The National Road in Ohio

When we crossed the Ohio River early one October morning, we just had to trust that it flowed there under the bridge. Dense fog shrouded the river, and I wondered how anyone ever navigated it before the era of bridges and electric lighting.

The first few miles of the National Road in Ohio looked very unpromising: thrift stores, decrepit housing, and an amusing flag featuring a much fitter and younger fantasy Donald Trump riding a dinosaur and firing automatic weapons with both hands at unseen enemies. It looked like the promised prosperity associated with the National Road had still not reached the state almost two hundred years later.

Pike Towns Along the National Road

Not until we reached St. Clairsville did we begin to see the impact of the National Road in Ohio. St. Clairsville was founded two decades before the National Road reached it, but it still looks like so many other “pike towns.” The importance of the road to the economic life of the pike towns can still be seen in the towns’ layouts: one main street, with a few cross streets and parallel back streets. In the nineteenth-century heyday of the National Road, these towns sprung up about ten to twelve miles apart – the distance that a stagecoach or wagon could travel in a day. Inns were often found on the crests of hills. Drover’s inns tended to be on side streets where livestock could be accommodated. Some towns were home to as many as five taverns. In larger towns, wheelwrights and blacksmiths made themselves available to perform repairs.

Many of the old pike towns have completely disappeared. Of the ones that remain, some are struggling, and others still prosper. But the basics are always the same. Retail shops, churches and historic houses along the main street. Often, in larger towns, a Masonic Hall on the corner. More churches, smaller shops and aluminum-sided early-20th-century homes on side streets. A gas station on the corner as you enter town, often now a Sheetz. And always a library. No matter how small the town, no matter how beaten down, there is almost always a library on Main Street, even if a very small one with limited hours. That fact alone gives me hope for our country.

A Pike Town Gallery

A sampling of Ohio pike town buildings: Above left, a scene from Blaine in the early 20th century. Above right, Saint Clairsville. Below left, the Red Brick Tavern in Lafayette. Below right, the Pennsylvania House Tavern in Springfield

Above left, the William Rainey Harper log house in New Concord. Above right, the lovely doorway of the home of Nelson Gant, one of Zanesville’s early prominent Black citizens.

The picture to the right is the 1870 Great Western School House near St. Clairsville. The grounds are so pretty; recess time must have been paradise

Our favorite Ohio pike town was Morristown, where they are making a real effort to restore their historic main street. They have completed research on the restored houses, and each one is marked by a plaque that tells you the name and occupation of the building’s pike-era resident. Unsurprisingly, many were tavern keepers and merchants. One is listed simply as “widow.” Others had occupations like blacksmith or wheelwright. The restoration process is uneven. Beautifully restored buildings stand right next door to decrepit wrecks. But the effort is very impressive, and I hope it will continue.

The Zane Grey Museum

One of the highlights of our drive through Ohio was the National Road-Zane Grey Museum. This small museum is a gold mine of information about the history of the road. Its collection includes a restored Conestoga wagon and impressive dioramas showing scenes from the early life of the National Road in Ohio: a tavern scene, road construction scenes, scenes from the early days of the automobile on the road.

At the museum, we also learned details about how the road was constructed. Using local farmers as laborers, builders made a sixty-foot cut for a thirty-foot wide road. The cut was 12-18” deep. Laborers then broke rock into three sizes. They laid the largest rocks as a road bed, covered by a layer of middle-sized rock, and topped that with gravel no bigger than 3”.

It’s not hard to imagine how rough that kind of road would have been! By the early twentieth century the road was repaved with brick. In 1925, the road was widened, straightened, rerouted in some places, and got its Route 40 designation. Asphalt paving started in 1932.

Our Drive Through Western Ohio

The terrain of Ohio changed gradually as we drove west. Eastern Ohio features wooded hills and valleys. The farming there was limited to subsistence agriculture on small plots on ridges or in valleys. Western Ohio is the place for large-scale farming, thanks to the flatland formed by the Illinoian and Wisconsin glaciations. We drove past miles and miles of cows and corn and enormous grain silos. In the big skies above, geese made their way south and huge flocks of starlings gathered.

