An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois. The "dare from a friend" to begin writing has produced two parenting books, fourteen novels and various national speaking engagements on faith, women's issues, and writing.
So as Allie was here earlier this year with her release FALLING FOR THE FIREMAN and has already answered my favourite question that begins with a trip and ends with - Life hasn't been quite the same since... , I came up with a number of alternatives and Allie was ambitious enough to tackle them all.
Take us on a journey to that era of WWI and tell us a story your research uncovered that most intrigued you:
Things started when I began wandering through military museums looking for that one thread to pluck and pull. That's the way stories come together for me--I find one little detail or object and follow that trail to another, and so on. I found the tale of a Charleston soldier who climbed out on the stay-wires of his dirigible over France and saved the crew. The museum displayed his leather flight helmet and the medal of honor he received for his bravery. That got me thinking about what it would be like to be hanging miles above the ocean trying to save your own skin and the lives of those around you. What would that do to a man? What if the medal represented something completely different to him than what the bestowers intended? None of this is the actual historical facts, it's just where my imagination took me as I stared at the helmet.
What unique and interesting paths your research may have taken you on:
Like most of my stories, this one started out as one thing and quickly became something completely different. It started out as a Charleston story of the homefront during World War I. It became more about the Army Base in Columbia (about 100 miles away) and the challenges brought there by the Spanish Influenza epidemic toward the end of the war. I learned that the university had been locked down in quarantine during the scare, and that seemed like a great place to bring characters. Researching this book took me by chance to Jackson Army Base during the 10th anniversary commemoration of 9/11, which was a tremendously moving experience for me.
What real life story prompted you to create your fictional characters?
Other than the airman's story above, it was the "Knit Your Bit" posters for the Red Cross socks for soldiers campaign that caught my eye. Being a serious knitter myself, I took this as an invitation to bring my love of yarn and needles into the story. When I read a detail (somewhere, I can't even find where) about the press to get boys involved because women and girls still weren't enough to meet the need, my brain fused the facts into the plot that became HOMEFRONT HERO. The campaign in the book never really took place, but if I'd been around during WWI, it's probably a stunt I would have tried.
Blurb from Homefront Hero:
Dashing and valiantly wounded, Captain John Gallows could have stepped straight out of an army recruitment poster. Leanne Sample can't help being impressed--although the lovely Red Cross nurse tries to hide it. She knows better than to get attached to the daring captain who is only home to heal and help rally support for the war's final push. As soon as he's well enough, he'll rush back to Europe, back to war--and far away from South Carolina and Leanne. But when an epidemic strikes close to home, John comes to realize what it truly means to be a hero--Leanne's hero.
Excerpt from Homefront Hero:
Here's a glimpse of their first meeting. Leanne and her nurse friend Ida are staring at a poster lauding Captain Gallow's next rally appearance:
"'Hear the daring exploits of Army Captain John Gallows," Ida read aloud. "Thrill to the tale of how he saved lives at the risk of his own.' Well where I come from gallows is something to be feared."
Leanne could only laugh. Some days Ida sounded as if West Virginia were the wild, wild West. "Oh, that might still be true here. The Gallowes are a very formidable Charleston family."
"Have you met them?"
"I've not had the pleasure, but I believe our fathers know each other back in Charleston. A fine family going back for generations."
Ida leaned back and crossed her arms while eying the dashing photograph of Captain Gallows that illustrated the announcement. "Fine indeed. He's certainly handsome enough." She adjusted her stiff white apron as if primping for the photograph's admiration. Ida did like to be admired, especially by gallant army officers. "I can't think of a better way to spend our first free evening off base. Perhaps he'll let me sketch him."
"I'd be delighted to sit for you," came a deep voice behind them. "Especially if you are so partial to handsome war heroes."
Ida and Leanne spun on their heels to find the very man depicted in the photograph. Complete with the dashing smile. Even out of his dress uniform--for he wore a coat, but not one as fancy or as full of medals as the one in the photograph--he was every bit the U.S. Army poster-boy hero. His dark hair just barely contained itself in its slick comb-back underneath his cap. He carried himself with unmistakably military command--Leanne suspected she'd have known he was an officer even in civilian clothes. He certainly was very sure of himself--a long moment passed before Leanne even noticed he leaned jauntily on a cane.
Ida planted one hand on her hip. "Well--" her voice grew silky "--no one can fault you for an excess of modesty. Still my daddy always said a healthy ego was a heroic trait, so I suppose I can let it slide, Captain Gallows." She drew out her pronunciation of his name with a relish that made Leanne flush.
Captain Gallows was evidently all-to-accustomed to such attentions, for he merely widened his dashing smile and gave a short bow to each of them. "How do you do?" He pointed to the sign. "Say you'll attend tonight's event, and my fears of facing an audience full of dull-faced students will be put to rest."
"Are you one of the four Minute Men, then?" Leanne asked. Her father had been asked to serve on the nationally launched volunteer speakers board, called "Four Minute Men" for the prescribed length of their speeches, but Papa had declined. Still, from the superlatives on his bill, Captain Gallows could go on for four hours and still hold his audience captive.
"The best. They give me as long as I want. They tell me I'm enthralling."
"I have no doubt they do. I'm Ida Lee Landway, and this is my friend Leanne Sample. We're just joining the nursing staff at the base hospital."
The captain tipped his hat. "How fortunate for our boys in the wards, Miss Landway, Miss Sample. I'm delighted to meet you. Tell me what I can say to convince you to come to the rally."
"Oh, it won't take much," Ida cooed.
"We were just on our way over to town early and already planning to attend," Leanne corrected. "No persuasion will be required." He certainly seemed a cocky sort, this Captain Gallows.
"I'm not so sure," he replied with a disarming grin. "I was on campus this morning and one of the students told me she would come, but she would bring her knitting. Not the kind of response I'm used to, I must say. I'm trying to see it as a patriotic act, not an expectation of my inability to fascinate."
Visit Allie at her website at www.alliepleiter.com or at her knitting blog www.DestiKNITions.blogspot.com.
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