Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Author interview with Christine Chatterton

Writer Christine Chatterton joins me today to talk about her new historical narrative, Courage of the Heart: An American Odyssey 1915 to 1923.

Welcome, Christine. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a retired teacher. I have a bachelor of science degree in Geology, and a master’s in education with specializations in special education and reading.

I am a very young 63 years old. I was born in Warren, Michigan, but I have lived for the last 30 years in Rialto in Southern California.

I have been married for 43 years to my loving husband Keith who is also a retired teacher and I have two wonderful sons, and 2 (soon to be 3) grandsons.

Please tell us about your current release.
Courage of the Heart: An American Odyssey 1915 to 1923 is a true historical narrative of World War I, based on the letters found in my husband’s grandmother’s house after her death. This is an intimate account of two families and four brothers from Western Illinois, each facing the Great War in uniquely different ways. It is the extraordinary love story of Haidee Wilson and Maurice Chatterton, written in their own words, spanning the years from 1915 until 1923. This is an odyssey of courage and hardship, war, death, illness, and finally survival and a love that endured. This is an American Odyssey.

What inspired you to write this book?
After my husband’s grandparents had died in the early 1980’s, the family was clearing out their house in rural Illinois. A box of old letters was found hidden away in Grandma Haidee’s bedroom. In it were all the letters that Maurice, Keith’s grandfather, had written to Haidee from while they were dating and from World War I until they could be married in 1923. Keith’s sister transcribed them and I had read the letters years ago, but they did not make much sense out of order. They sat around for about 30 years, until two years ago. I had a very vivid dream one night in which I dreamed about writing the whole story. I woke my husband up at 4:00 in the morning and told him I was going to write his grandparents’ story based on the letters. And then I got up then and started writing!

Excerpt from Courage of the Heart:
            The letters from Maurice are amazing. He was a farm boy from Illinois with no college.
Yet, in his letters from the battlefront he quotes Longfellow and philosophers and writes in Latin. His letters are beautiful and heartfelt. Here is an example written after Armistice Day.

            “There will be lots of people who will pay a lot to see the famous battle fields of France and Europe.A battlefield at nite when everything is tearing loose was truly a wonderful and terrible sight with the sky lit up like day. I have often stood and watched although to tell the truth a little dugout would probably have been safer. But over here you get used to taking chances.
            I can tell you some experiences when I get back. There have been times when it looked like all Hell was out for a picnic. I have seen a cartoon of a soldier from the Western Front going thru the infernal regions and commenting on what a tame place he had ended up in. Lots more truth in it than you have any idea.
            Still, it’s all over so I suppose it is time to turn our minds to the better things in life. Army life doesn’t tend to better your morals a lot in spite of what the learned divines back home have to say. When you are trained to kill, it only stands to reason that you get hard.
            Now don’t shudder and think we are all heathens. Some are, but the most are far from being so. I haven’t been to church even to field service for over four months simply because I have had no chances. I am truly thankful for my being spared to see the end. All I can say is that any one who is willing to give his life for his country isn’t wholly bad and shouldn’t be judged too hardly. And I guess a Higher Power knows that. It’s getting dark now, so I’ll have to say good bye for now.
            I want you to know, Haidee, that I couldn’t have made it without you and I will be forever grateful that you have been there in my thoughts daily. I love you with all my heart. Maurice”

What exciting story are you working on next?
Actually, I have just published my rather humorous memoirs of growing up in Detroit. It is another true story called “The Kids on Ford Street” It is a fun book.

I am also researching a second book related to Courage of the Heart. It is the story of the Lieberman/Lee family. They are a part of the story in Courage of the Heart. Vera Lee married our great-uncle Francis Chatterton. Her family were escaping Jews from Odessa. Francis and Vera helped her two brothers and two sisters escape from the Russian pogroms, the Japanese in Manchuria and then in Shanghai, finally reaching Chicago and then working with F.D.R. in Washington D.C. during World War II.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As an English teacher, I actually started daily journal writing with my high school students. I would write as they were writing, mostly memoirs         from my own life. I found that my students were more inspired to write and to open up when I wrote with them and read what I wrote about my life.

After I retired, I started writing and illustrating stories for my grandson Samuel. My very first book was an alphabet book called “Samuel’s Alphabet Zoo”

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write everyday for two to three hours. I have to be alone when I write, so I write after my husband goes to bed at around 11:00 P.M. until about 1:30 or 2:00 A.M. That is my quiet time. Other than that , I am constantly busy with family and church and as an artist, painting and making jewelry.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have been blessed with an unusual memory. I remember almost all the events in my life, like a movie going on in my head. So when I write about someone like Haidee or Maurice Chatterton, I remember exactly what they did and looked like and said, even 40 years ago. That is probably why I enjoy writing about real events and memoirs taken from my life. I find it interesting to learn the true history of things and then describe it as I remember it. Hopefully, others can learn from it while still finding it creative and interesting.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A geologist and a then a teacher, which is what I became: a teacher first and a geologist second.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Actually, there are two messages that I hope they take from this book. First: that to really understand the hard decisions and events of the past, you must understand the people of the time, their values, their motivations. People tend to want to rewrite history in their own moral and social framework.

Second: Love is not always easy. Love takes the commitment to run the course, to work things out, and to not give up. But in the end, it is worth it.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind interview. I am so glad that people have an opportunity to learn about my book from you. Christine Chatterton