I believe that writers can write about any subject. And, as we all know, subjects have a way of finding writers. The Marker was just that kind of story: the subject found me.
It happened after I purchased a Civil War memorial grave marker in an antique shop. After investigating the authenticity of the post-war piece, I learned it was taken from a Natchez cemetery in 1952 from the grave of an Unknown Soldier. Two things immediately happened: I decided to write a book, and, upon completion, return the marker to the cemetery.
It didn’t take long for the storyline to unfold; it would be written in present day. But in order to move forward, I had to go back in time to the spring of 1867, to a makeshift graveyard in Mississippi. That’s where a gravedigger made a heartrending discovery. Clutched in the skeletal hand of a fallen Civil War combatant was an engraved US belt buckle.
Success! I had my backstory. But something was wrong. In the prologue, my character is a Confederate soldier. Why was he left to die with no identification except for the unmistakable Union buckle? And with that question, the story moved from a silent graveyard to the hustle and bustle of a Manhattan publishing office, where a riveting fictional narrative began to take shape.
Jennifer Beasley, a journalist, trying to put her life back together after a messy divorce, purchases a grave marker at an antique shop. While in her hand, the marker becomes the conduit between her and the Confederate soldier, caught between the world of the living and the hereafter. The soldier pleads that she writes his story.
Believing that she’s having a mental breakdown, she reluctantly goes to the Natchez cemetery where a face-to-face encounter takes place. What she learns is enough to convince her that she must find this soldier’s family and uncover the truth. But the truth soon leads to startling discoveries that bring past transgressions to the present. Before long, Jennifer’s life and the lives of those involved are in great peril.
One of the many amazing events that take place when a manuscript unfolds is the interaction between a writer and his/her characters. They seem to lead the way by dictating the dialogue and stubbornly suggesting that they don’t like the path they’re on. In The Marker, Jennifer Beasley didn’t like the ending. I was forced to change it; and I’m glad I listened to my character.