Author interview with Christine Chatterton

Writer
Christine Chatterton
joins me today to talk about her new historical narrative, Courage of the Heart: An American Odyssey 1915 to 1923.
Welcome,
Christine. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I
am a retired teacher. I have a bachelor of science degree in Geology, and a master’s
in education with specializations in special education and reading.
I
am a very young 63 years old. I was born in Warren, Michigan, but I have lived
for the last 30 years in Rialto in Southern California.
I
have been married for 43 years to my loving husband Keith who is also a retired
teacher and I have two wonderful sons, and 2 (soon to be 3) grandsons.
Please
tell us about your current release.
Courage of the Heart:
An American Odyssey 1915 to 1923
is a true historical narrative of World War I,
based on the letters found in my husband’s grandmother’s house after her death.
This is an intimate account of two families and four brothers from Western
Illinois, each facing the Great War in uniquely different ways. It is the
extraordinary love story of Haidee Wilson and Maurice Chatterton, written in
their own words, spanning the years from 1915 until 1923. This is an odyssey of
courage and hardship, war, death, illness, and finally survival and a love that
endured. This is an American Odyssey.
What
inspired you to write this book?
After
my husband’s grandparents had died in the early 1980’s, the family was clearing
out their house in rural Illinois. A box of old letters was found hidden away
in Grandma Haidee’s bedroom. In it were all the letters that Maurice, Keith’s
grandfather, had written to Haidee from while they were dating and from World
War I until they could be married in 1923. Keith’s sister transcribed them and
I had read the letters years ago, but they did not make much sense out of
order. They sat around for about 30 years, until two years ago. I had a very
vivid dream one night in which I dreamed about writing the whole story. I woke
my husband up at 4:00 in the morning and told him I was going to write his
grandparents’ story based on the letters. And then I got up then and started
writing!
Excerpt
from Courage of the Heart:
            The letters from Maurice are
amazing. He was a farm boy from Illinois with no college.
Yet,
in his letters from the battlefront he quotes Longfellow and philosophers and
writes in Latin. His letters are beautiful and heartfelt. Here is an example
written after Armistice Day.
            “There will be lots of people who
will pay a lot to see the famous battle fields of France and Europe.A battlefield
at nite when everything is tearing loose was truly a wonderful and terrible
sight with the sky lit up like day. I have often stood and watched although to
tell the truth a little dugout would probably have been safer. But over here
you get used to taking chances.
            I can tell you some experiences when
I get back. There have been times when it looked like all Hell was out for a
picnic. I have seen a cartoon of a soldier from the Western Front going thru
the infernal regions and commenting on what a tame place he had ended up in. Lots
more truth in it than you have any idea.
            Still, it’s all over so I suppose it
is time to turn our minds to the better things in life. Army life doesn’t tend
to better your morals a lot in spite of what the learned divines back home have
to say. When you are trained to kill, it only stands to reason that you get
hard.
            Now don’t shudder and think we are
all heathens. Some are, but the most are far from being so. I haven’t been to
church even to field service for over four months simply because I have had no
chances. I am truly thankful for my being spared to see the end. All I can say
is that any one who is willing to give his life for his country isn’t wholly
bad and shouldn’t be judged too hardly. And I guess a Higher Power knows that.
It’s getting dark now, so I’ll have to say good bye for now.
            I want you to know, Haidee, that I
couldn’t have made it without you and I will be forever grateful that you have
been there in my thoughts daily. I love you with all my heart. Maurice”
What
exciting story are you working on next?
Actually,
I have just published my rather humorous memoirs of growing up in Detroit. It
is another true story called “The Kids on Ford Street” It is a fun book.
I
am also researching a second book related to Courage of the Heart. It is the
story of the Lieberman/Lee family. They are a part of the story in Courage of
the Heart. Vera Lee married our great-uncle Francis Chatterton. Her family were
escaping Jews from Odessa. Francis and Vera helped her two brothers and two
sisters escape from the Russian pogroms, the Japanese in Manchuria and then in
Shanghai, finally reaching Chicago and then working with F.D.R. in Washington
D.C. during World War II.
When did
you first consider yourself a writer?
As
an English teacher, I actually started daily journal writing with my high
school students. I would write as they were writing, mostly memoirs         from my own life. I found that my
students were more inspired to write and to open up when I wrote with them and
read what I wrote about my life.
After
I retired, I started writing and illustrating stories for my grandson Samuel. My
very first book was an alphabet book called “Samuel’s Alphabet Zoo”
Do you write full-time?
If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and
how do you find time to write?
I
write everyday for two to three hours. I have to be alone when I write, so I
write after my husband goes to bed at around 11:00 P.M. until about 1:30 or
2:00 A.M. That is my quiet time. Other than that , I am constantly busy with
family and church and as an artist, painting and making jewelry.
What
would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I
have been blessed with an unusual memory. I remember almost all the events in
my life, like a movie going on in my head. So when I write about someone like
Haidee or Maurice Chatterton, I remember exactly what they did and looked like
and said, even 40 years ago. That is probably why I enjoy writing about real
events and memoirs taken from my life. I find it interesting to learn the true
history of things and then describe it as I remember it. Hopefully, others can
learn from it while still finding it creative and interesting.
As a
child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A
geologist and a then a teacher, which is what I became: a teacher first and a
geologist second.
Anything
additional you want to share with the readers?
Actually,
there are two messages that I hope they take from this book. First: that to
really understand the hard decisions and events of the past, you must
understand the people of the time, their values, their motivations. People tend
to want to rewrite history in their own moral and social framework.
Second:
Love is not always easy. Love takes the commitment to run the course, to work
things out, and to not give up. But in the end, it is worth it.
Links:

One thought on “Author interview with Christine Chatterton

  1. Unknown says:

    Thank you for your kind interview. I am so glad that people have an opportunity to learn about my book from you. Christine Chatterton

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