Late in the day, we found Ohio’s Madonna of the Trail. We’ve seen several of the Madonnas now, and they never fail to move me. The raw-boned mother in her plain dress and sturdy boots, one child in her arms, another hanging on her skirts, striding hopefully into an unknown and perilous future. Many years ago, when I was in sixth grade, I read a book called A Lantern in Her Hand, about a pioneer mother, and I loved it so much that I’ve read it many times since. We often say that George Washington was the father of our country, but these unnamed women were truly its mothers.

After the Madonna, and a brief hike, it was on to Indiana, the topic of my next post!

Sources

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road Main Street of America. Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

Harper, Glenn and Smith, Doug. The Historic National Road in Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio Historical Society, 2010.


Our Nation’s First Infrastructure Project

We’ve finally completed the task we set for ourselves back in January. Al and I have now driven the whole National Road – our nation’s first infrastructure project – from Maryland to Illinois. We did it in bits over the course of the last eleven months, so that we could stop and absorb the history and culture, rather than driving right by it.

Our most recent drive took us from the West Virginia/Ohio border, through Ohio and Indiana, to Vandalia, the old Illinois state capital. Along the way, we sampled craft whiskey and Indiana’s state pie, got lost hunting for an original Macadam section of the road, visited a little-known Confederate cemetery in Ohio, and drove past miles and miles and miles of corn.

Ohio and Indiana treasure their old “pike towns.” Each state highlighted a particular aspect of life along the National Road, which I will feature in my next two blog posts. Illinois’ approach, sadly, seems to be to pretty much ignore the old road – other than its terminus in Vandalia.

Driving the length of the road was fun and enlightening. It gave us a deep respect for our nation’s first infrastructure project. And, similar to 21st-century infrastructure projects, we learned that the origin of the road was controversial and steeped in politics.

George Washington again

It seems that almost everything that happened in late-18th-century America starts with George Washington. And that is certainly true of the National Road. Washington was with the Braddock and Forbes expeditions when they hacked through densely forested mountains to create the first sections of what would later become the National Road.

Years later, as President, he was shaken by the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington worried that, as settlers progressed west, they would lose ties and loyalty to the new federal government.

He was especially concerned about Great Britain and Spain wooing the settlers’ allegiance. The solution, he suggested, was to build a road, to “open a wide door, and make a smooth way for the produce of that Country to pass to our Markets before the trade may get into another channel.”

At the same time, veterans of the Revolutionary War, who had been paid partially in land warrants, were clamoring for the government to open Ohio to settlement. And settlers already living in western Pennsylvania demanded a road to help them get their produce to market. The Whiskey Rebellion had been about precisely that issue. Whiskey was easier and more profitable than wheat to transport on abominable 18th-century paths through woods and over mountains.

Washington also had a personal financial interest in tying the west closely to the government in the east. He had invested heavily in land in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose in politics.

But Washington didn’t get his way immediately. There was, of course, controversy. This was America, after all.

Joe Biden: not the first guy to have trouble passing an infrastructure bill

The controversy outlasted both Washington’s and John Adams’ administrations, and continued into the Jefferson administration. Some members of Congress didn’t think the federal government had the constitutional authority to finance internal improvements.

This disagreement was one of the earliest examples of the big-government/small-government tension that still often paralyzes our government today. And, in an early example of practical and creative compromise, Albert Gallatin came up with a solution to the impasse.

Gallatin proposed that the new states and the federal government come to an agreement. The states would exempt from taxation for ten years the lands sold by Congress. In return, the proceeds from the land sales would be used to construct a road. In effect, the states, not the federal government, were financing the National Road.  The Senate passed the National Road bill on December 27, 1805.

But there was still more political controversy in the House of Representatives. Southern representatives opposed the bill because no part of the road passed through their states. Although the new road would pass through southwestern Pennsylvania, many Pennsylvania representatives were miffed that Philadelphia was left out. Despite these objections, the bill passed the House 66-50 on March 24, 1806.

