I spoke with my mother on the telephone not too long ago and mentioned I was reading a novel about Lewis and Clark, two of her favorite historical figures. It is a sure bet that I will be loaning her my copy of Frances Hunter's The Fairest Portion of the Globe when I see her this summer. I am sure she will enjoy it as much as I did (stop by tomorrow to read my review of the novel!).
I am excited to have the authors of the historical fiction novels, To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark and The Fairest Portion of the Globe, here today. Please join me in welcoming Liz and Mary Clare (& Junebug too) to Musings of a Bookish Kitty!
First of all, thanks for Wendy for the invitation to write a guest post for Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Before we get started, our rabbit Junebug asked us to convey the following message to Parker: “Bunnies can be bookish too! I love books; in fact, I devour them, whenever I get the chance. My favorites are those big, coffee-table size photography books. The more expensive the better. Why settle for anything less?”
Now to our story, which starts with obsession and an unanswered question. It begins with a partnership between two people who are driven to learn, to explore, to inquire. A pair of friends who are willing to risk it all to achieve a shared dream. Who share an uncommon bond. Who, when confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, won’t take no for an answer.
The story starts with two crazy sisters who became, in their own imaginations, the two greatest American explorers who ever lived.
Our names are Liz and Mary Clare, though we write under the moniker of Frances Hunter. Our obsession began in 2003, in the darkness of an IMAX theater, where we had come to see the National Geographic film, “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West.” As the story unfolded on the screen, we were captivated not only by the gorgeous scenery—Lewis & Clark explored some of the most spectacular country on the North American continent—but also by the simple, touching story of the two men’s friendship. As Lewis’s biographer Stephen Ambrose wrote, “These men would freeze for each other, go hungry for each other, die for each other.” What made them such good friends?
By the time the movie was over, we already knew we wanted to travel part of the gorgeous Lewis and Clark trail. But there was more than that. We wanted to find out what made this famous pair stick together. Lewis and Clark’s unique partnership, as well as their individual skills and courage, was critical to the success of their expedition. We couldn’t help wondering, “How did they get to that depth of honor, courage, and loyalty?” That was the unanswered question— the trail we really wanted to follow.
And so we have, over thousands of miles of western country, hundreds of hours of research, and two historical novels, To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark and our latest, The Fairest Portion of the Globe. Fairest Portion is set in the 1790’s, when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first meet as young officers serving under the fearsome General “Mad Anthony” Wayne. In the historical record, not much is known about this period of their lives—
which makes it fertile ground for an historical novelist to fill in the blanks.
What we do know is that twenty year-old Ensign Meriwether Lewis was court-martialed in the fall of 1795. Lewis was charged with getting drunk, crashing a private party, insulting his commanding officer over politics, and challenging the officer to a duel after being bodily ejected from the premises. It should be noted that Lewis was in the gentleman class and a member of one of the first families of Virginia. That tells you a lot about how rough and tumble early America was at the time, along with the fact that Lewis, although clearly guilty, was acquitted of all charges. He did, however, receive a transfer.
Lewis’s new unit was a crack rifle company known as the Chosen Rifles. His new commanding officer was Lieutenant William Clark, who at the age of twenty-four was already a war-weary veteran of the vicious Indian wars in Kentucky and the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers. Clark was the youngest son in a family of frontier heroes that included the legendary Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark. William Clark’s diary reveals a cynical young man who is unimpressed with high command and chronically frustrated by his lack of recognition and advancement in the Army.
Given these few facts, the young Lewis and Clark seemed remarkably contemporary to us. Lewis was the hotheaded screw-up; Clark the capable but overshadowed malcontent. Who can’t recognize these two in their college-age sons?
So we were left to ask, what happened to set these two typical but unpromising young men on the path to greatness? The only answer we could find is, “each other.” Lewis served under Clark for six months before Clark left the army. It seems to have straightened him out. There was no more drunkenness and insubordination; in fact, Lewis’s progress through the ranks was quite rapid. He was a captain by 1803, when he wrote a letter to Clark that would change history.
Clark, on the other hand, was plagued by illness and burdened by the financial disaster that had engulfed his brother George Rogers Clark. He had sacrificed rank and career to help his family, but Lewis had lost none of his regard and esteem for his former commanding officer. In fact, in his letter he offered Clark nothing less than co-command of the most anticipated exploration in American history until the Apollo missions of the 1960s.
Lewis wrote, “If therefore there is anything which would induce you to participate with me in its fatigues, its dangers, and its honors, believe me there is no man on earth with whom I should feel equal pleasure in sharing them as with yourself.” Clark accepted, saying, “My friend, I join you with hand and heart.” As they say, the rest is history.
We have now spent about seven years exploring this friendship. People sometimes ask us, “How can two women understand the friendship between two men?” Answer? Perhaps because close partnership and desire for adventure has been the theme of our own lives from the time we were little girls. But unfortunately, close female friendships were (and are) hard to find in literature and on TV, so when we played pretend growing up, the games were always male-oriented. We spent years progressing through Fred and Barney, Kirk and Spock, Reed and Malloy, Steve McGarrett and “Danno” Williams. (How we grew up to be two straight women with productive jobs, no one knows.) When Lewis & Clark became the latest in a long line of male friendships to grab our attention, we decided there was a book in it; this became an adventure in itself. But despite our own verbosity, one thing we knew is that men don’t express their emotions through words, but through action—thus both books tend toward vivid action and adventure.
So how did we do, following the trail of Lewis and Clark’s partnership? Just as Lewis and Clark soldiered on through the 18-mile portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri, and kept their faith during the punishing trek across the Bitterroot Mountains, we have kept the faith in our writing projects, setting aside the rejection and discouragement that is an inevitable part of the journey. The results have been gratifying. We’re proud to look back on where we’ve been, and thrilled to get on to the next adventure.
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Frances Hunter is the pseudonym for authors Liz and Mary Clare. The sisters live in Austin, Texas with their bunny Junebug and their old beagle Belle. Mary works as a senior systems analyst for the University of Texas, and Liz works as a digital projects specialist at the Texas State Library and Archives. In their spare time they enjoy traveling, Longhorn sports, Celtic music, and watching vintage TV shows (their current passions are Sharpe and Mannix).
Their next book will be Bloody Island, a historical novel about Robert E. Lee.
Their next book will be Bloody Island, a historical novel about Robert E. Lee.
You can learn more about the authors and their books on the authors' website, which includes trailers for their current books, To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark and The Fairest Portion of the Globe.
Now for the giveaway! The authors are generously offering a copy of their book, The Fairest Portion of the Globe, to one of my readers. Unfortunately, the contest is only open to those in the U.S. this time around. If you would like to win a copy of The Fairest Portion of the Globe:
- Leave a comment telling me who one of your favorite historical figures is along with your e-mail address.
- Deadline to enter the giveaway is Friday, March 12, 2010 at 11:59 PST.
- The winner will be chosen at random through random.org and will be notified by e-mail.
(I'd love to hear from those not entering as well--so please share your favorite historical figure with us too!)
Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! All entrants were given a number which was then entered into the random.org site where a number was selected at random as the winner.
Congratulations to Bookwanderer!