Sometimes I often wondered if in choosing historical fiction I’ve automatically limited myself in regards to readers and book sales. If you were to ask me if I was worried, or if I would have not written my book or began my next because of the above fact, I would say no, but the thought has at least crossed my mind a few times. Being surrounded by SciFi/Fantasy and Thriller writers tells me my genre isn’t the most popular in the writing world.
Even though, novels like The Notebook and Water for Elephants are considered and labeled as historical novels, they aren’t the Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games books that have swept the world with millions of readers. But my goal for my book has never been to become a worldwide phenomenon, my goal is to be published and simply enjoyed by how ever many people buy it. Whether that number is 100 or 1,000 or 100,000.
One of the reasons I chose to write in the genre of historical fiction is I love history and I love learning about the history of this country. For my novels, I have chosen events and time periods that have most intrigued me.
Ones I could read about all day, every day.
With that said, though, writing in the historical fiction genre is hard. I remember one morning while researching for my first manuscript, I stared at the pages and pages of notes spread out all around me and I wanted to scream. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I just pick the Chick-lit genre where I write in this time era? Why didn’t I pick the Fantasy genre where I can make up my own world and that world history? Why? Why? Why? Oddly enough moments later the coffee hit my veins and I calmed down.
The idea for my first manuscript came from one of my favorite movies: The Last of the Mohicans. It’s a story that I spent countless years thinking that if I ever wrote a novel, I would write a story with characters like Nathaniel and Cora. While The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1775, Ohio, during the French Indian War, my novel The Woman on the Painted Horse is set in 1861 Alabama, just at the start of the Civil War.
I chose this time period over the other because I have always loved the antebellum period with the large plantation manors lined with oak trees and the big dresses that fancy women wore to elegant parties. And certainly, researching about the Native American culture helped. Reading about the lives of clans and tribes in the 1800’s only sparked my curiosity more. not to mention gave me another idea for a different novel.
For my next manuscript I chose another time period that is very intriguing time period for me – 1897 Klondike gold rush. While I’m enjoying the research, I have to admit that once again I’ve had moments of stress. With every start of each new chapter I’m coming across bumps in the road. What did train cars look like back then? How much did it even cost to ride the train and how long did it take to get from one particular city to another? What did houses look like? What types of material possessions were invented and who owned them – working class, the poor, the rich? How was it like traveling by train or by boat in 1897? And I think the most important question, what were the travels like for the people brave enough to face the Alaskan/Canadian wilderness through snow and ice on their quest for gold?
Certainly, as with my first novel, I have surrounded myself with non-fiction books full of first hand accounts of what everything was like on the trails of the Chilkoot pass. For all my other questions Google has once again become my best friend. Every time I open a book up or click ‘Search’, I feel better about my ability to describe and build the world I have too. The women’s stories of their trials and tribulations are interesting, and I have to say their courage amazes me. I suppose every time I want to scream and pull my hair out I will just keep remembering why I chose historical fiction.
I love history, it interests me, and more importantly I love creating my character’s stories right smack-dab in the middle of it.