B is for Background

On this second day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, my blog post is supposed to have something to do with the letter, “B.” I was tempted to write about blogging, but I’ve had that as my topic several times lately. I decided to write about BACKGROUND and what it means in fiction.

Foundations in Fiction

My first thought was to see what my fiction writing instructor in the Continuing Education Department at Queens University of Charlotte, Judith H. Simpson, had to say about background in her book, Foundations in Fiction.

Judy Simpson's book cover 002

Although background and setting are often used interchangeably, Judy chose to address them separately. Whereas setting is physical location, background is the story’s environment. Of background, Judy wrote in her book, “It is not the physical place but something more than that. It can be the hero’s job.”

Examples of background

Many popular authors use a background for their novels that becomes part of their brand. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels are set in New Jersey, but the background is bounty hunting — albeit of the bumbling variety. Tony Hillerman used Indian reservations for background in his Leaphorn and Chee series. Margaret Truman used iconic locations in Washington, DC in her murder mysteries, and Amy Clipston uses the Amish culture as the background in her fiction.

I enjoy reading and writing historical fiction. The historical fiction writer must create physical setting, create story background, and recreate a past culture, according to Judy Simpson. That last aspect — recreation of a past culture — is what gives historical fiction authenticity.

The writer of historical fiction must do extensive research in order to write believable characters. The novel manuscript I’m writing is set in the Carolina backcountry in 1771. People dressed and lived differently in 1771 than how we dress and live in that same geographical location in 2017. The culture, values, and accepted societal mores were different in 1771 than they are in 2017.

The writer of good historical fiction “must know the history of the period you are using; you must understand the social structure of this society; you must know how they lived, what they wore, what they ate, their monetary system, their transportation system, their social events, their daily lives,” according to Judy’s book. If you make an error, one or more readers will delight in bringing that mistake to your attention.

In writing my The Spanish Coin manuscript, I have done extensive research. The fear of making a mistake has paralyzed me sometimes. If I wait until my research is complete and my writing is perfect, though, my novel will never be published. At some point in the next 12 months, I need to conclude that it is as good as I can make it, push to get it published, and get back to writing the sequel.

The Flavor of Historical Fiction

Judy Simpson wrote the following in Foundations in Fiction and I try to keep her words in mind as I work on my book:

“Remember that what makes a historical novel different is the flavor, the sense of time and place of a long ago era. When the reader finishes the book, they should feel as if they were there, as if they really know what it would be like to live then. You have to capture the essence of that time and each period has its own flavor. Only you, the writer, can open the gate to that era for the reader.”

Until my next blog post tomorrow

I hope you have a good book to read. (As I was writing this last night, I was still reading The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens.) If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.


Planning a book tour

Every day brings a new experience. I’m putting together my first book tour in the mountains of North Carolina. I’ve selected nine public libraries to contact. Speaking about my book is going to take me way out of my comfort zone, but I need to do it!

Amy Clipston gave a very interesting presentation on Monday night at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. She told us about how she is able to write Amish fiction without being Amish. She also talked about the journey her family took through the process of kidney transplantation. She is one busy and gracious lady! Check out her books and her website: http://www.amyclipston.com.

Amy Clipston author event tonight!

If you live in the Harrisburg/Concord area, come out tonight for an Amy Clipston speaking engagement hosted by Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC at 7:00 p.m. in the church sanctuary. Amy is a Christian fiction writer who specializes in writing Amish fiction. Even if you haven’t read any of Amy’s books, come out tonight to hear her speak. She will also have her books for sale.

Amy Clipston at Friends of the Harrisburg Library

Last night I had the privilege of hearing author Amy Clipston speak. She was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Harrisburg (NC) Library.

Amy has written numerous Amish fiction books and YA books. I eagerly await the release of A Mother’s Secret, the sequel to A Hopeful Heart. These books are in her Heart of the Lancaster Grand Hotel Series.

Amy has also written The Gift of Love, about the journey she and her husband took through organ donation. I am at the top of the waiting list for it at the library.

Check out Amy’s website to learn more about her and her books. And if you aren’t a member of a local Friends of the Library organization, inquire about it at your public library.

Hearing published authors inspires me

A few weeks ago the Rocky River Readers Book Club had the privilege of having Amy Clipston as our guest speaker. Amy writes Christian Fiction and has found a niche in writing about the Amish. If you get a chance, check out her books.

Sunday night the Rocky River Readers’ guest speaker was Anna Jean Mayhew. The Dry Grass of August, her first novel, was published in 2011 to rave reviews. It follows a 14-year-old white girl in Charlotte in 1954 as she learns first-hand how blacks are treated as second-class citizens. Anna Jean (who writes¬†under the pen name A.J. Mayhew), is working on her second novel. I can’t wait to read it!

Who would have thought a little community book club meeting at a church in a semi-rural area would attract two published authors in one year?