Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guest Post: Fern J. Hill author of Charley's Choice

Fern J. Hill, author of the book Charley's Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.

The Weaving of an Historical Novel
by Fern J. Hill

How could a nineteenth-century woman become a stagecoach driver during the California gold rush era? How did she pull it off without her acquaintances guessing her gender? I had to know.

I researched and read everything I could about Charley Parkhurst, the time period as it pertained to the colonies/United States in the nineteenth century, the places she lived, the people she knew, the work she loved, and her amazing accomplishments, not the least of which was being the first woman known to have voted in the 1868 federal election.

The more I found out about her the more fascinated I became. I gleaned articles from the internet, received large envelopes of requested information from the Pajaro Valley Historical Society, the Santa Cruz County Public Library and the Worcester Historical Museum. I read books through interlibrary loan about Charley Parkhurst, orphanages during the early 1800s, driving 6-ups. I bought books to add to my personal research library and poured over them. Slowly, a timeline spread across some 60 pages of notes and a 4 inch notebook grew plump. I compared versions of stories written about her with known facts gleaned from official records.

I researched everything from orphanages to snakes, from loading antique guns to midwifery, from driving 6-ups to 1860s politics. I left nothing to chance. The facts revealed a strong, quiet woman. A woman of good character and soft heart. As I learned more about Charlotte “Charley” Darkey Parkhurst, the more I liked and respected her. Charley’s Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst is a fictional biography of Charley’s life and has won the WILLA Award for Historical Fiction and the GLVWG Award for Best Book-length Fiction for 2009.

For those who would like to know what parts of Charley’s Choice are factual visit my web site (www.fernjhill.com) for an abbreviated list of facts that formed the timeline of Charley’s life.

About the book:

Charley Parkhurst ran away from an orphanage, worked hard learning horse craft, and, over the ensuing years, earned a hallmark reputation driving a six-up in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Georgia, and California during the gold rush era. When death overtook Charley, many long-time friends and acquaintances were astounded to learn the tough old stage-driver was a well-endowed woman and one-time mother. A member of the all male Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Charley was the only woman known to have voted in California during the 1868 federal election, fifty-two years before women won the right to vote.

About Fern:

The author of Charley’s Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst Fern J. Hill is also a small-business owner who edits and formats books, doctoral dissertations and masters’ theses. Fern is an active member of Women Writing the West and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hello, ladies! I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail, Beth. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Lisa Tomarelli said...

Had such fun learning history the Fern Hill way---and Charley's story is as inspiring in this century as it was then! I recommend this book to history lovers and non-lovers alike! It's also a story of fortitude and persistence...always a great read for motivating us to be our true selves, no matter what the price.

vanessa said...

I loved Charley's Choice by Fern Hill. Very detailed and suspenseful.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

What a great read and a very interesting premise. I enjoyed Charley's Choice immensely. Good job, Fern.

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