Construction began in 1811. And – again, like so many modern projects – the cost of the road initially exceeded the original estimate of $6000 per mile. As the National Road was laboriously carved out of the hills and valleys of Appalachia, the cost soared to as high as $13,000 per mile. When the builders reached the plains of Ohio the cost per mile plummeted to $3400 per mile.

Finally! The road reaches Ohio!

But, before that could happen, more controversy had to be resolved.  By 1818, the road was complete to the Ohio river, the border between the current states of West Virginia and Ohio. But the question of federal authority over improvements arose again. President Madison vetoed Congress’ bill authorizing the Ohio section of the road, believing it to be unconstitutional.

Finally in 1824, President Monroe, convinced that internal improvements could be justified under the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution, signed a bill.

Congress made its last appropriation for the National Road in 1838. The total amount spent was just under seven million dollars. Such a small investment knit together a nation, bringing prosperity to millions of farmers, merchants and manufacturers along its route.

Those farmers, merchants and manufacturers will be the focus of my next two posts, about what we found and learned in Ohio and Indiana. Stay tuned!

In case you missed them, here are links to my previous posts about our drives along the National Road:

West Virginia

Far western Pennsylvania

Beallsville to Scenery Hill

Brownsville, PA

Fort Necessity & Braddock’s Road

Uniontown, PA

Searights Toll House

Addison & Somerfield

Sources

Schneider, Norris F, The National Road Main Street of America. (Columbus, OH: The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

Newcott, William R., “America’s First Highway.” National Geographic, March 1998, pp. 83-99.

http://www.nationalroad.org/


How Grant Street Got Its Name

Pittsburgh’s Grant Street is home to the corporate headquarters of Oxford Development, Koppers Holdings and U.S. Steel, and the seat of government for the City of Pittsburgh and the County of Allegheny. Ironically, it gets its name from the man who met his greatest defeat there.

The Forbes Expedition Begins

The disastrous 1755 Braddock expedition failed to win Fort Duquesne from the French. Undaunted, William Pitt assigned newly-appointed Brigadier General John Forbes the task of conquering Fort Duquesne in 1757.

Forbes commanded an army consisting of two thousand British regulars, twenty-five hundred Pennsylvanians, fifteen hundred Virginians, and a small number of soldiers from other colonies.

The army could have marched to Fort Duquesne on the old Braddock Road, but Forbes determined that it was too narrow and circuitous. Over the objections of George Washington, Forbes decided to build a new road through the Pennsylvania woods. They started the road at Carlisle, PA, in March 1858 and, by September, had only made it as far as Bedford. The builders predicted that they could not finish the road before winter set in.

Meanwhile, Forbes’s subordinate, Colonel Henry Bouquet was busy at Loyalhanna constructing Fort Ligonier, about forty-five miles to the west of Forbes’ headquarters at Fort Bedford. Fort Ligonier was to be the jumping-off point for the attack on Fort Duquesne.

Enter Major Grant

Constant Indian raids shook morale at the under-construction fort, and drained it of needed supplies. Bouquet proposed to send out two parties of a hundred men each to guard the paths to the fort. Enter Major James Grant, who thought he had a better idea.

Grant was thirty-seven years old at the time, Laird of Ballindalloch, and a major in the 77th Regiment of the Foot (also known as Montgomery’s Highlanders). Both Forbes and Bouquet thought highly of him. In a letter to General Forbes dated June 16, 1758, Bouquet wrote, “If you need an officer suitable for all purposes, allow me to recommend Major Grant.” And in an August 28 letter General Forbes described him in a letter of August 28 as “inferior to few.”

Grant made the point that it was foolish to send two hundred men out as sitting ducks to guard the paths into Fort Ligonier, when the real problem lay forty miles to the east, at Fort Duquesne. He suggested a reconnoitering expedition to Duquesne, with himself in the lead. Bouquet’s confidence in Grant led him to approve the idea.

