BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Last month Bellows Falls author Eileen Charbonneau won the grand prize of the Laramie Award for Western, Pioneer, Civil War Fiction, one of 16 categories of the Chanticleer International Book Awards, for her novel “Seven Aprils” that was released last year by Books We Love Publishing of Canada. It is the first book of her “Civil War Brides” series. The second book, “Mercies of the Fallen,” had a virtual reading event at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls Oct. 16. It was released this spring shortly after the pandemic prevented the usual live event at the store it would have otherwise received. Charbonneau says, “Chanticleer is international so I feel like it’s part of a world literary community.”
This year she received her award at home, participating in the ceremony through her computer. She says she is really impressed by their yearly conference since “American publishing tends to be American and New York centered, and it is refreshing to hear other viewpoints from other places.” The Laramie Award is focused on Americana and the Civil War. She says “Seven Aprils” covers the “whole scope of the war,” but it is not about the battle but the “forgotten part of the war.” Her story is about a woman who poses as a male nurse and then later becomes a spy. It is based on a true story that she found through exhaustive research. Charbonneau says she was inspired by the movie “Glory.” She says, “There must be so many people like that.”
Charbonneau and her husband Ed moved to Bellows Falls a few years ago after he retired and no longer had to follow radio jobs that had taken them up and down the eastern seaboard. They had honeymooned in this part of Vermont and have had an attachment ever since. With retirement they found an old Victorian in Bellows Falls.
Starting in 1988 Charbonneau has had 13 historical fiction novels published as well as one nonfiction work, a how-to on writing. She is originally from Cold Spring, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley where “Seven Aprils” is partly set. Charbonneau has multicultural heritage and a theater and filmmaking background, being a teller of Irish and Native American tales. She has Shoshone ancestors, three of whom were members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Her works have received a number of awards, the Rita Award for romance writers, Hearts of the West, and a Daffanie De Morey. Her works have spanned the 19th century, but she says, “I stayed away from stories set in wartime ‘til I was a witness in New York.”
She was on jury duty six blocks from Ground Zero on the day of the 9/11 attack. Her most recent series before the current one was set in World War II. Her hero was one of the Navajo “code talkers” who foiled the Nazi code breakers by simply speaking their native language. The latest of the current series, “Mercies of the Fallen” takes the reader from the Battle of Antietam through Gettysburg to the New York draft riots. She is thinking of continuing that series by taking her heroine, Ursula, through the rest of the war.
Both books of her “Civil War Brides” series are available at Village Square Booksellers on the Square in Bellows Falls.