Thursday, September 21, 2023

Village Without Men

JANICE:  My historical novel, Village Without Men: Sophie’s Second Journal, is here! A sequel to Sophie's War, it continues her story of survival in Comfort, Texas, during the Civil War. The cover portrait was painted by my son Karl, using a teenage photo of me since I had to become Sophie to write her journal.

Why are there no men in the village? you may ask. Read on ...

The German immigrants in Comfort and the hill country were Unionists living in a state that had left the Union and joined the Confederacy. Thus they were in constant danger. They were called traitors and persecuted. Men were hanged and cabins burned. As the war goes on, all the able men in Comfort have been forced to leave and fight on one side or the other, including Sophie’s papa and her true love, Eduard. The only choices were to fight for slavery or escape to the North and fight for the Union. Thus the women were left to protect themselves from vigilantes and hostile Indians, as they wonder if their men will ever come home.

Books make connections that never would have been made without the book. Judy Ireson, artist and former master teacher, and I connected over Sophie's War in an extraordinary way, as if we were destined to meet and create a book together. I would probably not have written Village Without Men without her. 

This is how it happened ...

Judy once lived in Nashville and frequented Parnassus Books. On one occasion a bookseller recommended Sophie's War, but Judy did not want a war book. Still, she did not forget it.


Time moved on and so did Judy - to Austin. At a holiday bazaar, she again encountered Sophie's War as well as the author, and bought the book, telling me of the coincidence of finding it again, as if by fate. After reading it, she told me, "I love this book and it demands a sequel."










I had thought of writing a sequel, but did not know what would happen to the characters. And so we began meeting once a week, planning the plot, discussing my chapters one by one, which I read aloud to her. In turn she brought drawings for me to critique, drawings of places she had been and people she knew. They were so good, I asked her to draw two illustrations for the book, one of Sophie's papa, a self portrait. And here is the result.


I did much research for Sophie's War in libraries, online, and on site. I made many trips to Comfort where people welcomed me with open arms, including a descendant of one of the founders. I spent days during the different seasons absorbing the sights and sounds of Comfort and the countryside, watching the sun rise over Cypress Creek and sheep grazing in the meadow below Sophie's homestead. I listened to the wind sough in the liveoak branches and felt myself becoming Sophie.

For Village Without Men I also needed to research San Antonio and the Menger Hotel, which was built in 1859 and still stands, as elegant as ever.


William Menger also plays a role in the story. A stalwart citizen, hotel builder and owner, consummate business man, and Chief of the San Antonio Fire Department. What a guy! Here he is in his chief's uniform.


And so, after five years Judy and I have a book, Village Without Men, which is available from Amazon and from your favorite bookstore, either on the shelf or by ordering. We wish you good reading.

A promise: After reading this book you will never think of the Civil War in the same way again. 

                                                    Judy  and  Janice