Grant set out on September 9, 1858, with about 800 men: 300 Highlanders, 150 Virginia militia, 100 Royal Americans, 100 Pennsylvania militia, 100 Maryland militia and a few Indian allies.

What was the plan?

In 1758, the hill where Grant Street lies was much higher than it is today. The plan was to march to within about five miles of the fort after dark and launch a reconnoitering party at night. If the party went undiscovered, colonial Major Andrew Lewis would stay back with half of the army and the other half would advance to present-day Grant Street, about half a mile from Fort Duquesne. From there, they would surveille the fort, attack the Indians that they assumed would be camped right outside, and then retreat.

None of that went as planned.

What actually happened on Grant Street?

First, they found no Indians camped around the fort. So, Grant assumed that the Indians were in the blockhouses nearer the fort. Grant sent a force of 400 men to attack the blockhouses, only to find them empty. The force retreated back to the hill, so far undetected.

Perhaps loath to return to Ligonier without a victory, Grant assumed that the decrepit French fort must be poorly defended. He estimated that fewer than 600 troops manned it. At dawn, he had his drummers beat reveille and sent 100 Highlanders to attack the fort. About halfway down the hill, the Highlanders met 800 French and Indian fighters, who had been alerted by the reveille drums.

Grant sent more troops down the hill to the rescue of the Highlanders, but they, too, were surrounded by the enemy. Finally realizing his peril, Grant sent runners to Major Lewis’ force five miles to the rear, urgently requesting reinforcement. Meanwhile, he threw himself and the rest of his troops into the fray.

Major Lewis and his troops arrived too late, and the fighting was hard. British and American soldiers not cut down by weapons fell into the Ohio River, where many of them drowned. Grant himself refused to surrender or retreat, declaring that his heart was broken and he would “never survive the loss of this day.” Of the 800 troops who set out on September 9, over 300 were killed or captured. The rest escaped, in a disorderly retreat, to report the catastrophe.

What happened to Grant after the battle?

For several days, Grant’s fate was unknown. Finally, on September 22, he appeared on a list of the captured and wounded. Forbes, dismayed at Grant’s recklessness and the loss of so many soldiers, lamented that “my friend Grant had most certainly lost the ‘tra montane’ and by his thirst of fame brought on his own Perdition.” (‘Tra montane’ was a French term used to describe the country just beyond the Appalachian Mountains).

The French treated Grant well during his captivity, and paroled him shortly after the battle. The Highlanders who went into battle with him were not as lucky. When the British finally took over Fort Duquesne in November – without having fired a shot – they found the rotting heads of the Highlanders mounted on spikes, their kilts flapping beneath them in the autumn breeze.

Grant blamed Major Lewis for his defeat at the forks of the Ohio, and hated American colonials forever after. After his parole, he moved to the Caribbean theater of the Seven Years War and fought in the siege of Havana. He served a stint as governor of East Florida, after the British won that territory from the Spanish in the Treaty of Paris. Back on active duty for the American Revolution, he fought in Boston, Philadelphia, Long Island and the West Indies, and was known for his contempt for and mistreatment of his American adversaries.

The marker for the September 1758 skirmish is on the corner of the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh, at 414 Grant Street, on the southeast corner of the intersection of Grant Street and Fifth Avenue.

Sources

Lorant, Stephan. Pittsburgh, the Story of an American City. Lenox, Massachusetts: Authors Edition Inc., 1988.

Anderson, Fred. The Crucible of War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

The Papers of Henry Bouquet, Ed. S. K. Stevens, Donald H. Kent, and Autumn L. Leonard. Harrisburg, PA: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1951.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Grant_(British_Army_officer,_born_1720)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbes_Expedition

https://www.clan-forbes.org/people/Brig.-General-John-Forbes


Arthur Saint Clair

Continuing my series of posts inspired by our trip to Fort Ligonier this summer, I want to introduce my readers to Arthur Saint Clair. His name will sound familiar to those of us who live in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. He lent it to a vast township that once encompassed most of the southern suburbs and many City of Pittsburgh communities south of the Monongahela.

