In case you can’t tell, I love history. I think my interest started in high school when I had a cute young guy as my history teacher—I made sure to pay extra special attention to him in class. But my interest in history outlasted my 10th grade year, and in college I even considered becoming a history major. I’m fascinated by history because, though we can look back to see how the pieces fit to create the picture of who we are today, there is also a sense of “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I’m always amazed to learn about these people from the past who on the surface seem so different from us today—in their dress, their speech, their beliefs, their scientific knowledge—and yet they aren’t at all different from us in their hopes and dreams.
I remember when I decided to write historical fiction. I had seen Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary on PBS (this was way back in the old-timey days of the 1990s), and from watching that series came an idea about the son of a southern planter who goes to fight for the Union during the war. My earliest goal as a writer was to become a screenwriter, and I did study a bit of screenwriting and film in college, so I tried the idea out as screenplay. I got as far as page ten before I realized that the blueprint of the screenplay wasn’t enough for me—I wanted to describe the details, what the characters were thinking and feeling, what they were wearing, what the room they were standing in looked like. The only way I could do that, I thought, was to write the story out as a novel. I began writing My Brother’s Battle in 1994, and I finished it about two years later. I’ve been writing historical fiction ever since.
There is something fulfilling about writing historical fiction. Historical fiction helps to make history more palatable for those who might be bored by nonfiction accounts. In these fictional snapshots, I can take one moment in time and flesh it out, add characters, both real and imagined, show their dress, their manners, and the events that were happening then. Research is an important part of the process, and I’m just odd enough to enjoy searching for the information I need to help me tell the story.
For Her Dear & Loving Husband, I wrote about Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the witch hunts in 1692. What a sad moment in early American history—the false accusations, the confessions to crimes the victims didn’t commit, the dungeons, the executions. How could this happen? How could neighbor turn against neighbor? Friend against friend? Husband against wife? To this day, we still don’t know the answer. For Her Loving Husband’s Curse, I delved into the forced removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. Book Three also has an historical background, though I don’t want to say what it is just yet (I will say there is a hint of it in Book Two). Through writing historical fiction, I have been able to imagine life in Biblical Jerusalem as well as life in New York City in the 1910s. For someone who loves history as much as I do, the opportunity to write about these different periods, or about any historical period, is a blessing.
Have I said how much I love writing about history? Sharing these moments in time with others is one of my great joys, and through historical fiction I hope I can help others develop their own love for history.