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Writing Year 9 of 10 – How to Dust Off Historical Characters: Captain Garrison, with Rachael Lofgren

When I wrote Captain Garrison, I delved into a time I knew almost nothing about. I hunted for the common threads of humanity that united our era to that of the captain’s.

(Listen to this post here or click on the little Anchor symbol in the upper right hand corner to take you to other options for listening.)

I remember when we visited on Staten Island I tried to mentally peel back the layers of civilization and imagine what it looked like when Nicholas lived there.

For awhile in the fall of 2018, I walked around the house carrying a taper candle for light. That’s a little extreme, I suppose, since it’s also a fire hazard. But I was in the zone!

It’s a tricky thing to bring life to the long dead.

To discuss this topic further, I called Rachael Lofgren, author of eight books with TGS International in the last ten years. Like me, Rachael has just recently delved into historical fiction. Here the are. Out of the Depths, Journey to Joy, Seventeen-Ounce Miracle, Trailblazer, Against the Odds, Doxology in Darkness, Like a Mighty Giant, and Precious, Handle with Care. See all of her books here.

Rachael is currently working on a project set in the 1600’s. Even though we see dry names and dates from these times, these distant people vibrated with life. They snored loudly, wheezed with laughter, or told lame jokes. I asked Rachael to talk about bringing these ancient people to life in writing.

People living in the 1600’s Were Real People

“People are people wherever they fall in the span of history,” Rachael says. “That has really kept me grounded.”

In her current writing project, Rachael is trying to understand the world view her characters would have operated under in the 1600’s, yet still incorporate those into the humanity of the people she is writing about.

Humanity doesn’t change. People in the 1600’s really were not different from us. They really did have personalities! But those personalities do not come through in the writings we have from those times.

What About Other Eras?

Much of the same can be said of Biblical fiction, stories written during Bible times. If anything, could Biblical fiction be more difficult?

I asked Rachael if she has ever written fiction set in Bible times. She laughed, and said she did write a novel as a teenager. We both laughed awhile, reflecting on the piles of projects all writers have from the past.

“Is it easier to write a story set in the 1600’s than it is to write fiction set in Bible times?” I ask Rachael.

“I think that I probably feel less scruples surrounding it,” Rachael says, “in the sense that Scripture is so important to us and we need to preserve its accuracy of course. But I think as historians, that same bearing witness to the truth is an important element of what we bring into our storytelling.”

There are great benefits of working closer to the present. When you work with World War II history, as Rachael did in Journey to Joy, the task is much easier. There is so much information available. Rachael interviewed a woman who remembered terrible battles but did not know the dates. With online searching, Rachael matched the woman’s memories with the recorded battles.

Both she and I agree – detective work is thrilling!

Someone will always find a mistake!

I wish I could have gone to Germany and had all the Moravian documents about Nicholas Garrison translated. It simply wasn’t practical. But here’s the truth. Someone in Germany might read Captain Garrison, and then go to the archives and find documents that disprove certain aspects of this work.

Besides that, odds are that if a historian or another writer reads your book, they will find something you missed. I told Rachael that I got an email from another writer pointing out a mistake in Captain Garrison. It was a very kind email, and she said she had enjoyed the book. But paper bags were not in existence then. So how did the Garrison father bring cinnamon home from Manhattan in a paper bag?


Rachael and I conclude that there will always be people who find those mistakes, but it is not possible to write a fictionalized story for those people. We need to do the best we can. But we can’t spend ten years on one project! We write stories, not histories.

Precious, Handle With Care

After talking with Rachael, I remembered that I had wanted to read her new book, Precious, Handle with Care. I purchased it, and binge read it on Saturday night. Anyone with a special needs child who frequents the hospital, anyone involved in foster care or adoption, or anyone who has experienced a miscarriage will identify with this story. I also recommend it for people who have friends experiencing these things. Based on a true story, this book grapples with such topics as how to help someone in difficult situations without making things worse for them. It lets you into the mind of a real mother grappling with extreme trials. The book also starts with several fascinating chapters of backstory about the child in question. Once again, you can find Precious, Handle with Care, here.

Grand Opening Specials

Anyone who has read or purchased Captain Garrison is welcome to enter the drawing by commenting below on this blog from now until Saturday morning at 6am. Tell me where you got the book or something you liked about it and you will be automatically entered for a chance to win a $100 cash prize (separate from the one mentioned above). The same person cannot win both $100 cash drawings!

For those of you that haven’t gotten a Captain Garrison yet, you can get it here.

  • 10% off through Saturday with code 10YEARS – Two more days!
  • Purchasing from my online store automatically enters you into a second cash prize drawing for $100
  • Free leather bookmark with purchase.

Sale ends Saturday! Only two days left to get books 10% off with code 10YEARS. Thank you for your orders from Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alberta, and Iowa!

