my brain’s been picked…
…by none other than Francine Thomas Howard, my fellow AmazonEncore author whose wonderful novel, Page from a Tennessee Journal, will be out in March. Francine and I interviewed one another last month—you can read HER interview over at Color Online, and MY interview is now up on her blog. Here’s just one of the questions Francine asked me to consider:
9. You’ve done marvelous research on A Wish After Midnight and it has clearly allowed you to transport the reader back in time. Since only relatively few readers may bother to check, how important is it that an author gets the historical facts right?
Well, I say in the preface that I am playing with the facts in this novel. For example, the Howard Orphanage in Weeksville wasn’t built until 1866, I think. They probably had some way of housing children before that building was built, but I still used that institution in my novel (which is set in 1863). I think readers need to know going in that speculative fiction is speculating on the past—if you want historical facts only, read non-fiction. For me, the story comes first. I did do a lot of research, but not to the point that my mind was saturated with facts. Literary critic Barbara Christian once noted that historical fiction succeeds because authors are no longer bound to the facts. I’d like to see AWAM used in the classroom so that an English or Social Studies teacher could show when and where the novel deviates from the historical record. But as a fiction writer, my priority is to tell a good story. I find that only about 10% of all the research actually winds up in the novel, and even then it informs the narrative but doesn’t dominate the story I’m trying to tell. I hope my novel makes readers curious about the past, and that they keep reading in order to fill in more of the gaps.