I finished reading Water for Elephants yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I liked the story and delighted in learning the history as well. I’ve been planning to write historical fiction of my own for a while and this book got me all juiced up again. A little too juiced up, because I now want to abandon my current project. I won’t, but it’s tempting.
In the meantime, I can focus on the research that I need in order to be ready to jump in when this current project is finished. I’d love to launch right in, but that lack of foresight is what’s clogging things up in my current project. I started it for NaNoWriMo so I didn’t do much planning. It wasn’t a problem for the first 15, 000 words but now I’m running into road blocks. I know I need to step back and sort the story out before I proceed.
I hated history until my senior year of high school. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Melbach finally made history interesting to me. He opened me up to a whole new world, so to speak. He also taught us history through literature which appealed to my love of reading. I realized that if the story was engaging enough, I could savor the history lesson too.
During the last semester of my bachelor degree I needed one more class to graduate. I decided to take an Irish in America class on a whim. My ancestors are Irish and I thought it would be interesting. It was one of the best classes I have ever taken. I learned a ton about my heritage and I met Jim Walsh. Jim is an incredible teacher, but he also became my friend. Jim introduced me to what he calls, “History from Below”. The idea is that the real history is the people’s history and that is rarely what we read about in text books.
I am a member of a local acting troupe that Jim started called The Romero Troupe. I have been honored to be a part of this group and learn history from below with these amazing people. You can see more info about the troupe here if you’re interested.
Being in Jim’s class and working with The Romero Troupe has led me to a love affair with history. It adds such a rich background for storytelling. I read that Sara Gruen found the inspiration for Water for Elephants from a picture of traveling circuses that ran with an article in the Chicago Tribune. I also have been inspired by pictures for some of my stories. I think looking at historical photographs will play into my research for the next book too.
Do you like historical fiction? If so, what’s the best historical fiction book you’ve read?
I can’t remember the last historical fiction book I read, but I am in the process of writing on. It has been a blast to do. I have learned so much while writing it. It is actually based on a line of my family who’s parent’s died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1888 that started in Florida and swept across the south.
I think a person has to be able to put themselves in the picture to write fiction plus have the knowledge or do the research for the historical part. I was lucky enough that I had just enough family history to give me a good start at my story.
I am esentially a newbie when it comes to writing. I have pulblished one book and now I am working on the second. It has certainly been an eye opener.
I wish you luck on your projects and I enjoyed your blog.
I agree with you, Shirley. I think it’s wonderful that you had the personal historical knowledge to get a start on your story. The yellow fever epidemic is such a devastating and fascinating time in history – great inspiration for storytelling.
Good luck on your project as well!