Thanks, Susan, for alerting me today to a problem with buying downloads. I think it is fixed now, but please email me if there are any future problems.

Leo and Larry’s Trivia for readers – On Page 302 of Captain Garrison. While sailing past England, the lookout calls down from the mast with a warning. Nicholas’ daughter Katie says, “Is there danger, Father?” How does Nicholas answer? The first person to email me with the correct answer ( receives TWO pouches of Captain Garrison coffee by mail! You may not win twice. ALREADY TAKEN! Nicholas replied, “Yes.” Thanks for playing, from Leo & Larry. 🙂

Congrats to Dawn from Pennsylvania (my cousin!) who won the last trivia with the correct three trees in the refugee’s garden: pomegranate, olive, and pear.

Saturday! The final lesson on writing will focus on research and the upcoming book Thomas Kirkman: Artist, Spy, Amish Man. You will get to listen in to a real live research conversation when I make a phone call to Tom’s son Brad to ask a question. I’m also hoping to get Marnell to join me for this final podcast.

Good luck on the drawing!

79 thoughts on “Writing Year 9 of 10 – How to Dust Off Historical Characters: Captain Garrison, with Rachael Lofgren”

  1. I received your book as a gift. It was very interesting and I love your manner of writing. I could picture that era and the happenings. I have a deep admiration Captain Garrison’s wife loved and released him again & again to go on the voyages. How wonderful to read about repentance & redemption in his life!

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Yes she is quite the woman! And the fact that she got so sick at sea is documented in a diary.

  2. Rachel Miller

    Dear Katrina,
    I sent a comment yesterday and I am not seeing my name,but I really enjoyed Captain Garrison! It was a book that took lots of searching, but history has always been one of my favorites for my reading. We got the books from TGS and have been grateful for all your hard work. Rachel Miller

  3. Janeen Histand

    It also amazed me at how you portray he faced death without God. Him blaming himself so much for Seger’s death and then the nightmares along the way. Then the difference shown in the death’s of his own children after he has found the Savoir.

  4. I am currently reading the Captain Garrison book. I have enjoyed trying to imagine how Staten Island, and the surrounding area must have looked during that time. I also like the reminder that Nicholas was given that his doubt while in storms, was not abnormal that only once he reached heaven would he perfectly trust.

  5. I was intrigued by the storms you described while on sea. Incredible for me to imagine but you did well had making me feel like ai was on the ship in the storm! Thanks for all your hard work in writing so we can benefit from history!! Keep it up!
    I also enjoyed reading about the Moravians since we had visited the Moravian community when in Europe on an Anabaptist tour in 1995.

  6. I was about to order a case of Captain Garrison to sell at our retail business., and before they arrived my sister in law gifted me a copy.

    I enjoyed the read and was especially impressed with the amount of research you invested. You’d given us some behind the scenes insights about that research beforehand and I found that especially meaningful. I’m eager for the Kirkman story!

  7. My dad carried it around and read it in early December and I sneaked peeks at it when he wasn’t reading it . I received my copy at Christmas 😊. It was worth the wait!

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      There’s nothing is complicating as two people trying to read a book at the same time is there?! I’m glad you got your own!

  8. Denise Bontrager

    I really enjoyed the book. You gave it to me to read and give an honest opinion about it. I am not much of a historian but I enjoyed reading about this era and seeing how difficult their lives were. I would recommend it to anyone!!

  9. My boss brought us the book when he came for a visit. I’m looking forward to reading it in the near future.

  10. I won Captain Garrison when you did a giveaway when it first published. We’ve been reading it together in the evenings for several months now, and are really loving it! It’s taking so long because during the summer we didn’t have time to read in the evenings very often; now that it’s winter here, and gets dark early, we have the time again. We’ve just gotten to where he first met the Moravians, and are really wondering what happens next. I hope we get around early enough to read tonight!

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Fascinating, Emma! For a second I thought you were confused until I remembered you live in the Southern Hemisphere!

  11. I purchased Captain Garrison off of Amazon when i ordered dome other books for my mom. Historical fiction is always my favorite! I love to learn about true people and places but to have it in interesting story form while i learn! 🙂

  12. I won a slightly damaged book from you! I loved how radically Jesus changed Nicolas’ life and the way he totally gave himself to serving Jesus.

  13. Catherine Yoder

    I received the book for Christmas because I put it on my wish list 🙂 I have really been enjoying the podcasts as I do “mindless” work. I was waiting for you to share the advice you gave me one frustrating day – “Try not to hate your editor.” It was very useful advice!

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Yes Catherine! I just got a huge critique from an editor on a small project I did. It’s tough but I’m truly grateful for it!

