One of the comments I frequently hear from readers is, “This isn’t the kind of book I usually buy, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.” These are very kind and gratefully received words that exhilarate me as an author… yet cause me to fret as an historical novelist. Nothing pleases me more than having readers say that they stayed up past midnight or were late to work because they were swept away by the story, but realizing how close the same reader came to not picking up the book because of its genre worries me.
My current novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, is set in the pre-Civil War South, therefore it is categorized as historical fiction. Does this mean that someone who prefers mystery and suspense, or romance, or contemporary novels will not enjoy the book? My answer is… a reader can love a book of any genre, because when all is said and done… it’s all about the story.
In truth, it’s about the characters too. I love writing about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; particularly how friends, family, and inner conviction can change the course of our lives. Though the premise and setting of SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON makes it “historical”, there are elements of suspense, intrigue, and romance in the layered plot and characters that appeal to a broad cross-section of readers. I think any good novel balances these elements to some degree, regardless of the genre, and while we as readers get comfortable in the feel and style of certain categories, we shouldn’t lose our sense of adventure. That’s the magic of reading! We spread our wings and are transported to places we’ve never been.
I must admit to you that I am a “happily ever after” kind of gal. So the fact that I’ve written two novels against the backdrop of slavery in the 1800s may seem like a highly unusual choice. After all, what good can be gained by stirring old ghosts? For this reason, there is not a lot of adult fiction written about this period. I suspect this is because it is not a time we are proud of or wish to reminisce over. Instead we hide it from sight like an ugly scar. Readers and writers alike often avoid revisiting these pre-Civil War years because of the horror and shame it stirs in our moral conscience.
However, in keeping the door closed on this time period, we miss the chance to recognize and celebrate the incredible acts of courage and daring deeds that were the genesis of social change in our country. In writing SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, I was honored to look back and give voice to a generation deserving of acknowledgement, tribute, and literary life.
Books are fabulous vehicles for discovery. They take us places, both real and imaginary, that we might not otherwise go. I love sitting in front of a keyboard, not knowing where the words will lead me. This sense of adventure is what bonds authors with readers. You share our sense of adventure, and willingly follow us, albeit from the comfort of a beach chair or on a bus to work. You invest your time and emotion into the journey and trust that your authors will make it worth your while. As an author, my hope is that the characters and story resonates with readers long after finishing the book, and they think, “Now that was a journey worth taking.”