Today's scribe: Molly Roe
Author of: Call Me Kate
Check out the interview!
Was Call Me Kate based off of a true story? How close to real life was it?
Call Me Kate is a mixture of fact and fiction. The events in the book happened, but the actions of my great-grandmother were fictionalized. The Civil War draft riots did occur in Pennsylvania in 1862, but my great-grandmother, Catharine McCafferty, was not involved as she was in the novel. Little detail of the lives of ordinary people, especially women, was recorded back in the nineteenth century so I needed to apply what was available in photographs and books to Kate’s life. My genealogy research started me thinking about what life must have been like for my ancestors, particularly for my four great-grandmothers, so I guess you could say the book is based on my impression of the problems these women faced.
Through family stories, I knew that Catharine worked in one of the “big houses.” Through census, church, and newspaper records, I learned that she was closely connected to some of the men hanged as Molly Maguires. When drafting the plot, I placed her in the home of a local coal baron, Ario Pardee, but she may have worked for any of several wealthy families during the time period. Her own family emigrated from Donegal, Ireland and suffered through the Great Famine as was presented in the book. The patch town setting was as close to the time frame as I could possibly make it.
Later in life, Catharine supported her niece through one of the greatest traumas I can imagine: the conviction and hanging of her innocent husband as a Molly Maguire. Of course the word innocent has been debated for 140 years. I hope to write about those later events of Kate’s life once I complete my work in progress.
Do you relate to Kate at all? What characteristics do you share with her?
I love Kate’s sense of justice, and I totally relate to her in that way. I’m not as impulsive or as adventuresome as my heroine, but I hope I emulate Kate’s concern for friends and family. I grew up in a close extended family and interconnected community, just as Kate did.
Can you describe your path to publication?
My original plan was to write a book for my family, primarily for my aunt who is keeper of the family lore. When I joined a writing group, however, the members encouraged me to publish it for the general public. Once the seed was planted, I began to follow up leads. The book was almost finished when I happened upon a panel discussion about publishing, held in a neighboring city. Several group members attended, and we listened to the publishers and company representatives, Tribute Books, a local start up publisher, seemed the perfect match for me and my novel.
When not writing, what do you like to do?
A friend called me a serial hobbyist because I have several hobbies that surge and subside at intervals. I continue to enjoy family history research, and I love talking to my readers at signings, local history day festivals, and reenactments. I enjoy puzzles and games. Over the years I have practiced and taught various crafts: cross-stitch, needlepoint, wreath making, and quilling. One activity which has remained constant in my life, however, is reading. I always have a book or my Kindle with me. I often have several books going at a time. At this time of year, I tend my perennial garden. This year I’m working especially hard spiffing things up for my daughter’s wedding.
What advice would you give to any aspiring young writers?
Aspiring writers, young or not, need to persist. I would tell them to keep working on their craft, and make it an important part of their daily schedules. Join a writing group; it’s a great way to learn and get new perspectives.
Thanks so much for such a great interview, Ms. Roe!
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