Happy Wednesday Friends!
Author John Mernone joins us today to discuss his debut historical novel, The World Turned Upside Down. You’ll want to listen in. Says John:
How many times have you heard someone say that history is boring?
If you only see it as a list of names and dates and facts to be memorized, it is boring. I was lucky enough to have a few truly amazing teachers who taught me to look at history through the lens of personalities and situations. Take George Washington. In school, we’re taught about this legendary hero who led the colonists to independence. And maybe we hear about his wooden teeth.
We don’t learn about his many mistakes on the way to victory. We don’t learn that he wasn’t always patient or a brilliant strategist. He had very real flaws. But he was driven by an unshakeable belief in the cause, and he possessed a level of humility and conscientiousness that inspired devotion and admiration in everyone around him. I’ve always believed that George Washington was the greatest man in history, flaws and all.
A Personal Connection
The day I discovered that one of my own relatives came to America during the Revolution with a French unit, my imagination took over, and this fascinating period in history came to life. Washington, Hamilton, Lafayette, Rochambeau, Clinton, Cornwallis—and among them all, a member of my own family. I began to imagine the adventures he might have had in this fascinating period of history.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, a wave of civil wars and revolutions swept through Europe. Armies marched, men turned into cannon fodder, and opportunities abounded for mercenaries and soldiers of fortune, but the end result was little more than trading one ruler for another. Until the American Revolution. As the crowning glory of the Age of Enlightenment, it was the Spark that triggered the Age of Revolution and established independence for the common man. America became the grand experiment…and it worked!
Begging to be Written
Combine that with the knowledge that someone from my own family was part of this amazing moment, and it was a story that begged to be written. Why not, I thought? On the page, the fictionalized version of my ancestor took the name Jean Canossa, and he came to America to serve as General Rochambeau’s personal guard. Through this position, he witnesses firsthand the moments that shaped the American victory and he encounters the people who fill our history books today. When I sat down to write, though, I wanted to make sure I captured the complexities of character and represented these heroes as real people.
I loved getting to dive into all the books I’ve collected over the years to search for those humanizing pieces of information, to learn about their real personalities and flaws, but that was just the beginning of the research. There are amazing resources online and at the library. And you’d be surprised what you can learn from children’s books. I don’t see how anyone can not enjoy researching a topic for historical fiction.
Pen to paper
Then it was time for pen to paper—literally. I scratched out my first draft on stacks of yellow legal pads. I always have about two dozen G-2’s available and refills…my version of an inkwell from the other century that people always say my mind is in. The first time I use a computer is when I want to put the manuscript together into a continuous story. (Of course, it’s easier for other people to read this way). The World Turned Upside Down is what came of that work.
The story is designed around people, to show the humanity of the leaders of both sides of the conflict, as well as the inhumanity of some, and tough love and decisions that are always all too present in a war. Far from boring, the American Revolution was filled with once-in-a-millennium personalities and series of events that were so perfectly aligned they might be the result of Divine Intervention. I hope that The World Turned Upside Down captures some of that and brings it to life. Maybe it can help someone change their approach to history, from dry facts to personalities and situations. And I plan to keep exploring that period in history through the eyes of Jean Canossa in the upcoming prequel and sequel.
About John’s Debut Historical Novel, The World Turned Upside Down
The American Revolution was a convoluted affair with an end result that owed almost as much to weather, the fickle nature of men, global politics, and, perhaps, Divine Intervention as it did to the courageous and determined heroes who led untrained colonists into battle.
John Mernone’s newly released historical fiction novel, The World Turned Upside Down, shows readers just how harrowing the journey was from colonies to independent nation, primarily through the eyes of a foreign soldier who comes to love the country and its people.
Major Jean Canossa lands at Newport, Rhode Island, in July of 1780, an Italian mercenary in the company of French soldiers sent to aid the Americans in their quest for freedom. As a bodyguard to the French General Rochambeau, Jean witnesses firsthand the unfolding drama as the Patriots deal with setback after setback, including the ultimate betrayal by hero-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold.
Jean immerses himself in the great conflict, but outside of the war, he finds his personal life taking an unexpected turn. A beautiful young colonist, the daughter of the family who took him in, has captured his heart, and soon Jean finds himself even more enmeshed in the fate of the American Patriots.
Mernone packs this retelling of the French role in the American Revolution with historically accurate details and figures. From interactions between General Washington and his eventual friend General Rochambeau to the battle of wills between Cornwallis and Clinton, Mernone illustrates the strain of war, the missteps and miscommunication, on both sides.
The World Turned Upside Down explores some of the more fascinating but lesser known aspects of the American Revolution and gives it a new humanity.