History, Romance, and SPIES! A Guest Post With Roseanna M. White!

Friends, I want to introduce you to Roseanna M. White. She is one talented lady. Publisher, Writer, Editor, Home Schooling Mama, Friend, Blogger…She does everything. Enjoy this guest post!
Yes, okay, I’m one of those. The people who just love stories of intrigue. I’ve read Robert Ludlum. I’ve watched all the Bourne movies, all the James Bond movies. I move books from my “read someday” pile to my “read NOW!” pile if I spot the word “spy” or “espionage” in the back cover copy. What can I say? They’re just so stinkin’ cool!
But alas, all my books were just historical or historical romance. I had wars, I had betrayal, but something as awesome as spies? Sigh. Nope, not me. And as I prepared for the release of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, I decided that was just a cryin’ shame. As I was putting away laundry one day (a rare feat in my house, I assure you), I was noodling ideas for another book with a similar setting to Annapolis (which is 1783) and called to mind something my husband had been watching on TV a few days before.
Notice I said he had been watching it. I’d caught the first few minutes of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and then gotten called away by one of the kiddos. But he had to tell me all about it, because he knew I’d be a sucker for that one, as it combined my love of intrigue with my love of history and told the story of the Culper Ring, America’s first organized network of spies.
Benedict Arnold – Boo, hiss! ๐Ÿ˜‰
So there I was, trying to shove a sweater into an over-full drawer, going, “Revolutionary spies. Now that had to be cool. Didn’t he say something about invisible ink or something? And Benedict Arnold? Maybe I could write a sequel to Annapolis and somehow have a character who was a…a…what were they called? Started with a ‘p’ didn’t it? Pepper? Pulitzer–ha! Hmm…honey!! What were those spies called?”
Honey, from downstairs. “Whaaaattttt?”
“What were those spies called? During the Revolution?”
“Oh. Culper Ring.”
“Right. Culper Ring. Culper Ring. Culper R—what in the world is Xoe’s sock doing in my pocket?”
Two days later, while I was doing dishes (a prime brainstorming time, though that rarely induces me to seek it out): “Now, spies. Spies in Annapolis. Or Williamsburg. Or–I wonder where they were based? I should look them up. The…um…started with a ‘p,’ right? Honey? What was that spy ring again?”
Hubby dearest, from downstairs. {sigh} “Culper Ring.”
“Right.”
“You wanna maybe write it down this time?”
“Can’t. Hands in dishwater. You wanna do the dishes for me?”
“That’s okay. I can just keep reminding you.”
๐Ÿ˜‰ I did eventually remember what they were called, but it took me a while. My ever-indulgent (and dishwashing-phobic) husband faithfully reminded me until I’d bookmarked a website about them. I read a little about them, kept trying to come up with a way to weave it into an existing plot…and then, after a couple weeks, said, “You know what? They’re too cool to be a subplot. They deserve their own book.”
So I read a little more. And thought they were so cool. I mean, secret signals! Drop locations! Invisible ink! Code names!! They even brought down Benedict Arnold, that website said!!! They’re like…like…like Colonial Bournes. Revolutionary Bonds. Total low-tech action heroes.
Fully in love with the idea of giving them their own story, I started working on the how and why and who. It went without saying (in my mind at least) that my heroine had to be a Culper. Only, an invisible, unknown one. One with some connection to the agents history has recorded for us…maybe from the same town as one of the primary agents? And now she could be in some Loyalist stronghold. Long Island, maybe, since it was all NY based. Some rich neighborhood. Or no, maybe NYC itself…I’d have to do some research. And my hero–well, he needs to be at cross-purposes with her, right? Some nice tension. Only this is me, so we need a major twist…
A scan of a page from the Culper code book
I eventually bought a really awesome book about the Ring, and received quite an education through it. Namely, that they weren’t exactly as “cool” as I thought. No action heroes. Terrible codes. Nervous dispositions. As many failures as victories–and Benedict Arnold? Yeah…not exactly their handiwork. Still. As the disillusion faded, inspiration replaced it. Because you know what–these people were just like me. Farmers and merchants and sailors and soldiers. Not Jason Bourne or James Bond. Normal. Everyday. Awesome.
Yeah, I was pretty glad I decided to give them their own story, and I had so much fun weaving the recorded history around my fictional characters. It was a challenging book to write for quite a while, with the most complicated heroine I’d ever tried to pull off. And I consider it one of my best strokes of genius that I decided my hero should be a socially bumbling chemistry nerd. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The result? A book I so love. And so, I was so thrilled when Harvest House shared my enthusiasm. Ring of Secrets just released, and the rest of the series will speculate on what might have happened to the Culper Ring during the War of 1812 and Civil War–fun stuff!
And to make the release extra fun, I put together a page where you can figure out YOUR Culper Code Name! Feel free to drop by–and while you’re there, don’t forget to take a gander at my Box of Secrets giveaway, featuring, among other things, a necklace that Susie made, one of a kind!
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