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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Anne Mateer: Infusing Fiction with Fact

 
Jennifer AlLee here. Today it's my great pleasure to present our guest, former founding Inky and fabulous author, Anne Mateer! She's giving away a copy of her newest novel, At Every Turn. Details are at the end of the post.


Having been a history major in college, I have a great respect for historical facts and historical accuracy. But even back then, my goal wasn’t to make a name for myself in the halls of academia. I wanted to write fiction infused with historical fact.

I remember the day I mentioned this, with fear and trepidation, to the professor who was advising me on my senior honors thesis.

“What will you do next?” he asked that spring, as we neared the end of our time together.

I gulped, took a deep breath, and let out the secret dream I’d told to few others. “I want to write historical fiction.”

To that point in my life, most of the historical fiction I had loved had been much more than costume drama. It was authors such as Eugenia Price and Irving Stone who fictionalized real people who lived in an earlier era. I explained this to my professor, thinking it would elevate my goals in his eyes.

Instead, he frowned and shook his head. “Don’t try to fictionalize those big historical figures. Instead, steep yourself in a time period and write a story out of how you know it to be.”

That advice went deep and stuck. But eventually, fictional characters and their fictional stories bump up against historical events. To me, this is a good thing. It’s a chance to educate readers about things they never learned or have long forgotten that impacted at least some people’s lives. This is where my love of history and my devotion to fact intervenes. I simply cannot make my characters interact with a historical event in a way that changes the historical record.

I don’t want people to walk away from my novels believing something about a historical event that isn’t true. So my character can’t be responsible for the outcome--or change the outcome. I just can’t do it. While writing At Every Turn, I truly wrestled with this for the first time. In the story, there are three historic auto races that are significant to the plot. But how could I insert my character and serve the plot without changing the results on record? At first it had me stumped. I pondered and experimented, but I simply couldn’t alter those events. I had to find a way to make them work within the story.

The result? I found more creative ways to get my character into the event and to use the historical record within the plot. And guess what? Doing so actually added more conflict--more obstacles--to my heroines journey! I came away with a story that worked while remaining true to the historical events portrayed.

And to me, that is the beauty of a historical novel--a blending of fact and fiction in a seamless union that doesn’t distort truth.

Are there any historical events you’ve learned about through a fictional character’s interaction with them? Did you ever look up the facts later to compare them to the novel’s treatment?


Win the Book
Anne is generously giving a copy of At Every Turn to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment to the post along with your email address. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 9th.

About the Book - AT EVERY TURN

Caught up in a whirlwind of religious fervor when two missionaries speak at her church, Alyce Benson impetuously pledges three thousand dollars to mission work in Africa. She’s certain her wealthy father will simply hand her the money. But when he refuses, she must either stand up in front of the congregation and admit failure, or raise the money herself.

Alyce harbors a secret passion for speed and automobiles. It’s 1916, and the latest advancements in car engines allow some to post speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour! When she discovers her father’s company has sponsored a racing car that will compete in several upcoming events–races in which the driver will be paid and could win as much as five thousand dollars in prize money–she conspires with her father’s mechanic, Webster, to secretly train and compete.

But as Alyce comes across needs in her own community, money slips through her fingers faster than she can earn it. And when her friends cast aspersions on Webster’s past, she believes she might have trusted the wrong man with her secret. Will Alyce come up with the money in time, or will she have to choose between her promise and the man who holds a piece of her heart?


Anne Mateer has a long-held passion for history and historical fiction. She is fascinated by all eras of the past, but currently writes about the years preceding and including World War I. She is the author of two works of historical fiction, At Every Turn and Wings of a Dream, with two more coming in 2013 and 2014. Anne and her husband live in Texas and are the parents of three young adult children.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Anne!
    It's so good to see you here!

    I am really looking forward to this story. I love how you explained your way of immersing your readers into an historical event yet being sure not to change it.

    Your debut was so well done, I find I 'm still recommending it to people. Beautiful historical fiction with one of my favorite characters. congratulations on the great reviews for At Every Turn!

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  2. I've learned more about history (and many other things) through fiction than through any textbook. It worked for Jesus to teach in stories (aka parables) so why wouldn't it work for me to to learn that way?!

    This book sounds intriguing! I'd like to read it!
    elaineking1 at hotmail dot com

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  3. Hi Anne!
    Ditto what Elaine said about learning more history from fiction than from textbooks! I love getting done reading a story and realizing I just learned something new!

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  4. Good morning, Deb, Elaine, and Niki! Yes, I remember the first time I realized what an amazing history teacher fiction can be. My sister read a Civil War novel (she wasn't much of a reader at the time!) and commented about all the things she didn't know about the Civil War! I love being able to reveal history to others in that way, too.

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  5. Anne, this is great. A professor who encouraged fiction writing. He taught you well because you portrayed the history in such a wonderful way. Anyone who hasn't read this nook - I highly recommend it!

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  6. Hi, Anne! I love how you've approached historical fiction. Yes! History IS how it is. Be true to that.

    I'm always telling my dad, "I wanted my character to do this, but that didn't happen until four years later and so I couldn't." And he's like, "Well, it's only fiction." Ummm, no, Dad. You don't get it.

    Anne gets it! :D

    Your book sounds great.

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  7. Welcome, Anne! So good to see you here. And good morning to all you ladies... I'm off to accompany my son as he votes for the first time. He's excited. I'm sleepy :+)

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  8. Hi Anne, it's great to see you back. I know what you mean about struggling with historical fiction since I feel the same. It's also why I'm not a good candidate to write Alternative History - I can't wrap my head around the fiction part of the alternate world.

    At Every Turn sounds fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  9. Thank you for your kind words, Suzie!

    Thanks, Jen, for hosting me today! What a fun thing to get to vote with your son for the first time.

    It's so nice to be understood, Deanna and Anita! Yes, I have to be true to the history. I just can't make myself work it any other way!

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  10. What a great idea for a book. I've learned much of what I know about history through fiction books. Not the most reliable source, I know, but a whole lot more fun.

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  11. Ohhh, this sounds like the perfect book to curl up with in front of the fire with a cup of cocoa/tea/coffee this winter!!!! Please add me to the giveaway! Even if I don't win it, I do believe this book will be on my bookshelf soon..... :D

    Thanks for hosting this!

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  12. I really enjoyed reading "Wings of A Dream" and would love to devour "At Every Turn". I echo everyone's comments about how learning about history through novels certainly is more entertaining than reading textbooks. I appreciate your attention to historical detail and accuracy - I believe we have a responsibility to our readers to give correct accounts of past events (as opposed to reinventing them).

    Looking forward to the rest of your books!
    dsks88ATgmailDOTcom

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  13. Thanks for your comments, Dina, Princess, and Sandy! I kind of thought God was crazy when He gave me this book idea! But it was such fun to research and learn new things!

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  14. And the winner is... Sandy Salsbury! I'll be sending you an email for your mailing info. Blessings!

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