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Surviving Savannah author talks historical research, shipwrecks and more on the PRosé podcast

Updated: 2 days ago

Cyndee Woolley and Vikki Locke spoke with Patti Callahan, a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of 16 novels, for the PRosé podcast. Callahan dished about her latest novel, Surviving Savannah, as well as how she is adjusting back to public life after COVID, and about her upcoming novel Once Upon a Wardrobe, set to be released in October 2021.

In her historical novel Surviving Savannah, Callahan braids together the stories of the shipwreck of the luxury Steamship Pulaski, which has been called "The Titanic of the South" and a modern-day treasure hunter trying to uncover the secrets of the wreck. The novel has "a modern element and a history part” explains Callahan, “the modern-day story is completely imagined. The idea of the shipwreck hunter comes from my own life, but she and characters around her are imagined.” Meanwhile, she says, “the historical part of the book is deeply researched, and all based on real people.”

The story of the steamship’s sinking in 1838 with some of Savannah’s wealthiest socialites on board had not been widely told. Callahan did extensive research about the history of the shipwreck, and while she researched, she realized treasure hunters were also trying to find the lost stories of the ship, which became her inspiration for Surviving Savannah.

Despite the time and challenge involved, Callahan says she enjoys doing historical research for her novels. “I love finding the one thing that changes everything: digging through then finding the story that flips what we know on its head. That treasure hunt is exciting, and difficult, and I want to give up, but I don’t, and I always say I won’t do it again, but I always do!” she says.

Callahan says when she was first introduced to the story, she said, “I don’t do shipwrecks!”

Listen to the podcast to find out what changed her mind and set her on course to dive into history to write Surviving Savannah, and how she considers the book to not just be about surviving the shipwreck, but about what happens after, about “surviving the survival,” and finding a new way of being after trauma.

Callahan also reveals details about her upcoming novel Once Upon a Wardrobe, about the origins of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. She also gives insight into how she reacts to reading reviews of her books (she reads nearly all of them!) and what new books she is reading right now. Listen to the podcast for even more from this veteran of historical fiction.