Edmonds writer uses family tree to research first novel

Edmonds resident Emily Hill has announced the debut of her historical novel,  “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner.” The biographical novel, which culminates 17 years of genealogy research for Hill,  is based on the life of adventurer and Civil War blockade runner C. T. Jenkins.

My Edmonds News had an opportunity to interview Hill online about her book, which can be ordered locally through the Edmonds Bookshop.

Please tell us about yourself and how you ended up in Edmonds
I moved to the Edmonds Bowl nine years ago with my husband, Barry Ehrlich, a music professor, who has lived in Edmonds for the past 33  years. My family moved to the Pacific Northwest from New Orleans the year before the infamous “last person please turn out the lights‟ phase of Seattle‟s history. I am the product of my father‟s many military and Boeing-related transfers.
Before I began my current lifestyle as a full-time writer I had a long career as the University of Washington‟s Public Records Officer. My first job, however, was working as a publication assistant and feature writer for the corporate newspaper, Weyerhaeuser Today. In college I had an internship writing features for the Des Moines News.

What inspired you to write “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner”? How long did it take you to write the book?
That‟s an interesting question. I wasn’t as much inspired to write “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner” as I was compelled by my history and ancestors to bring back the story of my ancestral uncle on the anniversary of his 200th birthday. C.T. Jenkins, my main character and a Civil War uncle, was born in 1811. I wanted the book to be available to my family and my readers by 2011.

I started writing the novel from the perspective of a genealogist, and C.T. Jenkins is a genealogist’s dream come true. Jenkins wrote letters to Washington D. C., which are catalogued in the Library of Congress; he rode with Newburne‟s Company of Mounted Rifles and he was an original “rifleman.” Jenkins was less than a mile away, unwittingly riding into the renowned Dade Massacre, and was saved by not being able to cross the rushing torrents of Florida‟s Hillsboro River. Jenkins also was among the first settlers to take advantage of the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. All of these incidents are available “in the record‟ and have become the basis of my book.

During the Civil War, Jenkins was captured and tried for treason as a blockade runner off the coast of Florida – a tale told in many newspapers over the past 150 years. One incident after another regarding his life revealed itself to me in “stranger than fiction‟ fashion, and two years after I began the novel I was sitting with a 93,000-word manuscript that had to be edited down. I had spent 15 years researching the novel and two years writing it.

You ask what challenges I faced. I’m more of a storyteller than a classically trained writer, so I realized that I would need the help of a good editor. I hired Jason Black to work with me and “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner” is the result of our collaboration. The biggest challenge has been to not rush to publication. I‟ve tried to stay true to my family‟s publishing background by producing a clean, near-perfect product that showcases what I hope is an exciting, riveting story that historical novel enthusiasts will embrace.

In addition to being an author, you describe yourself as a “publishing coach.”  Tell us more about that.
Because of the economy, more and more emerging writers are being published by smaller publishing houses, specialty presses that do not have editors and artists on staff. Larger publishing houses that in the past would have offered new authors a full suite of services are either closing or facing merger. I assist debut authors in their publishing aspirations, connecting them with premier editors and illustrators who have strong publication background so that when they do publish, they present their readers with a quality product.

I am a member of the organization, Small Publishers Association of North America, and serve on their Professional Independent Publisher committee. This gives me insight into what changes are taking place in the publishing industry. This spring I will present a workshop, “All Smart Cookies Can Self Publish” to Edmonds Community College‟s BizArt Conference. I‟m thrilled over that invitation.

What are your future plans? Do you have another book in the works?
For the next year I plan to devote myself to book signings and events related to “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner.” My next novel is titled “The Tailors of Baltimore: A Civil War Story.” It would be my dream to complete four historical novels in my lifetime. We‟ll see.

  1. I have only read part of the book, but am hooked. The author’s passion and her empathy with the characters are shining through every page.

  2. I very much enjoyed this book. Looking forward to more from this author.

  3. Historical novels are an excellent way to learn history. I look forward to reading the book and becoming better informed as well as enjoying a good story. I will send a copy of the article to a couple of my wife’s relatives. Her father’s brother placed a Confederate flag in his coffin to make sure that his heart was still with the Confederacy, I guess.

  4. Great story and well written. I found it a fun book to read, I liked your style of writing, it was very pleasing.

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