Image from: http://clipart-library.com/clipart/355513.htm, History Cliparts #135374 (License: Personal Use)
I love writing historical fiction. I do it because I always have wondered what it was like to live during certain periods in time. I also like to make history accessible to people. The subject of history often is perceived as a bunch of boring details – but those alleged boring details include people who lived and died and loved and shaped the world around them. So, I enjoy trying to create characters and storylines that just might interest readers enough for them to read a non-fiction book about history. Or read more stories in my series. Either one. I’m not picky!
However, writing historical fiction brings with it certain demands, just as any genre does. For instance, in science fiction or fantasy, an author needs to create credible worlds, complete with their own cultures and histories. Romance needs to have believable characters and situations for love to grow between individuals. And historical fiction needs a grounding in history before an author tries to add fictional characters, settings, and situations.
I felt compelled to write this blog because I'm starting a short story or novella (not sure which it will be yet) about Frankie & Patrick's wedding. The original plan had been to have them move to a gold mining town in Colorado soon after the wedding, since Patrick has been offered a job as a town's doctor.
But then the need to do research rose its demanding, ever-present head.
First, it’s 1864 and the pair are going to go to Colorado in mid-October? Even these days, heavy snow in mid-October can close mountain passes either for the season or temporarily. And if closed for the season, the pass might not be open until mid-April.
Now, imagine a stagecoach trying to travel through rough, snow blocked, dirt roads. Yeah. That’s right. It’s not going to happen. I think the reality was that no one got in or out until spring. I still need to confirm this, but it makes sense.
Another point: the Civil War is still raging in October of 1864. About five battles were fought in Missouri from October 15 through October 28. If Frankie and Patrick wanted to get through to the border of what was then the United States on their journey to the Colorado Territory, they would take a train either to Independence or St. Joseph. I feel that neither would want to risk traveling to the end of the line until after hostilities between North and South ceased in April 1865.
Of course, my intrepid couple always could go by way of Chicago but once again, given the winter conditions, but it does not sound all that workable. I think their adventure out west actually will need to begin in spring, 1865.
So, here’s my new plan: Frankie and Patrick remain in Blaineton, NJ during the first few months of their marriage. Patrick works at the Western New Jersey Hospital, where he will be schooled in how to treat things other than war wounds and diseases common to military encampments, while Frankie does... well, she does Frankie. I'm not sure what she'll get up to, but she almost always gets up to something, and I'm confident that she'll soon let me know what that “something” is!
There you go. A morning in the life of an author of historical fiction. It's fun. But it's fun only if you're a history geek!
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder