Conscience, Coercion, Change
Nothing blurs the lines of Good and Evil more easily than wartime.
After writing a historical novel, EYES AT THE WINDOW, published in 2003, and then publishing EVERYDAY MERCIES, a work of literary fiction in 2014, I’m back to intertwining historical material with the imagination.
This time I’m focusing on what happened among Mennonites, Amish, and German Baptists (Brethren) during the Civil War in the United States. The current photo for my website header is of a Brethren/Dunker meetinghouse located in the middle of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.
I’m developing five narrators in locations as varied as the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia; the part of Virginia that became West Virginia during the war; Chicago, Illinois; and rural southeastern Iowa. In each area, people of these Anabaptist groups, conscientiously opposed to the use of violence, experience war’s impact. Church leaders and common citizens try to manage the stresses caused by military activity in their locales, multiple military drafts, and/or efforts to flee or seek exemption from personal involvement in fighting.
Some of the five narrators (Esther, Jacob, Betsey, Fretz, David) are based on historical people; others come from fictitious characters I’ve developed through a composite of historical material found in diaries, letters, and secondary resources of the time period. All characters struggle with the complexities and havoc of wartime’s effect on their personal choices as well as on their broader, societal situations of family, religion, and economics.
I’ve written the first five drafts of this story of historical fiction, using the working title: THE PEOPLE WITH SCRUPLES. As I begin the next draft, I’m considering a change to: A HOUSE DIVIDED, IN FIVE VOICES.
Evie Yoder Miller
A sneak look inside:
“Yes, these are her kind of people: Midwestern, rural, practical, ‘use-it-up, don’t-waste-that-crust’ kind of people. Good people at heart. Mostly religious people who find meaning in where you park your car (your buggy?). Not first in line; not on someone’s grass after a hard rain; not where you can’t back out if you need to leave suddenly. People who find satisfaction in the daily task. The everyday.”
“Sure, bad things happen; there are odds. But you don’t need to act like you expect something to spoil all the pleasure that’s out there, like you’re scared to death.”
“Someone still needs her! Isn’t that what everyone wants? To stand on the side of good. To know that your life means something, that what you say and do–what you choose–matters to someone else.”
On Writing Passion:
As I write, I recall advice from the past.
“If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don’t have to know what before you begin.”
“Every work of art adheres to some sense of morality. But if it be really a work of art, it must contain the essential criticism of the morality to which it adheres.”
D. H. Lawrence