Confessions of a Historical Fiction Fanatic

By Janice McCaffrey

Lately I’ve been thinking about the ramifications of reading historical fiction. Does it smother history under make believe? Or does it inspire readers to reach outside of their comfort zones.

For me historical fiction often whet’s my appetite for facts. That curiosity leads me to research and of course to Google. Over the years I’ve collected eclectic facts from around the world.

But last year a seemingly innocent choice took over my life.

I watched an international historical fiction TV series, Magnificent Century(Netflix.com). And now my family and friends roll their eyes if I so much as mention the word “Turkey.” Even during this holiday season.

I can’t help it!

I fell in love with Sultan Süleyman I   suleyman

. . . of course the actor who portrayed him, Halit Ergenç didn’t hurt.

Süleyman was the Ottoman Empire’s longest reigning Sultan (1520-1566). He set fair taxes and protected ethnic and religious minorities. He updated the Empire’s code of law and instituted free education for boys. He’s responsible for the Empire’s unique artistic legacy. He wrote poetry, was an accomplished goldsmith, and led the world in architecture building mosques and public buildings. In Jerusalem he restored the Dome of the Rock and the city walls (still the Old City of Jerusalem’s walls) and renovated the Kaaba in Mecca.

And what a romantic! During the same era Henry VIII was arguing with the Pope about a divorce, Süleyman changed the law so he could not only marry his favorite concubine, Hurrem, but also live with her. He even bent the mores of the day inviting her to council meetings and taking her advice on matters of state. She was an important diplomat especially between the Ottoman Empire and her native Poland.

Fascinated with the Ottoman Empire and Halit I’ve gone on to an array of historical and contemporary movies, TV shows and books, both fiction and non-fiction. I highly recommend The Butterfly’s Dream (Netflix) a touching story based on two lesser-known Turkish poets, Rüştü Onur and Muzaffer Tayyip Uslu.

Over the past several months I’ve experimented with traditional Turkish recipes and learned lyrics to a few of their popular songs. And, yes, I’m working on the language (thanks Free Turkish Lessons Online or I should say soğul (pronounced sowl).

I guess the answers to my original questions can be both yes and no. It depends on the person doing the reading.

This personal admission of my fanaticism is just one example of historical fiction’s ability to promote a readers’ expansion of knowledge. I’m thankful for authors who give us the facts blended with imagination.

And I wish all of you a very Şükran Günü kutlu olsun (Happy Thanksgiving)

 

May Book News

dafadills

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’m on the road today — or in the air, heading home from the annual Malice Domestic Mystery Convention held in Bethesda, MD, a fan convention celebrating the traditional mystery, and home of the Agatha Awards. It’s a fun time, attending panel discussions and interviews, participating in the panel on food in mystery, and visiting with readers and authors from across the continent. Of course, afterwards, my “To Be Read” pile will reach mountainous proportions!

On May 12, I’ll be participating in the Whitefish Library Association’s annual Dorothy M. Johnson Book Festival, honoring the enduring legacy of one of Montana’s best-known and best-loved authors. Join the fun Sat May 12, 6-9 pm, at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. Authors from around the Flathead will be signing books and visiting with readers. I’d love to see you there.

leslie

 

Marie Martin: I am also attending the Dorthy M Johnson Book Festival.  I will present a work shop titled marrying Characters and Settings at the Whitefish Library from 1-3 in the afternoon. In the evening, I’ll be at the O’Shaughnessy Center with my books. It will be a nice time to visit with readers and friends. Hope to see you there.

 

May flowers

May 16th. Half the month is gone. At my house, it is the month of my red tulips blooming, blue forget-me-nots are crowding the tulips and lavender Iris are showing color. Into this setting came my two-year-old great grandson with an eye for pretty things. Last year he was caught on camera in his grandmother’s flowers and Ginny Merett painted his picture.

daisy vs Gunnar

This year he was caught again on camera, only in my garden. He seamlessly worked his way on the stepping stones to hover near the ground like a dragonfly and stared intently at a forget-me-not.
gunnar flowers

I think, we as writers may learn something from this example. In a years’ time, this young boy’s desire to stare at pretty blossoms as not diminished. In this same time period has your love of writing dimmed? If so, are you staring at it hard enough? Are you plotting a path in your story by stepping on one stone at a time? Do you appreciate the rhythm of the words you put together like how a sprig of tiny blue flowers hang on one stem? Coherent and depending on the seed it sprung from? If not take a sunny afternoon and stare at the intricacies of delicate flower faces.

This is just food for Writers’ Block.
Marie F Martin_edited-1 (2) Marie F Martin