Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The Perils of Research
I always thought I would be writing science fiction, even though my knowledge of science is limited. My fountain pen collection would be my one-off foray into historical fiction, or so I thought.
Admittedly, there are some minor elements of magic realism in the Fountain Pen stories, you could even call it science fiction elements, if you like; the pen being the portal into the past.
In planning my next book I happened to ask an old friend in France a simple question which touched off a flurry of emails racing back and forth across the continent and the Atlantic Ocean. Historical fiction seems be my niche after all. The combination of science fiction and historical fiction seems to working well for author Connie Willis, so why not me?
I have stacks of emails with more information than I could possibly cram into one book. My friend, too, is finding out much more about the Alsace region of France during WWII than he imagined. It’s a complicated and very human history, deeply entangled with the land, culture and the past. Much of what happened in 1940 was set in motion after WWI and the Treaty of Versailles.
But in between the interesting, the shocking, the surprising and down-right fascinating exploration of individual stories we’ve been collecting, there is also the occasional buried secret. A secret so dark and so unpleasant that it has been buried in the very fibers of the individuals tasked with keeping it. To reveal it would cost too much and do too much damage, even now, so very many years later.
Relentless digging, following trails that lead to dead-ends and then suddenly open onto side roads nobody really wanted to walk on. In order to protect some very good people we have now become the keepers of this particular secret.
Not to worry though, I have more than enough research to fill at least two books and I will continue to throw in tiny bits of magic realism where I can. My first chapter has already been rewritten three times, but that is the nature of historical fiction. How else can I make my characters seem alive and true?
What started as an idea for a ‘simple’ ghost story has grown into quite a bit more!