Tag Archives: historical fiction

When an Author Has an Urge for Something Different

30 Jun

“I love your books! When is the next one coming out?” Music to a writer’s ears, to be sure.

But what happens when a writer has the urge to write something different than her previous novels? Maybe a different genre, a stand-alone that is not part of an established series, or a young adult novel when the previous ones have been aimed at adults. Will her audience stick with her and her new adventure? Will she find new readers?

I am about to find out. The novel I am currently working on is a departure from my first three which were all mysteries involving Nara Blake, an adventurous young woman from the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Clare.

I am now on about the third revision of a completely different type of novel. Different audience — young adult. Different genre — historical fantasy. The two consistent characteristics are the connection to authentic facts in British history (as I did in Lydia’s Story), and a strong female protagonist.

Without giving too much away, I will tell you that I have taken some historical events of thirteenth century England and created a parallel magic world that explains some of the mysteries surrounding these events. I just can’t get away from the mysteries! Creating a world for a fantasy novel has been great fun as well as challenging. On the one hand, I have the freedom to let my imagination run wild. What if I could slip through a secret doorway and emerge in a castle and in another century? At the same time, a new world needs rules. If magical people can slip from one century to the next, how much do they know about each time and place?

These are complicated questions, but fun to exercise the freedom of working it out. As I have told my students, writing is exercise for the brain, and brains need workouts just like bodies do.

Many well known writers have been criticized for writing novels outside of their established mold. J.K. Rowling will forever be known as the creator of Harry Potter and his magical world, no matter what else she attempts as a writer. John Steinbeck endured criticism for not writing a follow-up to The Grapes of Wrath. And while I don’t place myself in either of their categories, I understand the fine line between pleasing an audience and exercising my creativity, which is what led me to write in the first place.

And if you love Nara and her adventures in my first three books, I am planning another one, which will probably take her to Spain to solve another mystery involving art.

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History Is Real

28 May

One of the challenges of studying or writing about historical figures, real or fiction, is imagining them to be as real as we are. Somehow people of the past lose their reality as flesh and blood, and seem to reside only on the printed page or in the flatness of a photograph.

It takes a leap of imagination to understand that the past is just as real as the present. Only the surface of life has changed. People felt joy, fear, anticipation, sadness just as we do. They worried about the future. The worries may have been different; they were not concerned about global warming, whether someone would hack their email account or if genetically modified foods were safe. But concerns about family never change, and the joy of a celebration and sadness at misfortune are the same century to century.

My book Lydia’s Storyphoto(43) is set partially doing World War II, an era that fascinates me. I think part of the fascination is that my parents were young during that time. They met and married in 1942 and were apart for three years before my dad returned at the end of the war.

I look at their photographs and imagine their feelings. I once asked my mom how they did it, not knowing day to day when they would be together again, when the war would end, who would come home and who would not. She said that all they could do was live day to day, as if everyday was closer to the end, although they didn’t know when the end of the war and separation would come.

The photo of my parents that I am posting today was taken in 1945, after my dad returned home. The joy and hope for the future is clear in their faces — as clear as if it were taken today.

One Out and One on the Way

5 Jun

Now that “The Gate House” is available again, as both as e-book and in print, I am turning my attention the my next book, tentatively titled “Lydia’s Story.” The manuscript is finished, and I am hoping to have news about a publisher soon.
I describe “Lydia’s Story” as a sequel/prequel to “The Gate House.” It features Nara Blake and her family again, including Alex, her love from the first novel, and her newly found half-sister, Lily. But Lydia is Nara’s great-grandmother, and her story is discovered in her diaries from World War II.
Although I love reading historical fiction, it was a challenge to write about the World War II era. I have visited London several times and visited the Imperial War Museum and Churchill’s War Cabinet Rooms, as well as Dover Castle where the Dunkirk rescue of British troops was planned. But it was still a writer’s stretch to tell Lydia’s story from the setting of wartime London.
People occasionally ask why I set my novels in England, and the answer is — because that is where the stories are! And that is also true of “Lydia’s Story,” set in 1940s London. And imagining her life, her loves, her fears means as much to me as her great-granddaughter Nara, who found her diaries.
I will post more news on both books as events happen.