People often ask me where the inspiration for Shades of Gray came from. Those familiar with where I live assume that I write about the Civil War because I reside in Gettysburg.

Truth is, it was a house in a Civil War town in Virginia that really inspired me to take the time to research and write an emotional story of love and war.

I don’t really talk about this experience much. Number one, it’s hard to explain. Number two, it’s kind of embarrassing and probably sounds a little corny. But it really happened and it really served as the impetus for Shades of Gray.

What occurred took place at Chatham Manor, which served as a hospital after the Battle of Fredericksburg. I stumbled across the site on a trip to Fredericksburg in the early 90s, and being an “old house” enthusiast, decided to take a look.

Upon entering the house, I paid the attendant who sat inside the door, and then began to look around. As soon as I entered a small room to the right of the main hallway, I began shaking and became overwhelmed with such a feeling of grief that I had to grab hold of the doorway. I can only describe it as a physical weight of intense — really indescribable — despair hitting me from out of the blue. I suddenly had tears running down my face and I had no idea why.

Now, a normal person would probably be frightened, or want to know what could possibly be causing this. Me? I worried about how I was going to get out of the house I had just entered two minutes earlier without embarrassing myself by running past the attendant with tears running down my face.

When I heard the voices of more visitors arriving, I seized the opportunity. I ran out the door, got in my car and drove away… still shaking.

My Chatham experience probably lasted all of five minutes — but it has never left me. I knew that experience happened for a reason. I began to read everything I could about the Lacy House, and, the more I read, the more interested I became in the human side of the chaos of the War Between the States. I became driven to write something that would harness those emotions and let other people feel them the way I felt them that day.

I am hopeful that I succeeded. As one reviewer wrote, “The anger and fear depicted in Shades of Gray is at times almost palatable; the intense sorrow, frustration, and ultimately love, seem to transcend the pages to settle in the very marrow of the reader’s bones.”

And it all began in Fredericksburg…

Let me know your thoughts! writefromthepast(at)


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