When I wrote Captain Garrison, I delved into a time I knew almost nothing about. I hunted for the common threads of humanity that united our era to that of the captain’s.
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I remember when we visited on Staten Island I tried to mentally peel back the layers of civilization and imagine what it looked like when Nicholas lived there.
For awhile in the fall of 2018, I walked around the house carrying a taper candle for light. That’s a little extreme, I suppose, since it’s also a fire hazard. But I was in the zone!
It’s a tricky thing to bring life to the long dead.
To discuss this topic further, I called Rachael Lofgren, author of eight books with TGS International in the last ten years. Like me, Rachael has just recently delved into historical fiction. Here the are. Out of the Depths, Journey to Joy, Seventeen-Ounce Miracle, Trailblazer, Against the Odds, Doxology in Darkness, Like a Mighty Giant, and Precious, Handle with Care. See all of her books here.
Rachael is currently working on a project set in the 1600’s. Even though we see dry names and dates from these times, these distant people vibrated with life. They snored loudly, wheezed with laughter, or told lame jokes. I asked Rachael to talk about bringing these ancient people to life in writing.
People living in the 1600’s Were Real People
“People are people wherever they fall in the span of history,” Rachael says. “That has really kept me grounded.”
In her current writing project, Rachael is trying to understand the world view her characters would have operated under in the 1600’s, yet still incorporate those into the humanity of the people she is writing about.
Humanity doesn’t change. People in the 1600’s really were not different from us. They really did have personalities! But those personalities do not come through in the writings we have from those times.
What About Other Eras?
Much of the same can be said of Biblical fiction, stories written during Bible times. If anything, could Biblical fiction be more difficult?
I asked Rachael if she has ever written fiction set in Bible times. She laughed, and said she did write a novel as a teenager. We both laughed awhile, reflecting on the piles of projects all writers have from the past.
“Is it easier to write a story set in the 1600’s than it is to write fiction set in Bible times?” I ask Rachael.
“I think that I probably feel less scruples surrounding it,” Rachael says, “in the sense that Scripture is so important to us and we need to preserve its accuracy of course. But I think as historians, that same bearing witness to the truth is an important element of what we bring into our storytelling.”
There are great benefits of working closer to the present. When you work with World War II history, as Rachael did in Journey to Joy, the task is much easier. There is so much information available. Rachael interviewed a woman who remembered terrible battles but did not know the dates. With online searching, Rachael matched the woman’s memories with the recorded battles.
Both she and I agree – detective work is thrilling!
Someone will always find a mistake!
I wish I could have gone to Germany and had all the Moravian documents about Nicholas Garrison translated. It simply wasn’t practical. But here’s the truth. Someone in Germany might read Captain Garrison, and then go to the archives and find documents that disprove certain aspects of this work.
Besides that, odds are that if a historian or another writer reads your book, they will find something you missed. I told Rachael that I got an email from another writer pointing out a mistake in Captain Garrison. It was a very kind email, and she said she had enjoyed the book. But paper bags were not in existence then. So how did the Garrison father bring cinnamon home from Manhattan in a paper bag?
Rachael and I conclude that there will always be people who find those mistakes, but it is not possible to write a fictionalized story for those people. We need to do the best we can. But we can’t spend ten years on one project! We write stories, not histories.
Precious, Handle With Care
After talking with Rachael, I remembered that I had wanted to read her new book, Precious, Handle with Care. I purchased it, and binge read it on Saturday night. Anyone with a special needs child who frequents the hospital, anyone involved in foster care or adoption, or anyone who has experienced a miscarriage will identify with this story. I also recommend it for people who have friends experiencing these things. Based on a true story, this book grapples with such topics as how to help someone in difficult situations without making things worse for them. It lets you into the mind of a real mother grappling with extreme trials. The book also starts with several fascinating chapters of backstory about the child in question. Once again, you can find Precious, Handle with Care, here.
Grand Opening Specials
Anyone who has read or purchased Captain Garrison is welcome to enter the drawing by commenting below on this blog from now until Saturday morning at 6am. Tell me where you got the book or something you liked about it and you will be automatically entered for a chance to win a $100 cash prize (separate from the one mentioned above). The same person cannot win both $100 cash drawings!
For those of you that haven’t gotten a Captain Garrison yet, you can get it here.
- 10% off through Saturday with code 10YEARS – Two more days!
- Purchasing from my online store automatically enters you into a second cash prize drawing for $100
- Free leather bookmark with purchase.
Sale ends Saturday! Only two days left to get books 10% off with code 10YEARS. Thank you for your orders from Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alberta, and Iowa!
Thanks, Susan, for alerting me today to a problem with buying downloads. I think it is fixed now, but please email me if there are any future problems. Katrina@500-words.com.
Leo and Larry’s Trivia for readers – On Page 302 of Captain Garrison. While sailing past England, the lookout calls down from the mast with a warning. Nicholas’ daughter Katie says, “Is there danger, Father?” How does Nicholas answer? The first person to email me with the correct answer (Katrina@500-words.com) receives TWO pouches of Captain Garrison coffee by mail! You may not win twice. ALREADY TAKEN! Nicholas replied, “Yes.” Thanks for playing, from Leo & Larry. 🙂Congrats to Dawn from Pennsylvania (my cousin!) who won the last trivia with the correct three trees in the refugee’s garden: pomegranate, olive, and pear.
Saturday! The final lesson on writing will focus on research and the upcoming book Thomas Kirkman: Artist, Spy, Amish Man. You will get to listen in to a real live research conversation when I make a phone call to Tom’s son Brad to ask a question. I’m also hoping to get Marnell to join me for this final podcast.
Good luck on the drawing!