The mystery of this child is where he came from and where did he go? In 1864, in war-ravaged Richmond, Virginia, Varina Davis,wife of Jefferson Davis, rescued this freed orphan, took him home to live in the White House of the Confederacy and be raised with the Davis children. In the home of a slaver, a secessionist, and the President of the Confederacy, this African child lived upstairs in the nursery and was considered "our near brother" by the children. This is a human side of the Civil War that history books don't tell.
Historical fiction is my favorite to write and to read. History books give us facts, some important, some just data, but historical fiction takes us into that time and place, to feel what the participants felt, to understand their mistakes, their misinformation, their frailties. The human side of history teaches us compassion, empathy and forgiveness. Most people are well-intentioned. They do the best they can with what they know and what they have at the time. We can't look backwards and point fingers of blame. We weren't there. What we can do is study their mistakes and commemorate events so they aren't forgotten and repeated. We need to use our history to move forward where we will make our own mistakes and hope the future doesn't judge us too harshly.
I learned a lot about the Davis family members as well as Jim Limber, while researching this book. I laughed, cried, forgave, and wondered. Prepare to fall in love with this guy who calls himself Jim Limber.
Deanna K. Klingel
INTERVIEW WITH DEANNA KLINGEL
1. How did you learn of Jim?
I attend a lot of Civil War reenactments where I sell my historical fiction. One time one of the reenactors in the persona of Varina Davis sat near me. She was knitting, and complaining about the way everyone treated her and how unkind the press was to her. Southerners thought she was a spy; Northerners thought she was a traitor. "And now," she said, "is the whole Jim Limber thing. You know about Jim Limber?" I didn't, so she told me. I was so fascinated, I couldn't wait to get home and start researching. When I discovered it was a real story, I contacted the Museum of the Confederacy who invited me to come to research.
2. Amazing Jefferson Davis’s wife, the wife of the Confederacy president, rescued little Jim. Did you learn other interesting things about her?
The thing about historical fiction I enjoy the most is the human side. Here we have a slave-holding family, secessionists, who in history books are villanized. Historical fiction can take us beyond the facts and into the heart and soul of people. Varina was a a wonderful writer. In her later years as a widow she supported herself writing for magazines in New York. She kept diaries and journals and everyday she wrote letters to her husband. These weren't political, these were intimate. She wrote about the children, what they did, what they said. She was a compassionate mother. She was devoted to her husband even though she didn't share his views politically. She was realistic and was probably one of the first to recognize the hopelessness of the "lost cause." She was strong. During their escape through the swamps and forest she carried her baby more than five miles. It's time to forgive her for being married to Jefferson Davis and embrace her as a strong, caring, intelligent woman of her time.
3. How long did it take to research and write this book?
From the time I first heard the story, went to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, wrote and edited, probably about a year and a half.
4. What do you believe was Jim Limber’s greatest quality?
Jim's actual story is only fourteen months long and he was a just a little boy. As a child he struck me as an intelligent thinker. In his unusual circumstance he was able to see both sides of the society and political positions of 1864 and 1865. Beyond that is historical fiction. I portrayed him as a person who was necessarily creative. He was also honest and hard working. He was a Christian and carried with him the Biblical lessons he learned from Varina. Get ready to fall in love with this kid!
5. What happened to his parents? The mystery of Jim Limber is where he came from and what became of him. Jim was an orphan. His parents were obviously freedmen, as Jim was a freed child. There were many orphans in 1861-1865. He wasn't unusual. But no one knows how his parents died. Freed Negroes' graves were often marked with wooden crosses or structures that didn't survive the elements.
6. Anything else you’d like to add?
Reading historical fiction is a way to get to the heart and soul of history. I hope my readers, young and old, will enjoy this side of the fall of Richmond in 1864. Jim Limber is available anywhere books are sold; it was released a week ago. Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Jim.
Deanna K. Klingel lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. She's married to her childhood sweetheart; they have seven married children and eleven grandchildren. She travels regularly with her books and writes a blog twice a week on Selling Books, highlighting where she goes, the lovely people she meets, and sharing tips she learns while selling her books.
Other books: Jut for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog; Avery's Battlefield, Avery's Crossroad; Bread Upon the Water; Cracks in the Ice; Rock and a Hard Place, A Lithuanian Love Story; Beth's Birds; Amanda and the Lazy Garden Fairy. Coming in 2016, Blue-Eyed Doll; Rebecca & Heart.
This book: The Mysterious Life of Jim Limber, MG/YA, historical; published by Progressive Phoenix Rising Press LLC, released March 26,2015; available wherever books are sold
Facebook: Deanna K. Klingel