Thursday, December 29, 2016

A New Point of View -- Canadian Brides, Quebec

by Kathy Fisher-Brown

As a writer, I’m used to having ideas for my books come to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes a dream will set the trigger that sends my mind racing to sort out characters, plot, subplot(s), the whats, wheres, whys, and whens. Sometimes I’ll read something that sparks the imagination. Most of the time, I take months—even years—to let the idea germinate before I begin the preliminary work, the research, exploring appropriate character and place names and settings. Usually I don’t start the actual writing until my mind begins to bubble over, no longer able to contain the story. By this time, I can’t stop myself from hitting the keyboard, often writing away for countless hours at a clip, unaware of the passage of time. 

But never in all my years have I been presented with a concept and been forced to come up with a story based on a theme.

Sir John Johnson, American traitor,
Canadian founding father

All that changed when Jude Pittman, the publisher of Books We Love, asked me to participate in an exciting new project now known as “The Canadian Historical Brides” series.

For my story, I chose Quebec Province, a place I’d visited a few times in my youth on family vacations, and twice since while an undergraduate in college…well over 45 years ago. I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. From that moment, I found myself scrambling. What did I know about Canadian history? (My answer, in retrospect, was “close to zilch.”)

My writing partner for the project, BWL Canadian author Ron Ady Crouch, and I tossed some ideas back and forth. We did some reading and preliminary research, settling on an idea only to toss it aside for any number of reasons before agreeing on another period in history. Neither of us had ever worked before with another writer, and Ron, who specializes in contemporary mystery and suspense, had never written a historical.

We soon found ourselves steeped in information-gathering. An overwhelming prospect for one who’d never taken on anything like this before. For me, it was eye-opening.

Loyalist Refugee settlement
on the Richelieu River
Yes, I LOVE research and expanding my knowledge of history almost as much as the writing itself. I like exploring old books, journals, maps, first- and secondhand accounts of events, and now the internet, which is a gold mine of reference materials. I like imagining how life was lived in times past and the places they lived it in, going to historical sites and reenactments and asking questions of the docents and participants. I live for the inspiration, the way my mind runs with images and facts, and how these in turn lead to plot twists and character development.

The period we chose is one I feel very close to, having set most of my books during the mid-eighteenth century and the American Revolution. I’ve felt an affinity toward this time period since childhood. From grade school on, I had ideas drummed into my head about the foundation of my country and the ideals and philosophies that were at its core. The Patriot cause was noble and idealistic, its heroes and heroines idealized, sometimes to the point of being mythologized.

Only this time it’s different. Our project is from the point of view of another side: the Loyalists, those “Americans” who chose to maintain their allegiance to the King of England. Especially those who were forced by circumstance (and often in the face of extreme bias and even violence) to leave everything—their lives, friends, families and homes—and migrate to Canada.

Our story is about a courageous young woman and her family, who make a perilous trek through the wilds of the colonial frontier, suffering loss and privation en route to the British stronghold on the outskirts of Montreal, and eventually being reunited with the man she loves. The story is both timeless and timely.

Map of Loyalist refugee camps
How does one put aside a lifetime of information, attitudes, and knowledge, and approach it from the other perspective?

One thing I learned as student of drama (I received an MFA in acting many eons ago) is that when playing the role of a “villain” you must never for a moment think of the character in those terms or you risk having your portrayal reduced to a stereotype at best; at worst, it’ll be a shallow and lifeless performance. And so began the effort to shake a lifetime’s worth of attitudes and “facts” and to immerse myself in the Loyalist mindset.

Fort Chambly, site of Loyalist refugee camp
In researching our story (as yet untitled), I am reminded of the old adage that history is written from the vantage point of the victors. And here in the U.S., that is what we read in our social studies (anyone remember social studies?) and history classes throughout our formative years. Finding a wealth of sources from another perspective has been a revelation. Also, when delving into the study of a certain historical period, it’s just as important to travel further back in time to gain a deeper understanding of the people and events that came to shape our story's “present.” I’ve learned a lot more about Canada’s rich past than I’d originally dreamed, but such is the lot of us history fanatics when we get caught up in an intriguing narrative.

And now, with a new understanding and appreciation of these exiles and the hardships they endured to leave one life behind and begin anew in a wild and unsettled wilderness known as Canada, Ron and I are raring to go. We have high hopes that this story will entertain as it educates.

Stay tuned for updates as we forge ahead. And do check out the new Canadian Historical Brides blog, where details of this story, and the other exciting books in the series, will be posted on a regular basis.


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh's Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan's Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, her latest release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Blog Archive