I grew up on a steady diet of old movies, classic books and a love of history. Reading especially helped me disappear into an idyllic pastoral setting in a Thomas Hardy novel. Watching “Masterpiece Theatre” in high school whisked me away to another world of Regency England. But California history is what really sparked my interest. I loved the old ghost towns of the Gold Rush and the missions during the “Californio” days. If you haven’t read, “Redeeming Love” — well first off, what is stopping you? And secondly, Francine Rivers brings the California Gold Rush to life, so please rush to get your copy. It’s going to be a movie soon.
I lived in Redwood City where the redwoods were cut down to create the timber to build the mining towns of old. So my first book was set in “Searsville” which is modern-day Woodside. I loved doing the research and learning how this port down pretty much killed everything in its wake to build mining towns. The California Grizzly, which is on the state flag, is extinct now as well. I wondered what it used to be like, so I researched and wrote a book.
Next up, I wondered what it was like to live in the Californio era, which was a time of milk and honey for the few rancheros who owned such vast wealth they didn’t need fences for their cattle — who roamed free. They used California dollars (cowskins) to trade for everything and lived a life of leisure on the beautiful land Steinbeck called “brown grass love.” That book became a novella with a sword-wielding circuit-riding preacher and a trip into pastoral life in California.
I’ve mostly written contemporary novels since then, but I still get lost in whatever world I’m creating. It doesn’t have to be a trip down memory lane. It can also be a trip to exist in a world I’ll never be a part of. This is why the “you must be Hispanic to write a Hispanic character” does not work for me as an author.
Imagine if Harper Lee was told she couldn’t write about African-Americans. or if Jane Austen was told she wasn’t part of England’s nobility and could not pen Mr. Darcy. These are dangerous precedents to limit people’s creativity based on not being that person. An author sees life from outside and often has a deeper perspective. In fact, someone just told me yesterday I needed to write my daughter’s story and I said, “I can’t. I’m too close to it.”
Allow authors the freedom to get lost in the creative world of their choosing. Last time I checked, George Lucas hasn’t visited the Death Star. Although some might argue that point.
Good points. I set my first novel in the Canadian prairie city of Winnipeg. I had moved there a few years earlier, but, as an outsider, I was able to see things in that locale that lifelong residents could not see because they just took them for granted. In any setting nowadays, we have to write about people of different races and cultures because we live in a multicultural society. It is harder to think oneself back into a time and culture in the past. It takes research and a careful examination of one’s assumptions because it is often the things that seem obvious to us that were not obvious to people of that day.
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