Wednesday, December 16, 2015

{GUEST POST}: How my Writing Process Impacted my Book by Carrie Dalby

Thanks for having me on your site today, Kara. I decided to focus on something that will give your readers insight into many aspects of Fortitude in the shortest period of time: my writing process. I promise not to make it as boring as it sounds.

Fortitude began life after I saw a picture of a goat in a tree. ( Yes, a hooved creature in an oak tree on Dauphin Island was just the odd sort of thing to get my brain thinking about days gone by. It was by no means glamorous, but I had a location and an animal, and everyone knows a goat in a tree is in want of a human to look after it.

Claire O’Farrell’s younger brother, Kevin, was compiled first but Claire didn’t take long to shape. At first I worried about my stories sounding the same because I was fresh off writing a contemporary YA but I realized Claire’s voice was brave and feisty—a much different personality than the main character in my previous work-in-progress.  She stands on her own with conviction, even if she later doubts her choices.

Next I discovered the time period. After all, it’s difficult to write a historical without a certain year in mind. Information on the deplorable conditions U.S. soldiers met as they gathered in Florida for the Spanish-American War gleamed from a couple pages in the middle of a biography I was reading for fun. I was shocked, sickened, and upset that I’d never learned about the Florida camps in all my history classes. I knew it was a cause Claire would get behind, she just needed a catalyst to get her there in 1898.  Enter Loretta.

When I came across a collection of photographs taken by W.E.B. DuBois depicting African-Americans that were assembled for the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, the portrait of a young woman immediately spoke to me. ( She was extremely feminine, fashionable, and confident. Who else could pull off a hat like this? ( While I gathered the images of a few other characters from this amazing portrait collection (see my Pinterest board for more, Loretta’s voice was the loudest. “Tell my story and make it great!” And once you read about her, you know most people can’t tell Miss Loretta Davis “No.”

I’m one of those people who cannot start a story unless I have a title and music. I knew Claire wouldn’t give up on her quest to help humanity, so I brainstormed words relating to that. A thesaurus may or may not have been involved, but when I got to FORTITUDE, I knew that was it. As part of my outlining (half of it went to the recycle bin once I was in the thick of the actual writing) I compiled “Fortitude GROOVE”, a playlist in my iTunes hub.  It has over thirteen hours of music but I listened to the “Master and Commander” soundtrack the most, especially during edits. From that musical selection, I created the “Fortitude SOUNDTRACK” for the book after I was done. That only has twelve songs, but it chronologically follows the storyline and emotions of Claire’s journey. The two prominent songs that you need to go listen to right now are “No Stone Unturned” by Europe and “Carry On” by Mitch Malloy. (I prefer live versions of both, but all are excellent.)

To write I need pictures and music. In the old days I filled notebooks with photos clipped from magazines and put a CD on repeat. Currently I use iTunes and Pinterest for most of my visuals, but it all does the same thing—inspire me. I don’t wait for the muse to come, I seek her out in all the shapes and forms inspiration can take place. What do you do to stay motivated and inspired?


Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.

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Born and raised in California, but a resident of Mobile, Alabama since 1996, Carrie Dalby is a homeschooling mom with a love of literature for young adults and children. Some of Carrie’s favorite volunteer hours are with Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author workshops. You can find Carrie anytime on her website:

You can also find her on: Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest