The Guerrilla Season Book Blog

Join 8th grade American History students at South Valley Jr High in Liberty, Missouri as they read Guerrilla Season by Pat Hughes. For more information contact Eric Langhorst at

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Week 1 - Ask Author Pat Hughes a Question

How often do you get the chance to ask the author of the book you are reading a question? Well, during this project you have access to the author of Guerrilla Season - Pat Hughes. She will answer any question you may have about the novel, questions specific to being a writer, anything. Just leave a comment to this blog post and she will respond to your question with a post in the same comments list. Just remember to use correct grammar and list yourself as "anonymous" or use your first name only.

Go ahead, ask her a question....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you decide what the character's name's were?

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Well, sometimes I decide the characters' names and sometimes they tell ME what their names are going to be. In other words, some names I just KNOW right from the start and others take more time. It's sort of like naming real children. Sometimes you just have a name you have always loved. That's how it was with Matt and Jesse, though you'll see later (if you don't already know) why Jesse has his name.

One example of a name that took forever for me to come up with was Clayton. For some reason I just couldn't figure out what his name was. For about 50 pages of the rough draft, I actually left a blank every time I would have written his name. It was an important name for me to get right. The funny thing is that after I found the name Clayton, it was like, "Of course that's his name - what else would it be?" You probably haven't gotten that far in the book yet but it does come out that their dad named him after Clay County.

I hope that answers your question - thanks for it, it was a good one!

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What inspired you to write a historical/fictional novel rather than just a fictional novel?


1:00 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Hi Emily,

I'm very interested in American history, and I like being able to bring that history to life through a good story, a portrait of an era - especially for kids. I think too often kids see history as boring and irrelevant, but it needn't be that way.

My fascination with history is all about people who are trying to live their lives in difficult times. I'm pretty bad with remembering the names of battles and the generals who fought and the dates and all that. But tell me a story about a real person and I'll never forget it.

One of my favorite compliments from a kid was about my book "The Breaker Boys" (which involves a different sort of war - the labor war between coal miners and mine owners). A girl told me she loved it because it was such a good story "and I was also learning history and I didn't even realize it!" Music to my ears!

Incidentally, I also write contemporary fiction; my book "Open Ice" takes place in the present day. But I kind of believe that all fiction is actually historical fiction. In 50 years, "Open Ice" will be a portrait of its era.


3:09 PM  
Anonymous honeybun said...

What made you want to write this book, in this time period? Did you have any insperations?

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will there be a second book with the same charaters? I really enjoyed the book it was very intense and you never new what was going to happen next.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you come up with you characters?

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

OK. I'm going to answer the last three questions in one post:

1. Why did you write a book set in this time period?

I'm pretty sure Mr. Langhorst is going to post a podcast we taped on that subject, so keep a lookout for it. But the short version is that for some odd reason, I've always been kind of obsessed with the topic of Civil War Missouri. The reason it's odd is that I've never lived in Missouri, was born and raised in Connecticut, now live in Pennsylvania. But from the first time I heard the terms "Bleeding Kansas" and "Border Ruffians" in, I think, a third grade history book, the subject has intrigued me. So I'd have to say maybe that elementary school history book was my inspiration. There were other aspects of the Missouri situation that drew my interest ... specific people ... but I don't want to say until you get to the end of the book, though most of you Liberty folk probably figured it out or know already ... !

2. Will there be another book with the same characters?
I get this question so much, and it's one of my favorite questions, because I'm glad to know that people would like to read more about these characters and this topic that I love. The answer is yes, in fact, I have three more "Seasons" in my head. The problem right now is getting the time to write them!

3. How do you come up with your characters?
That's the hardest question of the three to answer. It's very difficult for me to put into words the process that goes into creating a character. Mostly, they kind of spring into my head fully formed ... as if I knew them from another place and time. That's especially true of the main characters. They just sort of start talking to me, louder and louder, until I think, "Okay, okay, pipe down! I'll write it!" Then I have no choice but to write it.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is chapter one not as great as the other chapters??

Sport freak

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you going to make any other books based on war related times because i think it would be great if you made another book on war?


6:44 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Hi Sport Freak,

Well, the good news for me is that you think the other chapters are great. The bad news is obvious! Thanks for the very good question. Are you ready for a long answer?

I know the current trend in writing for younger readers is to grab them from the first page - really suck them in with an opening so scary, exciting, or disgusting that they’re forced to read on. Many people believe “the kids today” are so easily distracted and have so much else to entertain them – video games! computers! TV! – that those of us who traffic in the written word will lose you if we don’t wow you at Word One.

I give readers credit to distinguish the difference between electronics and books. Each is its own wonderful experience, and books should be – or at least, have a right to be – a more leisurely experience than a video game. The excite/fright opening often seems manipulative and phony, a too-obvious attempt by the writer to shout LOOK, KIDS! LOOK AT THIS! When I read, I like to get to know characters a little bit, and most authors write the way they like to read. So in the first chapter, I introduce you to Matt and Jesse by letting you see their friendship on a semi-normal day at the start of guerrilla season.

After saying all that, I’ll also admit that Chapter 1 and even 2 are a little slower-going than I would have liked. That’s because Missouri’s Civil War had many complex issues that I needed to bring forth early on to properly set the scene. Those first two chapters were reworked many times, shortening and rearranging – but when somebody tells me he or she is having a hard time getting into the book, I say “skip over some of the history in the first two chapters, and refer back to it later.” That always does the trick. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that in front of the whole World Wide Web, but I believe in being honest!


11:58 AM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...


Yes! But I can't post your question, because I want others to figure it out on their own or get to have their own "ah-ha" moment at the end of the book!


8:31 AM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

What inspired you to start writing a book about the Civil War? Did you choose the plot to be around Missouri because of our neutral standing in the Civil War? Why did you choose to put the plot around Liberty, will I find out later in the book, or is it just somewhere you like?


8:41 AM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Hi Mitch,

You’ll find out at the end (if you don’t already know) why the book had to be set in Clay County, near Liberty, and most specifically, near the town of what was then Centerville, now Kearney. Also, look above in this thread for the answer to the question of what inspired me to write about Civil War Missouri.

But I want to talk about what you called Missouri’s “neutral standing” during the Civil War. Although it’s true that Missouri TRIED to take a neutral stand, the Union would not settle for that, demanding that Missouri join the Union. The horrors in Missouri came about because Missouri ended up fighting its own Civil War, very different than the one the rest of the nation was having. This was a much more personal war - one, as I have said, that did not go from battlefield to battlefield, but from farm to farm and family to family.

Some people believe that Missouri would not have remained neutral, but that the Confederate sympathizers would have taken over. Unfortunately, we’ll never know if that’s true because the Union declared war on Missouri after a meeting known as the Planter’s House conference on June 11, 1861, when Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson and Gen. Sterling Price met with Union Gen. Nathaniel Lyon and Col. Frank Blair. Jackson and Price pledged to keep Missouri neutral if only the state would be left alone. The meeting was chronicled by Col. Thomas L. Snead, an aide to the governor, who wrote:

"Finally, when the conference had lasted four or five hours, Lyon closed it, as he had opened it, 'Rather,' said he (he was still seated, and spoke deliberately, slowly, and with a peculiar emphasis), 'rather than concede to the State of Missouri the right to demand that my Government shall not enlist troops within her limits, or bring troops into the State whenever it pleases, or move its troops at its own will into, out of, or through the State; rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my Government in any matter however unimportant, I would (rising as he said this and pointing in turn to every one in the room) see you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the State, dead and buried.' Then turning to the Governor, he said: 'This means war. In an hour one of my officers will call for you and conduct you out of my lines.' "

The result of the Planter’s House conference is what Matt is thinking of on page 7: “The state had tried to stay neutral, but the Union wouldn’t allow that. It declared war on Missouri in June of ’61, invading with troops from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin – and Kansas.” Particularly in Western Missouri, following the Border Wars that preceded the Civil War, it was the crowning insult for the Union to allow Kansas to attack Missouri. It was definitely one of the major reasons for the total eruption of guerrilla warfare there.

In other parts of the state, even people who had formerly been “strong for the Union,” as Mark Twain put it, changed their minds after Missouri was invaded. If you go to “The Rebel Twain” page on my Web site ...

... you can read about how MARK TWAIN BECAME A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER as a direct result of the Union’s allowing other states to invade Missouri. It’s a really fascinating story, and one you rarely hear.


8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much research did it take you to write Guerrilla Season? Did you have to travel to find out about the civil war?
~Dhruv the Dominant

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your research for this novel, did you get to meet any interesting people who helped inspire the creation of the characters in "GS"?

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you had to be a person living in this time period, which side would you be on?

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Hi Sugarpie -

In a word, er, no! I DID meet interesting people while researching "GS," but my characters almost always come entirely from my imagination, except for the ones who are based on historical figures.


5:47 PM  
Anonymous Honeybun said...

I find it very interesting how you show how the different sides of the war acted. Mr. Stones was with the north he thought that with giving the pigs to Matt would make him on their side but it didn't. Normally if you were nutreral would you eventually pick a side or would the bushwackers just assume what side they were on? i dont understand why Ben goes with what Matt does but then again Ben won't help out around the house unless he is told. Why is that? Because of his fahers death or because the fact that the war is coming betweent them.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Sorry that some of the questions and answers are getting out of order. I don't know if that can be fixed ... I need to ask Mr. Langhorst!