If you live in Baldwin Township, Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Lebanon, or Upper Saint Clair, just to name a few, your community was once part of St. Clair Township. St. Clair Hospital in Mount Lebanon is named for Arthur Saint Clair, as are more than a dozen communities in Pennsylvanian and Ohio.

Once the largest landowner in western Pennsylvania, St. Clair died in poverty.

Student, Soldier, Landowner

He was born on March 23, 1736 in Thurso, Scotland. After attending the University of Edinburgh, St. Clair purchased a commission in the British army in 1757. He served in the French and Indian War, then resigned his commission in 1762. With assistance from his father-in-law, St. Clair purchased 4000 acres of western Pennsylvania land, making him the largest landholder west of the Appalachians. He settled in the Ligonier Valley with his wife, who eventually bore him seven children.

St. Clair joined the Continental Army in January of 1776 and was the Forrest Gump of the American Revolution, seeming to appear at nearly every important event. He was with Washington in the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. He commanded Fort Ticonderoga, was court-martialed for surrendering to the British siege, and found innocent. Back in Washington’s good graces, he was at Yorktown for Cornwallis’ surrender in 1780.

Governor of the Northwest Territory

As part of the Confederation Congress after the war, St. Clair helped to pass the Northwest Ordinance. Shortly after the passage of the bill, which created the Northwest Territory out of present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Congress appointed him governor of the Territory.

As I live on land originally named for him, I’d like to say that he performed well. But, by our modern standards, St. Clair’s record in the Territory is troubling.

In the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded to U.S. sovereignty all the land east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes. Slight problem: nobody had consulted the people who were currently living there. The weak American government sought to raise funds by selling plots of land in the Territory to white farmers. As St. Clair attempted to clear the Indians out of the Territory so the sale could proceed, they naturally resisted.

War With the Natives

In October 1790, St. Clair sent an army of 1500 men under General Josiah Harmar to destroy a major resistance village at the site of present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. When that force was defeated, St. Clair decided to take matters into his own hands.

In September 1791, St. Clair led an expedition from Cincinnati towards Indiana. In the November 4 battle along the Wabash River, we can at least credit him with courage. Leading his troops himself, St. Clair had two horses shot out from under him and several bullets passed through his clothing. But, many of his militia had already deserted, and his army suffered a humiliating defeat. Of the 1400 men St. Clair had taken into battle, 623 were killed and 258 were wounded.

Not until 1794 would “Mad” Anthony Wayne win Ohio from its native inhabitants.

Washington ordered St. Clair to resign his commission in the Army, but he remained governor of the Northwest Territory until 1802. St. Clair worked to have the Ohio territory admitted to the Union as two states rather than one. He hoped this arrangement would preserve Federalist control of both states. New Democratic-Republican President Thomas Jefferson had other ideas, and relieved St. Clair of his position.

Death of Arthur Saint Clair

Upon his retirement from government, St. Clair returned to western Pennsylvania. Congress never reimbursed him for his expenses from his time as Northwest Territory governor. St. Clair lent generously to family and friends, and made some loans that were also never repaid. By the early nineteenth century, he had lost his fortune and most of his vast land holdings. He died in a small log cabin near Greensburg on August 31, 1818, at age 81. He is buried under a Masonic monument in downtown Greensburg.

The parlor of St.Clair’s home in Ligonier is beautifully recreated at the Fort Ligonier Museum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_St._Clair

https://historicpittsburgh.org/islandora/search/catch_all_fields_mt%3A%28lower%20saint%20clair%29

https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Arthur_St._Clair

https://www.pittsburghbeautiful.com/2018/02/20/pittsburgh-suburbs-history-of-upper-st-clair/


My Interview With Susan Ouellette

Susan Ouellette is the author of the thriller The Wayward Spy. I don’t usually read thrillers, but this one really kept me turning pages, and I can hardly wait for the second in her three-book series, The Wayward Assassin (coming from CamCat Books in March 2022). Here’s my interview with Susan.

