Today we have a guest post from Bob O'Connor about writing historical fiction. Bob's book The Return of Catesby is currently on tour with Walker Author Tours. Enjoy, and pick up your copy of the book at http://www.buybooksontheweb.com/product.aspx?ISBN=0-7414-8206-1.
It is often said of fiction writers that we don’t have to do any research because we can make everything up. I do not operate that way. I spend months and sometimes years gathering information from individual soldier’s military records, personal letters, regimental histories and the like to gather information I need. I find undiscovered “nuggets” in military records, diaries, etc. I build my story around that information.
When I write I actually add footnotes. That allows me to go back at any time and check figures or specific information. I delete all the footnotes on the final draft before the book is published.
In novel “The Return of Catesby” I follow Catesby’s journal. Obvious I have added the dialogue. I use maps and photographs to add to the authenticity of the story.
A historian asked recently why I spend all that time researching and then write fiction. The answer is complicated. First and foremost, fiction gives me creative license that I would not have with non-fiction. Secondly, it allows me to fill in holes in the story. Thirdly, it is much more fun to write fiction. And finally, more people purchase and read fiction than non-fiction.
In this book, many of the events such as the trial of Henry Wirz, the funeral of Robert E. Lee, and the happenings at Storer College are well documented and really happened. So is the disenchantment of the Harpers Ferry townspeople of having a black college in their midst. By researching what historians say really happened, it is easier to develop some side stories that fit in and quite possibly have also occurred.
Because many have read “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War” they already know some of the characters that spill over into the second book.
I try hard to make the story interesting and believable. Many historians cannot tell when I am telling the truth and when I am making something up.
“The Return of Catesby” is available on line at www.boboconnorbooks.com or at amazon.com.