  14. Donella Wadel

    I bought Captain Garrison for my son for Christmas. He loved reading it, and I need to go dig it out of his room so I can. =)
    -Donella Wadel
    P.S. Really enjoying the podcasts. The one on The Lost Pines and interview with Debra really inspired me!

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks Donella. So true. Debra’s story inspires me too. And I’m cracking up that you need to go “dig” the book out of your son’s room! Typical of boys!

  15. Letitia Wadel

    I was privileged to be able to get Captain Garrison straight from you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and is on my list of recommendations!

  16. My grandma got the book from my aunt Denise 😉and I said please you must let me read it when you’re I did..and I really enjoyed it👍👍😊

  17. I recieved a copy straight from you, thank you so much!! I enjoyed reading it and comparing aspects of life in that part of history, to aspects of our life. I also enjoyed promoting the book, as my husband read it to his school students. They enjoyed as well from what we heard! My brother was reading it as well to his students at a different school. I’m not sure if they were able to finish it or not because of COVID-19.

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks for your help Julie! I never thought about how it would be for story time books to get cut short. Just another casualty I guess!

  18. I bought the book over the Thanksgiving / Black Friday weekend. I have not read it yet… Once, on a last minute run out the door, I grabbed it in case I finished my other book. My husband saw I had it n said, “Hey, don’t read that! We’re going to read it together.” 😉 The book still waits… 😉

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Interesting! That’s neat that he told you to wait! I love reading books with my husband as well.

  19. Jalisa Martin

    I actually borrowed the book from someone else but because I so greatly enjoyed it, I ordered one from CLP for my Mom’s birthday. It was a book with different history than I have read n I found it quite interesting.

  20. Katrina Rudolph

    I got my copy of Captain Harrison from my parents for Christmas last year. I’ve always enjoyed your books because we have the same first name, but this one was extra special because you signed your name in the front of it. The story was very thrilling and hard to put down.

  21. Faith Sommers

    I was shopping out of state at an aunt’s little store. Oh YAY! Captain Garrison! I still love a real book to read while traveling. And I love historical fiction if it’s well done. This is

  22. I ordered my book from you but Felicity got to it first. She just finished it and said, “Wow, Katrina is a really good writer!” I’m looking forward to starting it next as I just finished the book I was reading . And I love the leather bookmark too!

  23. Jamie Schrock

    I just purchased Captain Garrison and am looking forward to reading it! I love reading your books.

  24. I found out that Rose Miller was going to have your book at the women’s seminar last fall but I was not able to be there. So I asked Jeanie to get me two, one for myself and one for Daniel’s birthday gift. You were here for the seminar and signed them both!

  25. I bought Captain Garrison from TGS. I was told by Bobby Miller that it was the type of historical fiction they wanted to see coming off their press. I was impressed by our publisher’s confidence in you. You should be proud! Well done. Following your example over here. 😉

  26. We got the book in a bundle from CAM, and it was so interesting. My 13 year old was asking about this book when he heard I won coffee for the trivia question. He doesn’t enjoy reading, but does like stories read aloud, so maybe we will read it as a family. An interesting side note, my sister had a stillborn baby boy a year ago, and they named him Garrett.

  27. I purchased Captain Garrison from Miller’s bookstore, our friendly neighborhood go to place for good books! I hadn’t know much about Moravians and after reading this, did some more research about the group. Very interesting book!

  28. Mary Beth Martin

    I ordered Captain Garrison from you! I enjoyed it and read it to my children as well. It made me realize how many blessings we have, and how soft we really are. Those people endured so much hardship and sadness, yet did not give up in despair. It’s amazing, humbling, and challenging.

  29. We got our book from TGS. I enjoyed the educational part and learning about sailing and life back in his day. Another favorite thing about it was how vivid the descriptions were; sometimes it felt like you were right there!
    Thank you for writing it!

  30. I just love the story of how I got my copy of Captain Garrison! I had put off ordering it right away because in all honesty I really thought I wouldn’t enjoy it. 😏🤦🏼‍♀️ Anyways then your Dad and Jeanie we’re coming to MS and I asked Jeanie if she could get the book and I would buy it from her and get free shipping! 😂 And then she gave me the book! And I did enjoy the book but I remember thinking that it was just a sad book. So much death. 😢

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      That’s fascinating, Faith! You never should feel pressured to read something of mine. 😀 But I’m glad you liked it!

    2. My husband gave me Captain Garrison for Christmas. I remember him giving it to me earlier in December because he knew I wanted the book and he didn’t want me to go out and buy it myself before Christmas😊. I loved the book, thanks for a good read!
      Maria Martin

  31. I really enjoyed Captain Garrison, one reason being it’s a very different setting than I am familiar with (Moravians, ships, 1700s).

    1. I bought the book from our local bookstore!! I haven’t had a chance to read it yet! But my husband read it and really enjoyed it!!

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