How does she know so much about the CIA?

Kathy: Back in the 1990s, you worked as an intelligence analyst for the CIA. Can you tell us a little about what that was like? Was it as glamorous as it sounds?

Susan: I remember my first day of work at the CIA like it was yesterday. The first time my supervisor handed me documents stamped TOP SECRET, I had to suppress a gasp. So exciting! Some of the glamor wore off as I grew accustomed to reading intelligence reports, but every day held the possibility of learning something new and interesting. And I was there at a great time – as the Soviet Union was collapsing. It was like having a front row seat to history.

Kathy: Any interesting stories you can share from your time with the CIA?

Susan: When the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev happened in 1991, I worked on a 24/7 task force set up to monitor and analyze this very volatile situation. So there I was, a rookie analyst, working the overnight shift when the phone rang at 5 am. No one else was around, so I answered. It was the CIA Director calling to get an update on overnight developments. I just about fainted, but apparently did a good job briefing him because I didn’t get fired.

I also wrote a piece for the President’s Daily Brief about a situation involving a potential outbreak of hostilities in the former Soviet Union. My analysis went to the President and turned out to be spot on. That was thrilling. My third story is quite sad. I was out of the office the day Harrison Ford visited CIA headquarters. I missed Harrison Ford? I’m still not over it! 

Kathy: I love Harrison Ford, too. The kids and I tease my husband that he looks like Indiana Jones when he wears his leather jacket and fedora.

What made you choose the former Soviet state of Georgia as part of the setting for The Wayward Spy? Have you ever been there?

Susan: During my time at the CIA, Georgia was one of the Soviet republics (turned independent country) that I followed closely. Sandwiched between two worlds – the Russian behemoth to the north and Turkey and other Islamic countries to the south and east – Georgia is a country with a complex, rich history and culture. I have not been there, but it is on my bucket list.

Kathy: The Wayward Spy takes place in 2003. In your opinion, has the threat of a terrorist attack in the United State decreased, increased or stayed about the same since then? How would you say the threat has changed?

Susan: Up until the recent events in Afghanistan, I would have said that the threat of an organized terrorist attack (i.e., a non-lone wolf attack) on U.S. soil had diminished significantly. Now, with U.S. and allied military and intelligence assets out of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and ISIS will have the latitude and luxury to train, organize, and grow (despite whatever rivalries and hatred exist among and between them and the Taliban). I’m afraid the threat of a major terrorist attack has increased significantly in recent months.

Kathy: Not exactly what I was hoping to hear…

And what does Susan read?

Kathy: What kind of books do you like to read?

Susan: I love spy thrillers, which I suppose is no surprise. I love time travel/parallel universe stories because I find it endlessly fascinating to think about how every decision we make has the potential to alter the trajectory of our lives. I also enjoy World War II fiction, particularly stories with characters living under Nazi occupation. As for non-fiction, I love Cold War spy books. The Spy and the Traitor (Ben Macintyre) is a must-read for any student of 20th century history.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite author? What do you like about that author?

Susan: This is such a difficult question. I enjoy so many thriller authors. Robert Littell, Nelson DeMille, Daniel Silva. And more. Their stories grab the reader and don’t let go. The best book I’ve read lately is A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles). It’s a beautifully written story about a Russian aristocrat whose life is smothered by the growing oppression of the Soviet state.

Kathy: I loved A Gentleman in Moscow, too.

What were your favorite books as a child? How did they influence you?

Susan: Nancy Drew! I loved how Nancy used her wits to solve every mystery thrown her way. She made me want to be a detective. That was my childhood plan – become Nancy Drew. Then I learned about the CIA and the KGB and decided that being a detective would pale in comparison to being a spy.

Her writing process

Kathy: I noticed in your dedication to The Wayward Spy that you had set the book aside for a while. Why did you do that? And what inspired you to dust it off and get back to work on it?

