amazing!  In this time of women in petticoats that were put up on pedestals, here were stories detailing how they would use those very petticoats to hide correspondence.  They would use their perceived “frailty” to continue passing information even after being caught and jailed for being a spy!

These women were brilliant and cunning and brave, and sitting there reveling in their tales a melancholy fell over me.  How had I never heard of these women before?  Why, in an entire museum, was there more about a tiny toy cannon, than an entire group of operatives, which I later learned had major impacts on battles and eventually the course of the war?  I found this sad.  So I bought the booklet.  Then finished my vacation, went home and for the most part forgot about it.  But in the back of my head these women kept kicking around, and the next thing I knew there was a story forming.  It started out as a TV show – a period piece for Showtime or HBO.  It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles and a friend out here convinced me that this idea of mine was better suited as a book.  Yes, I essentially moved to Los Angeles to turn my TV show into a novel.  Enjoy the irony, I do.

This is when I finally sat down and started to write the novel In a Time Never Known.  It is the story of Anna and Kady, two southern ladies, a mother, daughter duo, who are spies for the Union.  We get to see the sacrifices that they make, the people they encounter and the lengths that they are willing to go in our country’s darkest hour.  Now my spies are fictional, but I’d like to think that the spirits of the likes of Elizabeth Van Lew, Belle Boyd, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Rose Greenhow and the Moon sisters to name a few are present throughout the pages.  These are the characters that I have fallen in love with, and these are the characters that I would like to introduce to you . . . in my next post . . . because this one’s really long already . . . and I kinda want to go to bed . . .

  • I just found your blog via Goodreads & Business Heroine. Very excited to see that you are writing a novel about female spies in the Civil War. Until I read your article I had no knowledge of Mary Elizabeth Bower. What a shame her story has been lost to history. Are you considering a “Heroines of History” book? I think it’d be very well received.

    • Kat Michels

      Hi Thomas! I’m really glad you enjoyed my first two articles (For those who haven’t read them, check out the Heroines of History articles in the box to the right!). You have pretty much summed up my whole reason for doing the series. In today’s world of instant gratification and recognition for even simple things, I find it so fascinating and inspiring that these women did so much knowing full well that there was no recognition. I believe that even though it may be posthumously, they still deserve to have their story told.

      In all honestly I hadn’t considered doing a book because I greatly underestimated the reception that these articles would get. I am absolutely thrilled that there is an audience for these women and that people enjoy their stories as much as I do. So that being said, once I get more of a collection I probably will look into doing some sort of compilation. Thank you so much for your interest, and while my novel is fiction hopefully it will help bring some more awareness to the role that women played in the Civil War as well!