In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Historical Fiction: Digging for "Truth"


Often "truth" is not displayed by a photo, no matter how accurate the image may be. The photos shown here -- not so great, because I took it with my cell phone, having forgotten to bring along my camera -- show a bit of the center of the village of Coventry. A casual visitor would assume that the soldiers' monument on the village green lists the Yankees who enlisted to fight for their country or their cause, and indeed, it does. But the faces aren't what are usually shown as Vermont faces in 1850. Four of the names here are brothers in the Mero family. They were native Vermonters, and they all enlisted when the Civil War broke out in 1861. And they were Black.

There were more than 700 "free blacks" in Vermont in 1850. What patterns of life did they witness as spring arrived in that year? What heritage did they treasure? How were they embraced as neighbors in a village where everyone helps each other (because the weather is so much more powerful than any person can handle)?

For me, historical fiction can be a result of excavating the past to discover as much as possible of these accurate truths, then using a threaded needle to carefully darn the gaps. If you've never yet darned a sock -- the process of weaving yarn or thread back and forth across a heel or toe to replace worn-out fabric -- you might not realize this final detail: You have to be careful not to pull too tightly on the threads as you weave them, or you'll tug the edges of the hole too close together and end up with a miserable lump in the sock that keeps you from wearing it after all.

And that's exactly why the writing of historical fiction has to be so careful in how it pictures the truth.

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