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Monday 22 November 2010

Guest Post: Writing Historical Fiction

Ann Chandler, author of the newly released young adult novel Kootenay Silver, joins us today (all the way from beautiful Canada!) to talk about writing Historical Fiction.

History is fascinating! There’s nothing more exciting than opening a diary and turning each yellowed page of fountain pen script to peek inside the heart and head of someone who lived long before me. Or gazing at old faded photographs of people I never knew. What were they thinking? What news did they read in the daily paper? How did their houses look inside? What did they long for? Who did they love? The challenges were often greater, the work harder, the tragedies and losses more frequent, and yet somehow, I think, that made achievements more fulfilling, loving more intense, and victories more euphoric.

Writing historical fiction means looking for the tiniest details. Researching Kootenay Silver led me on a fascinating journey - to board a historic paddlewheeler, explore a forgotten ghost town, spend hours in the dusty archives of war records, newspapers and old photos, and pore through museums. I learned about how the first contingent of Canadian soldiers was so eager to join that the camp they were headed for was not yet set up. I learned how even in the smallest of towns, those on the home front devoted their time and energy to support them in any way possible.

Printed archives (especially diaries and letters) revealed much about the era in which Kootenay Silver is set, but photos were also fabulously helpful in providing me with visual details. Photos of street scenes, work scenes, homes (inside and out), industrial buildings, machinery, horses, dogs, wagons, and especially people, gave me the information I needed to get inside Addy’s life. Old maps of the area and the advice of a long-time local familiar with the backwoods enabled me to help Addy find her way through the Kootenay wilderness as she flees her tragic past and stumbles into her future.

Addy is on the search for the brother who left to find work and promised to return for her, and the brother who was tragically whisked away at birth. But Addy has a terrible secret to hide. If anyone finds out, all efforts to find her brothers will be lost.

All my life I have found that the historic facts and details I remember the most are those I learned when reading accurate historical fiction. Kootenay Silver will take you into the World War One era in eastern British Columbia, you will learn its silver mining history, explore its wilderness, and visit its small towns. You will cheer for Addy, you will cry for Addy, you will keep her secrets and worry about her safety, and along the way you will learn some western Canadian history. Just like I did.

Ann Chandler is a Canadian freelance writer and anthropologist living in Coquitlam, BC. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an honours degree in forensic archaeology and cultural anthropology. She grew up on a honey farm in the interior of BC and spent her childhood reading mail-ordered books from the Victoria Public Library. 

Her non-fiction for adults has been published in national and international magazines, including Reader’s Digest, The Beaver, Best Health, Aramco, and More Magazine. Her first teen novel, Siena Summer (Tradewind 2008), is about a famous Italian horse race. Her latest novel Kootenay Silver (Dundurn Press 2010) is historical fiction set during the World War One era in western Canada. 

Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC. See her work at http://www.annchandler.com/.