Susan: The Wayward Spy had several close brushes with publication many years back. When those didn’t pan out, I gave up on trying to get published for a long time. I had a young family and a job, so I focused my attention on them. But I never lost the desire to get the manuscript published. Fast forward many years, and I found myself at a writing workshop where several people took interest in the story. After much gentle persuasion, I decided it was worth one final try at publication.

Kathy: Once you got back to work on The Wayward Spy, did you work with a development editor? If yes, how did that help you?

Susan: Yes. At the aforementioned writing workshop, I met Elaine Ash, an author and freelance editor. She convinced me to send her the manuscript and we began to work together to rewrite the novel. She helped me untangle the essential threads of the story, which I had greatly overcomplicated. The plot was in there, but we had to detangle it and let it shine.

Kathy: Can you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Do you always know how the book is going to end?

Susan: I did not write from an outline for either The Wayward Spy or The Wayward Assassin (coming March 2022). With both stories, I knew the beginning and the end but not much in between. I am about to begin writing the third story in “The Wayward” series, and this time around, I plan to plot the story before I begin writing. My goal is to simplify the developmental editing process that comes after the draft manuscript is done. I have learned a lot from revising the first two books. It’s time I apply that knowledge to the first draft of my next book.

Kathy: How long does a first draft take you to write? How many edits do you usually do before you feel your book is ready to be submitted?

Susan: It took me about a year to write a first draft for both books. I wrote both while working and raising little ones so I only wrote about ten hours a week. I’m hoping to write a first draft of the next book in about six months. (I may fail miserably.) I plan to do a couple of edits before submitting the third story to my editor.

Kathy: It took me longer to find a publisher for The Saint’s Mistress than it did to write the book. How long did it take you to find a publisher for The Wayward Spy?

Susan: After working with the freelance developmental editor, it took about a year for me to sign with CamCat Books.

Kathy: What have you done to market The Wayward Spy? Have you found any marketing strategies to be particularly effective?

Susan: As a new author, I’ve discovered that there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to effective marketing. I’m definitely still learning and experimenting with different marketing avenues. I have blogged on my own website (susanouellette.com), done blog interviews with other authors, run a Facebook ad campaign, run several book give-away contests, and done several interviews with local media.

Kathy: Did you learn anything about yourself from writing your books?

Susan: This may sound trite, but I’ve learned not to quit. Although I put writing on hold for years, deep down, I never really gave up on getting published.

Oh, and what about those chickens?

Kathy: I see from your personal Facebook page that you raise chickens. How did you start that? What is the best part of raising chickens? What is the worst?

Susan: One of my favorite subjects! Five years ago, we moved from a home on a quarter acre lot to a small farm. We knew nothing about farming, so we decided to start with chickens (thank goodness for the internet!). The best part of raising chickens, aside from the fresh eggs, is watching them interact with each other. They have distinct personalities, moods, and quirks. I find them quite hilarious – the more dramatic they are, the better. The worst thing about chickens is their bathroom habits. Not the most sanitary beasts.

Kathy: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise readers.

Susan: I almost caused a full-blown national security incident on Capitol Hill. Accidentally, of course. I can’t provide details because I plan to weave this story into one of my future novels.

Kathy: The Wayward Spy ends on a real cliffhanger. Can you give us a few teasers about what happens in the second novel in the trilogy, The Wayward Assassin?

Susan: The Wayward Assassin begins about ten months after Maggie leaves us all hanging at the end of The Wayward Spy. In the sequel, Maggie is engaged in a furious pursuit of….someone…in order to prevent…something. I dare not say more. There are several characters who appear in both stories and some fresh faces to keep things interesting. It’s very fast paced. With any luck, this story will keep reader up reading late into the night!

Where to learn more about Susan Ouellette

Kathy: Where can we find out more about you and your writing?

Susan: Please check out my website at www.susanouellette.com. I also can be found on these sites:

fb.me/SusanOuelletteAuthor

https://twitter.com/smobooks

https://www.instagram.com/susanobooks/

https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomsusan_ouellette


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