Interview with Patti: Surviving Savannah— Arts Blast
Willi Miller's Arts Blast from the Treasure Coast Vero, Florida
View Newsletter April 10, 2021
Patti Callahan's Latest - Surviving Savannah
When she puts on her historical fiction hat, as she did for Surviving Savannah, she's Patti Callahan.
We've known her for years as Patti Callahan Henry, a fan favorite, award-winning author at Florida book signings. I remember one in particular at the Vero Beach Book Center. All of her many books were propped up on a table in the order they were published.
The audience had a chuckle when we realized that the first one used huge type for the title with her name in very small print. By the time they got to the last one, her name took up most of the cover with the title much smaller.
The photograph is Patti at Waldo's for a lunch break before that signing.
She carved out time for an email Q&A about Surviving Savannah, her latest.
Very recently released, Surviving Savannah tells the story of a steamboat, the Pulaski, that sank off the coast of North Carolina in 1838, but with a modern-day twist.
Q. What drew you to the Pulaski and her tragic story?
PATTI: A local Bluffton mariner friend of mine told me about it and after the third time, I listened! As soon as I became interested about this fascinating and lost to time steamboat disaster, I discovered that a shipwreck crew had found it off the coast of North Carolina!
Finding untold stories if one of my favorite things and if it involves the area and land I love – Savannah, Georgia – all the better! I knew I wanted to tell a story about a very specific family who boarded the ship together and follow them while at the same time having a modern day story with a museum curator bringing up the artifacts of the ship!
Q. How does a writer go about researching something that happened close to 200 years ago?
PATTI: Oh the research! One goes about it with great care – digging through old boxes at the Georgia Historical Center, interviewing museum curators and finding ancient newspapers articles.
I often ask an author what she hopes readers will take away from a book.
Q. What did YOU take away from researching this disaster and the people who became your characters?
PATTI: The theme that bubbled to the surface for me was this overarching question: how do we survive the surviving? When I discovered a young boy who had survived this tragedy in really miraculous ways to go do terrible things with his life, I questioned all I’d believed about fate and meant-to-be. I wanted to explore what we do with our lives after surviving – who do we choose to be and what do we choose to do with our lives?
Q. How difficult is it to write fictionalized history and why decide to go that route?
PATTI: I truly enjoy writing about history. I love finding the untold pieces of a story and thereby expanding your view of the experience in a time you thought you knew about but didn’t. There are so many hidden pieces of history that help us not only know that time better but illuminate our time now!
Q. How are you adjusting to the virtual author appearances? When/if things ever do get back to normal, will you want to go on the road again and meet your readers in person?
PATTI: With the show Friends and Fiction, I have really become accustomed to virtual, but I miss being on the road. I miss seeing people face to face. I miss interactions and questions and deep discussions. But I do believe that in the future we will find a way to do both. There are certain positive things to virtual – for example someone who could never come in real life to an event can do attend virtually.
Q. Talk a bit about Reunion Beach, your podcasts, and Friends and Fiction, which seems to have taken off like a rocket!
PATTI: Oh, yes, there are so many projects I’ve been working on during the Pandemic and I think all of them have kept me tethered to the written word and to my work. It’s the only thing we had any control over, isn’t it?
Reunion Beach was the brain child of Dorothea Benton Frank’s editor, Carrie Ferron. Dottie’s new book was to be called Reunion Beach, so Carrie gathered a few of her author pals to write a short story each with a reunion and a beach. It comes out April 27th and already has a starred review!
Friends & Fiction
Friends and Fiction (with Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Mary Alice Monroe and me) has taken off like you said – like a rocket! A weekly web show where we interview authors and talk about stories, publishing and writing, we have tapped into and joined an astounding group of readers and writers to build a community that has sustained us all. It is also a podcast! We are live every Wednesday night on our Friends and Fiction Facebook page and on You Tube.
The Untold Story Behind Surviving Savannah Podcast Series
For my own podcast, I have one that has just been released called The Untold Story Behind Surviving Savannah. I interview experts about shipwreck hunting, the mysteries of Savannah and so much more.
Q. What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
PATTI: Reading; hiking, spending time with my family and friends, which I hope to do even more now that the world is opening up!