While I’ve been writing for over twenty years, they’ve not been strong, steady decades of pounding the keyboard. Much of it I spent struggling with why I felt compelled to write. Was it a worthwhile way to spend my time? There were entire years I put down my pencil and quit.
“The Crucial Role of Historical Fiction in Times of Political Turmoil” by Jillian Cantor answers that question for me. Click here to read it.
So, why historical fiction?
I like the idea that human nature is a constant. While we have become more enlightened over the millennia (of which students of history are aware), we feel joy, sorrow, jealousy, bitterness, pride, and love much as people always have.
When imagining life in another era, we have the advantage of knowing the outcomes of turbulent times. But what would a person living through it think and feel without this knowledge? Actual participants hadn’t our luxury of hindsight.
My current book is set in Revolutionary-era South Carolina. The colonies were in chaos. Your neighbor often became your greatest enemy, destroying property or even slaughtering your family. We know the Founding Fathers as extraordinarily wise architects of a world-shattering system of government. At the time, only blind faith compelled them to challenge the greatest military of their day. Yet, had the war gone as most should’ve expected, these men would be a minor footnote in history, barely-remembered traitors dangling from the gallows.
Following an argument over Japanese internment camps, I can remember my father screaming at me, “You don’t know what it was like then!” He was right. I was not there. I cannot understand the fear people suffered during World War II. My indignation over the camps had the indulgence of knowing the U.S. would win in the end.
But, as a lover of history and the fictional expression of it, I can step into the skin of those who lived and breathed these struggles. In doing so, I gain perspective of life then, as well as life now.
Like Jillian Cantor, I feel we are in the midst of historic times. Some lament that these are the worst of times. Yet, people no smarter nor more ethical nor more courageous than we are right now made it through.
I know that because I’ve read about them.