Historical Fiction

Visiting with Ben

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in American History, Book: The Eureka Key, Historical Fiction | 0 comments

Ben kindly greeted me at the visitor's center.

Ben kindly greeted me at the visitor’s center.

On book tour in Philadelphia (yes, I still love saying that), I got the chance to visit the Franklin Museum on the site where Ben Franklin’s former home and print shop stood. Fantastic museum, so well done! Since he is a major player in The Eureka Key, I feel a bond with him. Once you write about a person, it does sort of turn them into your best friend.

IMG_7668

Franklin used this contraption to store electricity. It’s kind of like a colonial-era battery. He was fascinated by electricity and tinkered with it constantly. The kite and the key are his most famous experiment, but not the only one.

 

 

 

 

IMG_7642

The “ghost houses” outline the space where Franklin’s home and his son-in-law’s print shop once stood. Evocative and strangely beautiful

IMG_7665

The glass harmonium itself–invented by Franklin, it plays a key part in a pivotal scene of the novel.

Isn't it amazing what archaeology can, er, dig up?

Isn’t it amazing what archaeology can, er, dig up?

Read More

“Edge-of-your-seat action!”

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Book: Deadly Flowers, Historical Fiction, Ninjas, Press, Reviews | 0 comments

FLOWERS coverHere’s what Kirkus Reviews says about Deadly Flowers:

A girl’s first mission as a ninja is complicated by a pair of young siblings and dangerous Japanese spirits. Orphaned at a young age, Kata has been trained to be a “deadly flower”—a female ninja in feudal Japan. She is the best trainee at Madame Chiyome’s secret school. Kata is eager to prove herself on her first mission, only to realize that she must assassinate Ichiro, a little boy and heir of a powerful lord. His 15-year-old sister, Saiko, initially Kata’s accomplice, surprises her by thwarting the mission. Having failed her first mission, Kata’s honor forces her to help the siblings find their uncle. The plot is dense with detail and events. Ichiro hands Kata a small pearl for safekeeping but neglects to disclose its supernatural powers. Kata initially looks down on Saiko’s noble coyness but finds that Saiko’s skills have their uses on their journey. The three fight off demons, Madame’s ninjas, and a samurai’s legions. In Kata and Saiko, Thomson has created heroines who are opposites yet manage to use their strengths to take control of their lives under the social restraints of their time. Plot-driven moments feel like pauses in between the book’s heavy action scenes. Japanese spirits are described in frightfully vivid detail, along with the ninjas’ death-defying exploits. Edge-of-your-seat action that will have both girls and boys rooting for the girl ninjas. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

Read More

Tug of War

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, Ninjas | 0 comments

Detail from Hokusai Manga

Detail from Hokusai Manga

Historical fiction is a balancing act–better metaphor, a tug of war, accuracy pulling hard on one side and accessibility on the other. If you make your characters talk like they actually did four or five centuries ago, you will quickly lose readers who don’t have the patience to mentally translate. For example, here’s a snippet of Meriwether Lewis’s diary from his expedition to find the Northwest Passage. He’s presumably writing and spelling more or less as he spoke:

…this may in some measure assist us to account for the heavy dues which are mor remarkable for their freequency and quantity than in any country I was ever in—    they are so heavy the drops falling from the trees from about midknight untill sunrise gives you the eydea of a constant gentle rain.

And that’s just from 1803, and the man is speaking/writing English. If you’re trying to go farther back historically and farther afield geographically, it gets harder and harder to make your characters sound comprehensible.

On the other hand, if you make your characters talk like today’s teenagers, they just sound ludicrous. I knew I had gone too far in that direction when one of my writing group participants told me that my ninjas sounded a bit like her Yiddish-speaking relatives.

And the thing is, you don’t actually know if you’ve kept your balance until the thing is published and you get reactions from readers. That’s when you discover if accuracy had yanked you so far off into Meriwether-Lewis-land that nobody can understand you, or if accessibility has pulled you flat on your face.

Read More