Long ago, in my college days at SMU, my history professor advisor for my senior thesis asked my next step in the field. Where did I see myself after graduation? Grad school? I shyly revealed to him my ultimate goal in the field of history: to write historical fiction. To my amazement, he didn’t laugh or sneer. Instead, he gave me a piece of advice I’ve held onto all these years. He said, steep yourself in a time period and then write from what you know of it.
I’ve now written two novels for publication set in the years just prior to and including World War I, but I still don’t feel “steeped” in the time period. So I’ve been reading more. The problem is, information is hard to find. The 1910s to 1920 is proving elusive. Oh, there are a few books here and there on the political climate, especially the reason for and situations leading up to WWI, or the military issues of WWI, but other than that, not much. I did recently happen across a few books in a used bookstore, but most of the information on women, their roles and their mindsets, comes from the radical side—and not all women fit into that category. But remembering back to my years as a history major, I remain undaunted in my search. I’m trying to read between the lines, trying to track down documentation of women’s lives in their own words. I want to create characters that are not just believable but also historically accurate. And honestly, as frustrating as it has been, I love every minute of it!
So I want to say thank you to Dr. Peter Onuf. His advice continues to echo in my head as I research a time period from which to create stories.