From the ages of 4 to 8 years old, I lived in Bardstown, KY. You don’t live in Bardstown without hearing about Stephen Collins Foster, who was born in Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, on the Fourth of July, 1826. In fact, you don’t live in Louisville (where we moved when I was 8, and where I still live today) without hearing about Stephen Foster. Why? Because he wrote our state song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” which is still sung every year before the Kentucky Derby…even though they’ve changed the lyrics slightly to make it more “PC.”
As a child in Bardstown, though, I sort of fell in love with Stephen Foster. My father was the stage manager for The Stephen Foster Story, and my mother was the house manager, so I was there for pretty much all the rehearsals. Many a day, I went around singing Stephen Foster songs that I’d learned as other people rehearsed them over and over in front of me—“Beautiful Dreamer,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Old Dog Tray”… and there even WAS an “Old Dog Tray” on the set that I got to pet fairly often. To my young mind, it was almost as if I were there watching the events play out in real life.
I guess you could say I was a bit obsessed with this composer, to the point where my favorite book was a light blue hardbound biography of Stephen Foster that I frequently checked out of my school library. I don’t remember the title or the author, but I remember what that old book looked like, and I remember reading it at least five times. So, it was only natural that, when writing a Civil War novel set in Kentucky, I decided to include some Stephen Foster lyrics in the book…and I even included some in the title, SUN’S PARTING RAY.
When I was a teenager, I visited Pittsburgh, but I don’t think I went to the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered that. The only thing I remember from that particular visit is the penguins at the Pittsburgh Zoo. I remember those especially because, at that time, the Louisville Zoo didn’t have penguins (they do now). I hope that, someday, I will be able to go back to Pittsburgh, and when I do, I’m definitely planning a trip to that museum!
Mishael Austin Witty is a professional editor and the internationally bestselling author of SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME, a Christian thriller/suspense novel, BELIEVE IN ME, a sweet contemporary romance/women’s fiction novella, and SUN’S PARTING RAY, a historical novel set during the Civil War era. In addition to these books, she has newly released a zombie fairy tale, CAMPANULA, which marks a departure from the usual for her, but it was great fun to write, and she already has plans for another.
She has, to date, published three short stories with Helping Hands Press: PROTECTING ZOE (Kathi Macias’s Twelve Days of Christmas, Volume Eleven) and THE SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER, VOLUME 1: The Initial Consultation (a story that was written with the series’ five other authors) and VOLUME 5: Old Friends, New Dreams, and Cucumber Sandwiches.
She lives in Louisville, KY (where most of the action of CAMPANULA takes place), with her husband, two cats, and two daughters. Connect with her online in the following places:
Links to her books: