That’s the message behind “Above and Beyond,” a new novel from Gettysburg author Jessica James. Set during the Civil War, the historical fiction follows a Confederate spy posing as a strong Unionist, cast out and shunned by her family and friends in the name of serving her cause.
“Above and Beyond” was released as an e-book in May. The book’s official print launch is July 25.
Response has been positive — the book rose to the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s best-seller list in the Christian historical fiction category on May 24.
We caught up with James to hear more about the book.
Book Buzz: How did the idea for “Above and Beyond” come along?
Jessica James: I’ve always been fascinated by those who served as spies throughout history, and wanted to write a story that showed the tremendous courage it required to put one’s life on the line with no glory or even recognition. During the Civil War, reputation and character were everything, so one can only imagine the courage and strong will it would take to be despised and maligned by family and friends while nobly serving a cause. It could be argued that it would take more fortitude than fighting an outright battle with hundreds of your comrades surrounding you. That was the seed that I started with in my writing.
BB: This is your third historical fiction novel — was the writing process different from your previous works?
JJ: In the first novels, the main male character was built around the real life Confederate cavalry commander John Mosby, so I spent a lot of time in Virginia walking in his footsteps, doing general research on the Civil War and reading lots of diaries and letters to get the vocabulary, cadence and rhythm of the Victorian era. In this novel, most of the research was already done and the characters are completely fictional, so I had more time for writing.
BB: Tell us about the heroine. What motivates her to persevere even when her family and friends reject her for claiming to support the Union?
JJ: Sarah has a strong faith in God—a characteristic that is reflected in many letters and diaries from that era. Faith was what strengthened the men on the battlefield and what supported the women at home waiting for them to return. It’s the kind of faith that goes hand-in-hand with deep moral character and devout duty to God and country.
BB: How does the romantic storyline play into Sarah’s struggles?
JJ: Although Douglas Benton is somewhat of a philanderer and non-believer at first, he is also courageous and a bold defender of his principles and country. In the end, both characters make sacrifices that show how deeply their beliefs, their faith and their honor influence their actions and their lives.
BB: What kind of reader do you think would especially enjoy this book?
JJ: It was written with a female audience in mind, but I’ve already had 5-star reviews from men, so those who enjoy romance blended with historical fiction will enjoy it. Like “Noble Cause” and “Shades of Gray,” which have been used in schools, I think it’s also suitable for mid-teens and up.
For details on James, visit www.jessicajamesbooks.com.