Monday, October 6, 2014

Pulling Yesterday Into Today

Stephanie here. I know I made some promises last Monday about sharing my timeline tool, but that's because in a flighty moment, I spaced that today we're hosting author Jennifer Murgia, who's talking about her experience with writing a historical. I'll share the timeline tool tomorrow, along with details about a Go Teen Writers word war taking place later this week. For today, let's warmly welcome Jennifer!

Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy, to contemporary gut-punchers, to her latest, a 17th century historical mystery (about witches!) She also moonlights as Marketing Director for Leap Books and runs a teen book festival on the east coast called YA FEST. In her spare time she chills out with her kids, snuggles with her cat, obsesses over THE WALKING DEAD and tries not to eat too much ice cream. Find her at www.jennifermurgia.com 

Tell me you haven’t yawned during History class.

Come on.

You have.

We all have. Even me.

But I have to admit there’s something positively thrilling about DIGGING through the past and retelling it. I tend to think of historical fiction as “Literary Archaeology”—uncovering and bringing to light information for new eyes and ears to make sense of it, interpret it, to pass it on.

I was drawn to the topic of my latest book, FOREST OF WHISPERS, for a plethora of reasons: my own family tree sprouted in Germany, I’m a sucker for witch tales, I love a good mystery, and I realized (*Cough. Don’t tell my high school history teacher*) that I really, honestly, truly enjoy RESEARCH.

Like any project, I opened my laptop and began to Google, taking notes, aiming for the areas of interest I had in my mind: Southwestern Bavaria, 1600’s, witch hunts. What I didn’t expect was to become so completely immersed in the horror of that time period. Mind you, I knew my book would be dark, haunting even. But as I unraveled the past, intent on providing authenticity to the story I knew I would tell, I never quite expected to be drawn in so deeply.

What I uncovered was a world so incredibly DIFFERENT than our own—yet it mirrored our current society to such a degree that made me realize the past oftentimes comes full circle. Did  you know German witch hunts started the original frenzied wave of persecution? Did you realize hundreds upon hundreds of women and children, even men in high standing, were condemned? That in one city alone, 60,000 people were convicted of witchcraft? It’s mind-blowing and it  began with pointing fingers and placing blame, and grew very ugly very quickly. Does this sound like modern-day bullying? I think so.

Beyond the staggering numbers, my story required much more if it were to accurately retell what life
had been like in 1627. So, I researched the area extensively, noting the plants that grew in the Black Forest, the construction of the buildings, the maps and rivers and towns, and calculated how long it would take to reach one from the other . . . on foot and on horseback.

Notes upon notes upon notes . . . and never once did I yawn. (My teachers would be proud.)

My advice on retelling the past? Become the past. Absorb it. Read and research. Print pictures and leave images around to help pull that time into NOW. Imagine your life as it would have been back then and add your voice. You’ll find, I’m certain, that the past isn’t so different from today.

FOREST OF WHISPERS is a 17th century Bavarian witch mystery published by Spencer Hill Press. It is a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Award Winner and is available at booksellers nationwide, including Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Indie Bound.


18 comments:

  1. I think researching for a historical fiction book would be so much fun because I wouldn't be restricted by guidelines like I would if I was doing research for a school project. Printing out images is a great idea that I never thought of before. It would be so helpful for writing description. It's also really neat how you found parallels between history and the present day. Thanks for the helpful post!

    WORD WARS!!! I'M SO EXCITED!!! BESIDES THE AWESOME BLOG POSTS WORD WARS ARE MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT GTW!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ME TOO!!! :D (about the word war thing)

      Delete
    2. Yep. I do have a question for Stephanie, though. Will there also be word wars in November as well? I'm actually in the middle of plotting a new WIP right now, so I might not be able to start drafting by the time the word wars come around this week. However, I'll definitely be drafting by the time NaNoWriMo comes, so it would be awesome to have a word war in November.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, I hope we have word wars during NaNo! I've sadly- or maybe thankfully? - set my first novel aside for the time being, since right now the plot -or lack thereof-just seems hopeless. So I'm taking some distance from the rewrite (So long, 100 for 100 victory...*sniffles*) and planning a better structured novel for November.

      Delete
    4. Aw, don't get discouraged! You can do it. Just give your WIP a rest for a little while, work on something else, and come back to it later. Don't give up! :)

      Delete
    5. Sure, we could do one in November. Thanks for bringing it up!

      Delete
  2. I had no idea we were going to have a word war! Yay! I don't believe I've ever yawned in history. I love history XD

    ReplyDelete
  3. What if you want to combine two times together to create a completely unique society? How much would you recommend me researching?

    ReplyDelete
  4. History is great!! I've had to do a lot of research for my newest WIP and have loved every minute of it. My notes help keep my thoughts together for writing.

    On a side note: I looked up the word war in some past entries. It sounds awesome! I'm so excited!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Word Wars are fantastic!! This will be my second one, and I'm so excited! :D

      Delete
    2. Word wars are awesome! This will be my third one, but I really can not get enough of them. I would never get tired of them, so I totally think they should be a monthly or bimonthly feature. That would be awesome...

      Delete
  5. Writing historical fiction sounds like something I would enjoy. I'm quirky enough to read text books and timelines for recreation, so why not?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great advice! It kind of reminds me of a story idea of mine where one of the POVs is a time-traveling journalist/ historical fiction writer who goes and witnesses events she writes about. If only...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Awesome post! I'm twelve and my WIP is based on Norse mythology, so I've decided to do a lot of research. Thanks a lot! this site is a life saver!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'd definitely want to write a historical fic at some point or another, but even after researching everything, I'm still just really scared to mess it up.

    ReplyDelete

Home