Historical fiction: because there’s always plenty of evil (and good)

Reading the Kirkus list of best YA historical fiction and best children’s historical fiction from 2010 ups my desire to write a historical novel.

There are so many amazing stories and settings from the recent and distant past that are worth researching and writing. That’s reason enough to work in the historical mode.

But I have a bigger (and perhaps slightly twisted?) reason. It drives me nuts when people wax nostalgic about “the good old days” and complain about our corrupt present reality. I always want to say, “Really? Really? Don’t you think people were selfish and rotten then just as much as they are now?”

My opinion is that there is a pretty much steady presence of good and evil in the world, it just gets expressed differently in different eras. If the 1950s offered safer streets than today’s suburbs, against that “good” was all the heartache of women raising kids alone while dads worked crazy long hours, the pain of openly expressed racism and painfully closeted homosexuality, and the wounds left by sexual abuse that went unrecognized and unreported in those same “picture-perfect” neighborhoods.

Of course, there are also always folks making choices worth being proud of, whether their world is Internet-enabled or only on the cusp of electrification.

Here’s a secret: I’m working on a historical novel, I’m just not ready to talk about it to anybody but my cat. Call it superstition or prudence, but I don’t like to “spend” ideas by talking about them before writing them through. It’s not just me; smart people like writer Tony Ardizzone say the same. (Tony gave a great class on strategies for writing success at the 2009 Indiana Writers’ Conference. If he’s ever at a writing conference near you, I recommend checking him out.)


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