How Writing a Gothic Filled in My Family Line

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Stone of Her Destiny Coming Soon

Last year, 2012-13, was my first year as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the Dunn chapter which meets at Triangle Enterprise South. I came in on my grandmother’s DAR number, and one of my three Scottish lines of ancestry, due to the prompting of my husband’s cousin.

My husband’s cousin first asked me to consider DAR membership in Fayetteville.

That got the ball rolling for me, and now I look forward this fall to continuing to meet other ladies interested in their heritage. Loving your lineage is something I haven’t always appreciated, in spite of living in Averasboro, on the extension of a Civil War battleground, and in spite of descending from seven generations of Scots all the way back to the sister of the first one who entered our area arriving on the boat, The Thistle, in 1736 on the Cape Fear River. These Scots are buried just miles from me, trailing up the land I live on that was owned for seven generations, one past the original land grant.

My uncle, now deceased, was a skilled genealogist who along with another cousin researched our ancestry in Scotland beyond our borders.

My cousin has taken on the history and genealogy of the area and our family.

Grandmother used to recount who was kin to me from 2nd to 32nd cousins.

Lebanon, an antebellum plantation, figures in my current work in progress, the novel Stone of Her Destiny.

When I had the idea of writing a novel set both in Scotland and right here in the U.S.A, I began researching Scottish connections, and suddenly the excitement built, and the picture changed. Nor was it just one thing that accomplished this transformation of mind.

Historical research contributed. I discovered that the Scottish settlement that started near me was among the densest and most important settlements of Scots in America, so the sheer political power and influence of these people who were my own people was immense. One thing that impressed me was the sheer volume of Scottish settlers in the area. I had had an inkling of this earlier, since I knew innumerable “Mc’s,” but never realized the full extent of it. It stretched from Wilmington to Dunn to Fayetteville to Bladenboro and beyond.

Impressive as that was, the next revelation mattered even more to me personally: the land I lived on was the same Scottish settlement that began in 1736 when Colonel Alexander McAlester arrived in North Carolina. And similar tracts of Scottish settlers quilted together from Old Bluff Presbyterian Church cemetery near Wade all the way down to our own piece of property and beyond, property that changed hands only at death and then, to heirs.

The antebellum house my mother was first in line for as the oldest she did not inherit, was a wedding gift of Ferry John Smith and Elizabeth Smith to son Farquhard Campbell Smith and his wife Sally (Sarah Grady) in 1824.

My mother and my father had a go at saving Lebanon

Looking forward to the finished novel, the projected title is Stone of Her Destiny, Kenna, the heroine will have a fictionalized version of my own lineage which takes her to Tarbert and Campbelltown, where her forebears lived and emigrated from in Scotland. It is there that the fictional heroine, Kenna, meets and falls in love with her kilt-wearing Scottish hero, Lane, who she realizes is kin to her. She sets up in a money-losing castle and begins life amongst ghosts and other people’s connections.

Then she travels back to the U.S. and the author’s lineage for half years for relief, a relief that does not come. At Lebanon, her safe home base, she meets more ghosts from the plantation’s past depression years, and—you guessed it—international intrigue which involves her, Lane, Lebanon, Bluff Presbyterian Church, and the Cape Fear River.

All that historical research actually established lineage here and abroad to the degree  that the preposterous plot my fevered brain designed could actually have happened…well, given the other things that come into play in the novel.

I began wearing out the highway to Old Bluff Cemetery, taking photographs of all the tombstones of kin, immersing myself in the history and connections of the area. I knew all the ones who were “kin,” but at that point, I did not know the exact ones who were ‘begets.’ So I traveled from site to site, gleaning information and gathering together as many expert books as I could find.

I consulted a copy of the now out-of-print McAlester book in four parts, one of the four being my direct ancestor’s tracings. On the Fayetteville/Cumberland County site, I pulled up “Descendants of Farquhard Campbell,” and began lifting out only my own direct line and putting them on separate lines.

Suddenly my line linked all the way to the first ship to come over from Scotland. My family descended from the sister of Colonel Alexander McAlester, Isabel McAlester, who married Farquhard Campbell and was his first wife….the link clicked exactly for seven generations and was suddenly complete.

Once the link to my forebears’ past was acknowledged, the Scottish excitement began. Then my husband and I traveled to Scotland in October of 2011 and re-traced as much of our ancestors’ paths as we could document, traveling from Tarbert to Campbelltown, where they set sail.

My husband’s forebears descended from Colonel Alexander McAlester, making us distant cousins on the family tree—an interesting aside. His home place and plantation is just up the same highway from us.

Now those we traced were McAlesters. But let’s have a go at Campbells. And oh, I didn’t mention it, but my DAR connection is not based on the line I completed for the book at all. My grandmother belonged to the DAR’s based on the ‘patriot,’ William Cromartie. Add to that Smith, there may even be a fourth strain. I am pretty certain our Smith forebears are English, but I understand there are Smith Scots, as well, and the overseas connections of this line have not been authenticated as of this writing.

My list passed the unerring critical (the definition here is ‘discerning’) eye of my cousin who is the “laird’ at Lebanon Plantation who looked at my notes and confirmed every single one. Being a Smith, he had been following that line more exclusively and not the McAlester-Campbell connection.

How much does this figure in the book Stone of Her Destiny?

Actually, quite heavily, but I’m not giving any spoiler alert, except that, like all gothic novels, the Scottish castle is dark, the Plantation is dark, ghosts or things that go bump in the night abound, the hero loves the heroine madly, but there is always some question about him.

The heroine is chased from dungeon to parapet, from cemetery to attic, from country to country before she can finally breathe one sigh of relief, and dare we say or hope for it? Live happily ever after.

I am writing madly away at this book, and it is projected as a 95,000-word novel.

Research is one of the more fun aspects of writing a novel, and if even a small percentage of what I read and absorb weaves into my book, I will be happy. My novels are mainstream contemporary gothic romance novels—to string a lot of buzz words together that form the book’s appeal. I hope they string you along as well.

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