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Wednesday
Sep252019

* * Karen Chase and her Carrying Independence

“By the time I was 17, I had visited 44 states and 9 provinces,” said Richmond based author Karen A. Chase who was in town recently to promote her new book, Carrying Independence, a novel of the Revolutionary War. We had a chance to catch up and talk about her process and our nation’s history. Chase may be an unexpected writer of American history, as she’s from Calgary, Canada.

 “My father was a schoolteacher and my mother was a stay at home mom. Dad loved the battlefields and museums and my mother loved bookstores and historic homes. So I was always in historic places and reading about more of them in between on the road. My experiences with American history were first-hand.”

I asked her why she was particularly drawn to American history. She said, “American history was older than Canadian. Canada was still part of the (British) Commonwealth, so there was not the history of turmoil and drama and massive restructuring of the United States. Until the United States was formed, all the countries of the world were ruled by monarchs who were deeded by God or Allah or other deities to run their countries.

“The USA had to fight its way and think its way out of that, and build a government of and by the people. That spirit of ‘Why do we have to do it the same way everybody else has done it?’ is enticing. It was the life I lived as a designer, which has been my career.”

Chase was educated in Advertising Art from San Antonio College and she has worked most of her career in advertising, marketing, design, and branding. She ran her own company for 16 years, mostly print but some on-line work. She’s worked for companies, non-profit organizations, and other authors. She got a job in Roanoke and has since moved to Richmond. Increasingly she has gravitated to creative writing.

While in Roanoke, she built an ad campaign for a local company that ran an ad in the newspaper. At the same time, she was working as a volunteer on the weekends at the SPCA. She said, “I was cleaning cat cages and one of the ads I helped build was lining the cage and the cat had defecated all over it. I thought I needed to do something more permanent with my life.”

She started learning more about our American Constitution and its time period. When she learned that the Declaration of Independence was not signed by all the men on the same day and at the same place, she became intrigued. How were the additional seven necessary signatures obtained? She envisioned a story with a character employed by Congress to travel to each man and obtain his signature. That became a book called Carrying Independence. The book took 6 years of research and writing, followed by 4 years of attempting to get published.

“The Declaration of Independence was a contract to keep the men and colonies united together. It needed to be signed. I needed to do research to find where they were and to visit those places. For example, George Wythe was from Williamsburg, and his wife was sick so he went home before signing it.” She envisioned someone carrying it to him.

The country was busy fighting a war. There were needs to clothe and feed and arm an entire army against the British who were already here. Nobody definitively knew where Wythe and the others signed it. So for Chase as a novelist, that opened the door to her creativity. “I can craft answers. I can be a puppeteer of fictional characters!”

I asked Karen what she learned, both about history and the writing process.

“Writing can be extremely fun! I have a good time writing and researching. I travel to the locations. I get to meet and talk with a variety of people who nerd out about the history as much as I do. I always hoped writing would be fun, and not a grueling, bloodletting exercise. I love going to bed thinking about the book and waking up ready to return to my desk and write more. I build characters, people who will fulfill the role of conveying the message I want for the story. Writing has changed the way I look at the world. My observational skills have improved dramatically both of the world outside and internally.

“What I’ve learned about the history is that it has been written too often and too long by men about men. There are an estimated 900 books written about George Washington. Books about women and Native Americans and African Americans and ordinary people has been left out, unexplored, and obscured. That is something we need to remedy now.”

Learn more about Karen and her new book at www.karenachase.com.

 

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