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Hot Off The Press: Giant Steps by Mary Blair Immel

March 21, 2017

Can you keep a secret? Or, are you like Lizzie, one of the characters in my new book, Giant Steps?

I am going to share some secrets with you, and I don?t care if you pass them along.

My book is classified as historical fiction, but I like to think of it as a truth story.? What I mean by this is that although the story is made up, it is set in a real time frame. Although the characters and what happened to them as the story progresses are imaginary, many of the things really did happen to real people.

When I decided to write a book about women getting the vote, I selected a certain period during that long struggle, because I had some personal knowledge which would be useful in making my characters true to life.

My mother, like the main character Bernie, was born in 1903. Like Bernie, she was a rebel with a cause. Although my mother?s life was very different than the Bernie in the book, there were some events where fiction met with fact.

My mother did have two older brothers. One of them did run away and join the army as a young teenager. In fact, you can see his picture in the book on page 127 and below. He was sent to France and experienced some of the worst fighting in World War I. He did have a difficult time putting those memories behind him. His name really was Nick. His older brother Ben was also in the army and did nearly die during the influenza pandemic. I remember my two uncles very well.

I had many relatives who were in the military during that war. My father fought in the wet, muddy trenches in France. Fortunately he was not gassed, as was the book?s character, Vincent, but my father suffered for the rest of his life with what was called Trench Foot.?

Several characters in the book are based on people and things that really happened. I spent about four years doing a research project about Civil War veterans for IHS Press. As I combed through old newspapers for information, I met? several interesting characters. There was the man whose obituary told about his exploits during the war. However, I learned that he had never been in the army. It was actually his brother who was the hero.?

I also read in the newspapers about a veteran in our town who was seldom sober and avoided doing a day?s work. His wife supported him by doing laundry. After visiting a saloon, he would come home and beat her severely. The long-suffering wife became the model for Edna in Giant Steps.

Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you that my mother?s name really was Bernie. When the editors needed a picture of a girl in a middy dress, I sent them one of her. You can see it in the book on page 131 and above.

Chelsea Sutton is communications coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society. She started drinking coffee at age 3 with her dad and always stays up too late reading.

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