I'm delighted to welcome Rose Fairbanks to the salon to pose a question... Do you prefer reading fictionalized accounts of famous people and events or do you enjoy the creative license authors may take with historical settings?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that many women, especially those with an ardent love for Jane Austen and the Regency era, fancy themselves as Elizabeth Bennet. I’ve always argued that the majority of us are more like the much less sparkling, equally opinionated but unapologetic and socially tactless sister Mary Bennet. After all, Elizabeth says of herself: "I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things."
That sure doesn’t sound like me. For most of my life, it’s always been about reading. Books, books and more books. I love the adventure books take me on. But I’m not really a logophile. I don’t labor over perfect words when I read or write.
I do, however, have a favorite word and a very distinct memory attached to it.
Merriam-Webster offers this as a definition for defenestrate: 1) a throwing of a person or thing out of a window. 2) a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)
I sat shivering from a cold downpour in a basement classroom on my small college campus at 8 am after working until midnight the night before with precious coffee tumbler in hand when I first heard that word. My professor preferred to wax eloquent on the subject of Central European Reformation history—which would not be unusual as the course was titled Renaissance and Reformation. At first, I blamed the sleep deprivation on my reaction to this lecture. Later, I thought perhaps it was from relating to the events as my first memory is of my brother almost pushing me out a window. Now, I know the truth. I am a historical fiction writer.
I had always loved history and had read historical fiction even in elementary school. Hearing the events of the Defenestration of Prague, however, sparked my creative streak, and I couldn’t help but picture it in my head. It appeared not just as a painting, of which many others felt inspired to portray, but as a narrative.
While hearing how the Catholics said the defenestrated men were saved by angels, and the Protestants said the victims fell in a pile of dung, my mind turned the notable names involved into living, breathing people with motives, fears, and concerns. So passionate were they that throwing a person out a window was a viable solution to their problems. In all my years of reading, I had never read anything like that. The truth is often stranger than fiction, and I consider that day to be the moment my historical fiction writer gene was activated.
Oh, I repressed the urge, fearful of how to make a career out of it. Life has a way of messing all our plans, however, and after falling in love with the Regency era, I could no longer resist. Here I am on wobbly legs like Bambi declaring that I am a historical fiction writer all the while feeling inadequate and undeserving of the label.
Alas, the specifics of what I imagined in class ten years about the Defenestration of Prague has flitted from my mind. Instead, I have plans for dozens of Regency era stories. I’ve discovered through the years that I prefer to create a new set of events from historical situations rather than writing novels based on one single event or person. In short, to me, historical fiction is about a historical setting that creates endless possibilities. I write because I love considering what might have happened; what story nameless individuals might have.
In my recent release, Sufficient Encouragement, I pieced together various events which occurred during the Luddite revolts in the North of England in early 1812 for my storyline involving Jane Austen’s famous couple, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. My upcoming Love and Duty Series will focus on events during the late Georgian/Regency era to create the backdrop for character development. The first one, The Earl’s Return, coming this July, centers on a conflict between a couple that occurred during a smallpox outbreak and years later, the emergence of Edward Jenner’s vaccine. A subsequent story in the series, The Marquess’ Bargain, will occur during the Year Without a Summer—a season of global climate anomalies after a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Instead of covering the explosion itself, my characters in England have no idea what is causing the crazy weather but have to face the consequences of it as it threatens the lives of many in their care.
I’m curious what other great readers (whether Elizabeth or Mary Bennets, I won’t ask) prefer. Do they prefer reading fictionalized accounts of famous people and events or do they enjoy the creative license authors may take with historical settings?
About the Author
Rose Fairbanks hears book characters talk in her head. They whisper to her of a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. More than having a love story for the ages, these characters face struggles inspired by historical events such as market crashes, Napoleon, embargoes, Luddites, the Year Without a Summer and more. Merging historical research with the timelessness of Jane Austen, Rose currently has ten Pride and Prejudice variations published with several releases planned for 2016 as well as an original Regency Romance series in the works.
Rose proudly admits her Darcy obsession and addictions to reading, chocolate, and sweet tea. Always in the mood for a healthy debate, she also dearly loves to laugh. Having completed a BA in history in 2008, she plans to complete her master’s studies...someday. At the moment, having a career combining her life-long interest in history and research with her love for Jane Austen and the Regency Era consumes all of her professional time. When not writing or reading, Rose runs after her two young children, ignores housework, and profusely thanks her husband for doing all the dishes and laundry.
Written content of this post copyright © Rose Fairbanks, 2016.