Anyway, I wanted to answer the very good question of which side would I be on had I lived in the time period.

I think it's just impossible to say, unless you are actually in the situation. Who really knows how he or she will behave during a war? Everyone likes to think they would have been heroic - that they would have helped on the Underground Railroad or joined the French Resistance against the Nazis - but the stark reality is that the great majority of people did not and do not -- not from base cowardice but from fear and/or the feeling that "this is not my business. If I keep my head down and stay out of it, I and my family will be OK."

Being a mom, and a very protective one at that, the person I most identify with in the book is Matt's mom. Having to live every day with the grave dangers of guerrilla war threatening my children is just something I can't fathom. My gut feeling about myself in this or any similar situation is that I would be neither heroic nor cowardly, but as Ma tells the guerrillas who come for breakfast, "do our work and mind our business."

So ... what side do you guys think YOU would be on, and why?


9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Most of those questions are answered on this blod in the Podcast "How Do You Research a Historical Novel?"

Check back and ask again if you still have questions after listening to it.


9:57 AM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

To Honeybun -

I think an author should let readers come to their own conclusions about why characters behave the way they do, but on the subject of why Ben won't do as he's told, I really don't think he does it out of malice - I just think it's kind of his nature to be lazy! But keep reading ...


3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What interested you in lil' ol' Liberty, Missouri?

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Answering to LUKE from way up-thread. ... somehow you fell through the cracks (hey, this blogging stuff is new to me, sorry!)
Right now I'm writing a book about the American Revolution, set in Connecticut (where I grew up).
I also definitely want to write more about Civil War Missouri and about these characters.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Honeybun said...

Mr. Langhorst said that they used spies to help different sides figure out who was on what side. He also said that the mayer i think .used people to help dtermin what side Matt was on. I think that that would be the reason for him taking such an interest in Matt when he went to proclainm Mr. Stones death.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Ashleigh said...

When writing Guerrilla Season which part of the book do you think was the hardest to write? (meaning intro,conclusion,etc) Also, when writing the book how long did it take you to publish it and how many times did you have to redo certain parts in it?

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Honeybun -

Yep, I think you're right on target about the provost marshal (not mayor). There were spies everywhere, reporting on everyone. You never knew who was going to see you or report on you, or for that matter, lie about you. For instance, if there was somebody who didn't like you for reasons that had nothing to do with the war, someone you had had a fight with or whatever, they might just make up a reason to report you to the provost marshal. Scary stuff ...

By the way, how do you think Ma found out that Matt and Jesse had been with Buck and the other guerrillas in the woods? She heard about it in town ... but any ideas about who might have told her?


5:38 PM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Hi Ashleigh -

The part right before the end was the hardest to write. I knew all along how the book was going to end, and a general idea of how the characters got there, but it was hard to figure out the details in this most complicated of wars!

I started writing "Guerrilla Season" in January of 2000. I completed the first draft in June 2000 and immediately started revising. (It was even longer than it is now, and I knew I had to cut it down.) September 2000, I started trying to find an agent (it being my first book) and got one around March 2001 - still revising on my own. Then my agent, Scott Treimel, had his own good ideas about revisions, so I revised again. In September 2001, Farrar Straus & Giroux bought the manuscript. That was 1 1/2 years from the time I started it till the time it was purchased ... but then it was TWO MORE YEARS till it was published. In that time, there was more editing with my editor at FSG, but also a lot of stuff that didn't involve me - the design of the book, having the jacket illustration made, thngs like that. "Guerrilla Season" came out in August, 2003. So that's 3 1/2 years from the time I started it until the time it went into print.


6:57 PM  
Anonymous Honeybun said...

I think that the provost marshal told Matts mom because he seems like the kind of person to do that. So as I said before if you werent on a side and someone saw you on a certain side they would asume you to be on the side you were hanging out with. In this case Jesse and Matt.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Honeybun -

OK, let's say the provost marshal told Ma. But who told the provost marshal? Who might have seen Matt and Jesse in the woods with Buck, or might have known they were there, and reported it?


9:12 AM  
Anonymous honeybun said...

A spy told the provist marshal most likely. Wouldnt that mean that almost anyone could be a spy?

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Pat Hughes said...

Honeybun -
Precisely. Anybody could be a spy. But in this case ... who? I have a couple of very definite ideas about which character might have gotten word to the officials that Matt and Jesse were in the woods with Buck and the guerrillas. But no one has ever guessed ...

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Honeybun said...

well Pat I would have to say that I think that Mr. Stone before he died. Now that he is dead i dont know unless it was one in his family.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you decide on the cover of the book?

Jam Master A

3:26 PM  

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