Writer Wednesdays: MHB Hughes & 1777–Danbury on Fire!

For this week’s Writer Wednesday, I’m happy to feature M. H. B. Hughes, author of 1777–Danbury on Fire! I was fortunate enough to help Millicent with the editing and layout of the novel, and the book has special meaning to me because (1) it takes place in the area of the country in which I was raised and (2) it’s about freedom and its variations, one of my favorite themes.

You can learn more about the author at https://www.danburyonfire.com and purchase your copy here.

I hope you enjoy the responses Millicent provided regarding her novel and the research involved:

coverTell us about yourself: When I began the book seven years ago, I was commuting almost four hours per day, while considering how to intertwine characters and reality. Much of the story came from fact, some from probability: if you were XXXX, what would you do? I often felt astonished when research proved the reality of my theories. Even up to the very end, I discovered new information to incorporate before someone could catch me out on historical fact.

Tell us about your book: Joe Hamilton, 13, is shocked when his attempts to become a tavern kitchen boy seem thwarted by politics. Powerful relatives reject Joe’s parents until they come around to the Patriot view. Joe believes his father is on the edge mentally, but physically as well: a family “investment” is a handsome stallion now turned vicious. Joe’s delightful hero, Lambert Lockwood, wanders through the plot ─ until he meets a bullet in embarrassing circumstances. Joe’s desire to help his friend is thwarted by finding helpless relatives in immediate danger of death. Soon enough, Joe fears for himself when a British trooper acts way too friendly. Stakes rise with the flames as Danbury goes up in smoke.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Most of my characters were real people and were my relatives and their friends: I feel that they wrote my book by channeling through me, although Lambert Lockwood and J. S. Cannon were the only ones channeling. I used to believe that I could hear a woman’s voice, pleading, “But I was a real person: I had a real street address!”

Who is your favorite character in your book, and why? The more I learned about the real Lambert Lockwood, the more I fell in love with this handsome man (“of good appearance,” according to one source). His horrific experiences at the loss of Fort Washington led him to combine with Danbury town lawyer Tad Benedict to start a Masonic lodge, because all Masons vowed to assist each other. After the war, Lambert followed into the hardware business, moving to Bridgeport CT, where he added a book printing shop to supply his bookstore and lending library. Lambert retained the childlike enthusiasm and hardheaded awareness that he displayed in the book, financing his sons in selling the first imported board games and children’s toys in New York. He backed the first bank and the first insurance company, as well as the first Masonic lodge in Bridgeport. The final public scene in his life is mentioned in the book, the crowning reward to a life well lived.

What’s your favorite scene or location in the work you’re currently promoting, and why? I like the early dinner party scene, as the mother returns to her real personality, before the war in the family robbed her of her of her own beliefs. A mini-infatuation of Joe’s would-be girlfriend with a handsome British face makes me remember thirteen all too well. The British officers (except for one) are portrayed as pleasant and well-intentioned, although sometimes they reveal a little & more….

 What book or author has been most inspirational for you, and why? Gigi Amateau’s Come August, Come Freedom and Bob O’Connor’s The Perfect Steel Trap showed me ways to combine fiction and reality. Gigi put letters into her book, which gave me the “Yes!” moment for including snips of documents in 1777. Bob O’Connor’s The Perfect Steel Trap uses masterfully imagined letters/depositions from those involved in the Harper’s Ferry fiasco.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what non-survival item would you bring along that you couldn’t live without? Coffee, for sure! A couple of cups and I could just swim home, right?

Are you working on any other projects at the moment? Yes, two.

  • Looking for an illustrator for my chapter book Pet Care 101 about the unwelcome arrival of two ferrets in the home of twins who really wanted a dog. (Illustrations must be realistic, not cartoons.)
  • The other book Horses+Boys≠School visits young equestrians. Ambitions and faults collide as each searches out the niche for which they qualify. Foremost is Leah, 16, overmatched in school as well as in love, where she is partnered, but not romanced by Turk, a boy on the rebound, who wants a trophy to show off. On the sidelines watching is the brilliant Char, the rejected former girlfriend, now a lioness on the prowl, just waiting the chance to claw her rival.

What question do you wish I had asked?

“For what age group is your book intended?”

I think of it as ageless, because of facts that pose new questions to the reader. What are artificers or cradles? What part did religion play in the war? With what attitude did the English try to stop the rebellion?  I injected a little modern snarkiness on all sides, à la Mark Twain, because persons in those days had the same feelings as modern folks!

(I recently purchased a Newbury winning book from 1957 Rifles for Watie, ostensibly a YA, yet I loved its revelations about the Civil War in Arizona. Who knew that Indians fought in the Civil War?)

Finally, where can we find you?  https://www.danburyonfire.com or Millicent Bell Hughes on Facebook (where you see a lot of extraneous horse stuff)


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