Author Spotlight — Lynne Basham Tagawa
Today I’m happy to welcome author Lynne Tagawa as she talks about the Great Awakening of the 1740s.
John Russell is a carpenter. Not a full-time cabinetmaker in a Williamsburg shop, but a backcountry hunter/farmer with a need for furniture. But he enjoys the process, and so he’s always on the lookout for another tool, especially if he can pick one up used for a couple of bits. He’s already made several beautiful cradles out of walnut, as well as most of the items on the cabin’s shelves: utensils, bowls, containers with well-fitting lids. He’s able to sell some of his work for necessary cash.
I enjoyed writing about his carpentry work because in searching out my own ancestry, I discovered some of this type of background. As I type, a little cherry table stands against the wall behind me, made by my grandfather in his woodworking shop. Somehow the love of wood was passed down ever since the first Basham (a cabinetmaker) left Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 17th century.
My other protagonist is a young woman named Abigail Williams. She enjoys botany as a hobby, drawing specimens in a book and gathering as much information she can about them. Sometimes she obtains their medicinal uses. I suppose in some ways she’s a bit unusual for her time, but unlike gentlewomen of Regency England, New England women were part of the economic team of the household, and though they might not study to be scholars, they weren’t expected to be ignorant either. So Abigail’s papa indulges her hobby and her penchant for reading.
I can identify with this a little. I certainly have a penchant for reading. And my degree is in the biological sciences. But botany? Ugh. Animals are a lot more fun. (Unless you’re a gardener, which I can’t say I am.) I worked to put myself in Abigail’s shoes. How would she see the world? And that’s the ultimate question you’re continually asking when you write historical fiction—or any fiction, for that matter.
These characters aren’t me, and they don’t live in the 21st century. How do they think? Even their theology—or at least their way of expressing it—is different. Not to mention clothes and food. Or courtship and marriage. (No spoilers about that!)
Sam broke the gentle silence. “Ye’re sure about this lass?”
John ran his fingers through his sweat-dampened hair and replaced his hat. “I’ve prayed. I have a peace about the thing. She isna a Presbyterian. They have different customs. But she kens her Catechism.”
Sam stared off into the distance. He was a man of few words. What was on his mind?
“Ye say she kens her Catechism. But is Christ the treasure of her heart?”
John blinked. He’d never heard his brother talk quite like this. He shrugged and frowned, studying the clods at his feet.
His brother frowned, as if seeking the right words. “Ye have heard about George Whitefield’s visits here.”
“Oh, aye. I saw the new meetinghouse too.”
“Ye should have been there and heard him preach. I still think on it. In some ways, it was ordinary. Straight gospel preaching. Much like Tennent’s. But the crowds …” His brother’s voice cracked with feeling.
John forgot the heat. He’d not heard his taciturn brother so moved.
“Every kind of person attended the open-air meetings. Negro slaves. Indentured servants. Fancy gentlemen would sit in their carriages nearby, and skinny apprentices perched in the trees. Butchers came with bloody aprons and stood next to ladies in fine muslin.”
Sam paused. His eyes brightened with tears. “They would weep. Sometimes only tears, but occasionally sobs would erupt from deep within the crowd.”
“Why?” Da had written him, but not with such detail. “Why would the gospel make them cry?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Tagawa
Lynne Tagawa is married with four grown sons and three marvelous grandbabies. A biology teacher by trade, she teaches part-time, writes, and edits. She’s written a Texas history curriculum in narrative form, Sam Houston’s Republic, and two novels, A Twisted Strand and The Shenandoah Road. Lynne lives with her husband in South Texas.