Tag Archives: research

Writing an Epic Family Saga by Novelist Linda Spalding

Posted by January 10th, 2014

The Purchase 2

The following is a guest post by Linda Spalding about her historical novel THE PURCHASE, winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Prize for Fiction. The book tells the story of Quaker Daniel Dickinson and his family, and their new life at the Virginia frontier – where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested. 

Here Linda talks about intertwining the story of antebellum America with family history to create an epic family saga. 

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Every family is an epic. Even a single generation has so many stories tucked away that ten thousand pages would be required to tell them all. A family is the perfect proof of chaos theory – the one where a butterfly causes a blizzard in Florida or an airplane crash in the arctic. Your mother tickles you on your left foot while you snooze in your cradle and you develop an allergy to walking barefoot on grass in your middle age.

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Family Histories: Writing Memoir with Marianne Szegedy-Maszak

Posted by December 5th, 2013

December is when writers are surrounded by rhetoric about family. For our Book Country Author Q&A this week, I wanted to talk to Spiegel & Grau author Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, whose book I KISS YOUR HANDS MANY TIMES is one of the best books I’ve read this year. A stunning blend of political intrigue, intimate romance, and drily funny commentary on the central European upper classes of a bygone era, Szegedy-Maszak’s book delves into her own family’s rich history. The author is a descendant of an important and wealthy Jewish aristocratic family who’d traded their lives for safe passage into neutral Portugal during World War II. Her father, who served in the Hungarian foreign ministry, was interned as a political prisoner at Dachau, where he very nearly died of typhus. With painstaking journalistic skill, Szegedy-Maszak pieces together an incredible true story of survival, ultimately revealing the truth of how her own quiet childhood in America, with Sunday mass and Girl Scout camping trips, was the result of extraordinary twists of fate.I KISS YOUR HANDS MANY TIMES

As an aspirational memoirist myself, I was blown away by the elegance of Szegedy-Maszak’s prose, as well as her ability to weave historical detail and idiosyncratic family lore into her narrative so smoothly. Below, I asked her to fill us in on how she brought this writing project to life.

LS: It seems like the amount of detail in this book would be difficult to pull off in such an engaging way, but you did it with effortless warmth. Do you have any tips for other writers contending with such a large amount of facts, dates, and names?

MSK: Of course my first response is one of gratitude for both noticing the historical heft and appreciating the way it was integrated into the more personal story. As compelling as I found my family’s story, I also realized that it couldn’t be really understood without the broader context of the world they inhabited and the history they took for granted, the history that shaped them. I suppose that this is where the journalist in me stepped in and took charge. I needed to report this story as I would any big magazine piece and marshal the history, the documents, newspaper clippings from the time, the interviews with others who were either experts or eyewitnesses, and of course the mass of secondary sources dealing with this period. I would like to say that I had a sophisticated computer system in which each bit of information was at my fingertips, but I am still stuck with the need to look at paper. So I had a very unsophisticated but extremely practical system of dividing everything chronologically, putting whatever I had in file folders labeled with each month. When I was ready to write, each file folder contained a great combination of the history and the letters my parents wrote, and the letters that were written to them. Somehow the integration of the personal and the historical had already happened within that file in a rudimentary way.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Historical Fiction Writer Renee Gravelle

Posted by October 15th, 2013

Renee Gravelle Author PhotoOne of the very first books I read on Book Country was Renee Gravelle‘s WIP FIRES OF HALCYON. I am a sucker for well-researched, thoughtful historical fiction, and FIRES OF HALCYON is this and so much more. FIRES OF HALCYON is the story of four families living in the village of Fredonia, New York, in the mid-nineteenth century, right in the midst of intense social change–the temperance, women’s rights, abolitionist, and Spiritualist movements are in full swing all around these characters. Drawing on deep research into German immigration and American social reform of the 1800’s, Renee is in the process of drafting an historical novel that is warmhearted, intriguing, and just a little bit frightening. Read on to hear what Renee has to say about joining Book Country and working on FIRES OF HALCYON.

First off, what brought you to Book Country?

This summer, I met an author who’s writing about [the children’s author] Margaret Wise Brown. She told me about Book Country. I thought it was worth a try. Expecting an anonymous vastness in which being noticed would be difficult, I found a delightful cozy intimacy instead. The requirement that new members post a review before they can submit their own work for review guarantees their active and important participation from the start. And welcoming e-mails and invitations open up a banquet of connecting and discussion opportunities from which members can choose.

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