As part of the blog tour for her newest release, Cate of the Lost Colony, Lisa Klein was kind enough to agree to write a bit about one of my favorite genres, historical fiction.
Author Bio: I am a lifelong reader and lover of words who said to myself one day, "Maybe I can write a novel." So in 2001 I sat down and began writing Ophelia, which was published in 2006. By that time I had completed a Ph.D., taught English literature as an assistant professor for nine years, married, had two sons, and finished two nonfiction books. Oh, and read more books than I can possibly recall. But one of my favorites growing up was Gone With the Wind, which I read seven times as a teenager. Thirty-odd years later, I wrote my own Civil War novel, Two Girls of Gettysburg. And the high-school parody of Macbeth that won our class first place in the homecoming skit competition eventually morphed into more sophisticated retellings of Shakespeare: Ophelia and Lady Macbeth's Daughter. I love doing research for my novels and retelling history and Shakespeare's plays from a fresh, female-centered perspective.
I live in Columbus, Ohio with my husband, two teenage sons, a dog and a cat. You can visit my website at www.authorlisaklein.com.
Time Travel that Won’t Leave You Seriously Jet-Lagged, Ill, or Dead
I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, because it took me out of the boring here and now into a place of greater excitement—and often greater hardship. When I was growing up I devoured the Little House on the Prairie books, the Mary Poppins series, books by Maud Hart Lovelace, and later Gone With the Wind and Jane Austen’s novels. (The original ones; not the new zombie ones!) Also, big on my list were biographies of queens, like Elizabeth I, whose life was more amazing than any novel.
What I love about writing historical fiction is the chance to live in another place and time while I am researching and writing the book—and long after, as the memory of a great trip stays with you. Because it was the main character I identified with while reading historical fiction, I try to create strong and interesting heroines—your guides to the world of the past. It’s not always easy, because they need to be believable in their own time, yet relevant to modern readers. For example, Ophelia in her dire situation at the court of Elsinore had few realistic choices in the 16th century, but today she would have many options. So it’s my job to be a bridge, not only so that you can visit the past, but so that the past can come alive in the present.
It’s funny, because I was not crazy about history when I was in school. It was always taught as dates, wars, political events, and the deeds of great men. But when you think of history as people who experienced the above, it comes alive in a new way. History includes women and children as well as men. And if young women can see themselves as part of history—not just as observers on the sidelines—then, then I think it empowers them to think and act in new ways. Somewhere along the line I developed a hunger to know how young women might have been affected by great events in history, such as the battle of Gettysburg or the founding of the Roanoke colony. Now I am a history junkie.
Finally—and this is the only real justification for historical fiction—the past is full of amazing people and occurrences. As an author, I can’t make up stuff that’s any better. As a reader, you learn a thing or two while being entertained. This keeps parents and teachers off your back. They won’t yell at you if you are reading historical fiction.
Reading about the past in fiction is safer than actually living there. You can fight the battle of Gettysburg without getting killed, visit the court of Elsinore without Hamlet stabbing you, and explore Roanoke Island without getting shot full of arrows. Plus, you gotta admit that reading a novel is way more fun than reading a history textbook. If you disagree, I dare you to raise your hand. Right behind me there’s some guy in a doublet carrying a dagger.
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