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December 13th ~ Friday Q and As

By Ana Brazil
December 13, 2019

This week the Paper Lantern Writers warm their cold hands on a mug of hot cocoa—or ginger tea or café au lait or spiced cider or spiked eggnog—as C.V. asks us…With all of the different genres, what drew you to historical?

Katie loves reading books with ‘different worlds.’

“And that happens in historical, fantasy, and science fiction. But in fantasy and science fiction, those are worlds created by the author, and while really great authors create consistent, full worlds, some do not. In historical, the world is already extant. We lived it. People reacted in real ways. Historicals allow us to see that reaction and interpret. It doesn’t mean we get the interpretation correct. In all those genres, we are using our own lens to interpret the topic at hand. 

“Some authors want to divorce their lens/bias from the time period they write about, more of a ‘reporting,’ or a journalistic approach, which is a great thing. I am not in that camp, mostly because I don’t think we really can remove our bias. Where we choose to focus our research is inherently biased. 

“That said, I am more interested in women’s lives, mostly because the bulk of historical fiction is centered on the men of the time period. Take, for instance, the Great Fire of London in 1666. It destroyed almost everything, all because of a baker not properly banking the ashes of his oven. When it came time to rebuild, Sir Christopher Wren, an architect, went about building St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is pretty common knowledge: the Fire, the baker, Christopher Wren. But what isn’t common knowledge is that several of the foremen in charge of this prestigious building were women. Not because of some grumbling about fairness, not because of ‘political correctness’ as some people of our modern time period might grumble, but because they were legitimately the best people for the job. But if you ask anyone about the blacksmith for St. Paul’s Cathedral construction in the seventeenth century, they would imagine it to be a man. 

“Hint: It wasn’t.”

Kathryns novel is based on her great-great-grandparents’ 19th century polygamous marriage.

“In the Mormon faith we frequently recall the early church pioneers who fled persecution in Missouri and Illinois and walked across the plains to Utah Territory where they could live in peace. What we don’t talk about was the practice of polygamy, which caused much of the persecution and has since been abandoned by the Mormon church. 

“So, I would say I initially chose historical fiction, because I wanted to understand my own family history. Specifically, I wanted to know why my ancestors practiced polygamy. In answering that question, I discovered many other things. One big ‘ah-ha’ is that reading and writing about the past gives perspective on timeless human emotions.”

Ana fell in love with historical fiction when she read Little Women in the fifth or sixth grade.

“I didn’t understand what “history” or “historical fiction” was at that age. But, very much like Katie, “this different world” just fascinated me.

“In the seventh grade I moved to Arlington, Virginia, where I was immersed in all things historical. I visited historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, and the Smithsonian Museums and I read the novels of Victoria Holt, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and everything written by Louisa May Alcott.

“History has always felt like HOME to me and I wanted to live and breathe it. So I got my BA and MA in American History and had an early career as a historian, architectural historian, and historic preservationist. I’ve always read historical fiction and always wanted to write historical fiction. (Someday I’ll share a photo of all of my “unfinished stories”, which start at about age 17. Yes, I kept ‘em all!)

“Historical fiction seems less like a genre and more like home base to me.”

Linda loves fantasy as much as she loves historical fiction.

“In some ways, they are alike. Whether the world is completely made up or actually existed, it requires a lot of description of setting, rules for the world, language, and clothing. In some ways, historical fiction is easier because you don’t have to make it all up–you can look it up and just create the missing details. 

”In 8th grade I read Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes, and was hooked. I love the idea of getting to know people who lived during the time, even if the characters in the book aren’t real. I still love getting the feel of the times, the politics, and the people. As a fiction writer, I also enjoy the ‘what if’ of writing historical fiction. What if an apprentice to Paul Revere burnt his hand? What might he have done in Colonial Boston?”

As a child growing up, C.V. never liked history.

“But when I went to college I had a fabulous history professor that taught European history. Every class was like story time. Ever since I have loved reading historical fiction. It is fascinating to learn the origins of beliefs and traditions and coming away feeling just a bit more educated about our world, all woven into a delectable tale.

“The book Desiree by Annemarie Selinko peaked my interest for lesser known people.  We all know about Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. But how many have heard of his fiancée before he met Josephine. That woman later became the queen of Sweden. This story inspires my desire to write the fascinating stories of those whose names are only mentioned in passing or often left out of the written history.”

Ana Brazil
Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

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