Author Peggy Holloway

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Historical Facts in Fiction

Posted by peggyholloway62 on May 7, 2016 at 11:40 AM


     As an avid reader, I have read many fiction books that took place during the Civil War. Of course the best of those was Margret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I have yet to read one where the south won.

     I’ve thought about writing a time travel where someone went back in the past and maybe found the gold that was supposed to help save the south. As a southerner, that appeals to me. That would be a science fiction, of course.

     In my book, Out of Phase, Ashley goes back in time to save Charles Manson from becoming the monster he became. Some of the folks in my critique group had a problem with making Charlie become a good caring person. Maybe I pushed the envelope a bit on that one, but it sure was fun to write.

     When I sat down to write Double Shock, I had a vague idea of writing a novel about an abused wife killing her husband and making it look like an accident. Then, while going through his things, she finds papers she doesn’t understand. I wanted the town of Addison, Georgia to have a secret and for Ramona to have to figure out what was going on. That was what was in back of my mind.

     Like all of my books, the general idea for Double Shock turned into something huge. There was something going on in the peach factory in Addison. At first I thought maybe they were using the peach seeds to make some kind of poison to sell on the black market, maybe something that would help win the Vietnam War, the war that was going on at the time the book takes place. I really don’t know how it happened, but, while I was researching peach seeds, I ended up on a site talking about the German Bund, a group of Germans who came to the United States just after WWI and tried to start a Neo Nazi group. They held a big rally in Madison Square Gardens where they displayed the Swastika alongside the American flag and called the president Franklin Rosenfelt.

     One of the women in my writer’s group was old enough to remember this, and she lived New York where it happened. I was amazed that I had never heard of it before.

     By this time, I had made a good start on the novel and didn’t understand how this was going to play out. The book starts in the 1960s. But then, when Ramona finds diaries after her mama commits suicide it is discovered that her mama was living in Pearl Harbor when Japan attacked. Well, that was interesting, but how did that tie in to what was happening in Addison, Georgia in the sixties?

     Things have a way of working out in most of my novels, but I felt like I had truly backed myself into a corner this time. Then I found another article that made my heart start pumping. What it said was that, after Hitler declared war on the United States in 1941, the German Bund was then in enemy territory. Many were arrested, but a small group fled to the south and joined the KKK. I had found the link I was looking for. I love it when that happens.

     I’ve had good reviews on this novel, but I’ve also had some very bad ones: "The premise of the book is stupid, don’t waste your time reading this one, the story is very unrealistic." That was the worst one.

     As an avid reader, I read for pleasure. It takes me away from any worries and gives me a break from writing. Even though I don’t think I would enjoy reading a book where the south won the Civil War, unless it was a science fiction, I like historical novels from time to time. I can learn some history while enjoying a good book.

     So, I’m still left with the question I started with. How far can you go, how much creative license can you take, when writing a fiction novel, novelette, novella, or short story? For me, if the story contradicts what I know as fact, it turns me off.

     A couple of year ago, I read a book that took place in the south in the sixties about white girl and black man who fell in love. The story was good, but would have been better if it had been written by a southerner. The first thing that made me feel like I was running my fingernails across a blackboard was that the author seemed to think that by taking the g off all ing words it became southern. Then she kept calling a demonstration, a boycott. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that the couple went to New York and didn’t have money to ride the streetcar. When I think of streetcars, I think of San Francisco. I spent some time in New York in the sixties. You could ride the subway all day long for a dime. The book did well and I’m happy for the author. It’s interesting to see which books do well.

     I think my pet peeve is when someone writes what’s supposed to be a psychological thriller and doesn’t know the difference between a psychopath and sociopath. In one novel, the author used them interchangeably and said they were both the same and that they were personality disorders. That book did well, too.

     I will continue to write my novels and have fun writing them. I’ll try not to offend anyone but you can’t please everyone, right?

     Please send your thoughts on this subject. How much can you stretch the truth as we know it while writing fiction?




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