Friday, January 21, 2011

Can Historical Fiction Turn You Into Dr. Who?

I finished Release by Nicole Hadaway last night. Please do yourself a favor and pick up this book. The setting and period details are amazing, the prose is elegant, and the heroine, vampire Miranda Dandridge, is classy and complex; the most unusual vampire I think I've ever encountered in a novel. Hey Hollywood, this would make a great movie!


Please help me welcome author Nicole Hadaway ...
I was so thrilled Rachel asked me to blog during Historical Fiction week (hmmm, maybe it will take off and be huge, like Shark Week on Discovery Channel?;-). Without even realizing it, I’ve been an historical fiction fan for years. I didn’t mean to be, I just found my tastes and interests wanting something more in the murder mysteries I was reading. I’d graduated from Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell, then moved on to the cozy tales of Rita Mae Brown (as told by her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. If you like cozy mysteries and haven’t tried the Sneaky Pie series, I highly recommend the first 5 or 6 books. The animals talk to each other -- it sounds corny, but Ms. Brown makes it work very well in the storyline).

Okay, sorry, got off on a tangent there. But that’s what’s so great, to me, about historical fiction -- you can go off on tangents and learn the details of another time, what life was like back in Ancient Rome, or Victorian England, without leaving the modern-day comforts. Reading historical fiction is like taking a vacation, traveling through time, and you get to come back to your iPhone and antibiotics (seriously, whenever I think it might be nice to live in a time-gone-by, I stop and think of what my sinus infections would be like back then!).

I also love to learn. And through reading historical fiction, you get to do just that, although you’re not sitting in a classroom listening to a professor drone on and on about this battle or that plague. Interested in the nursing techniques used in 1860’s England? Read Anne Perry’s William Monk series. Hey, did you know women in 600 AD Ireland could be lawyers? It’s true, as that’s what Sister Fidelma is in Peter Tremayne’s series. And brushing up on the punishments meted out in Dante’s Inferno is very easy if you read Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club. Of course, some things you might not want to know, like the fact that ancient Roman cleaners used urine to wash stains out of clothes -- they kept community pots outside their door so anyone needing to relieve themselves could contribute to the business (yeah, you’ll be thankful for your dry cleaner next time you read Lyndsey Davis’s Falco series).

I’ve read so much historical fiction that it might seem natural for me to write in that genre, but believe it or not, I really didn’t mean to write about history from a fictional standpoint. Release is all about my character, Miranda Dandridge. She’d been in my mind for 20+ years before I finally thought of an original story in which to set her, and that happened to be during World War II. Writing a believable story in that time period had its challenges -- I was never really drawn to read or study WWII, so I had a lot of research to perform. If anyone wants to see what true courage is like, I suggest you read the stories of those who served in the Resistance movements in Europe. Their tales of bravery, how they risked their own lives, day after day, to save people of a different culture and religion - persons they didn’t even know -- would often bring me to tears. As well as disappointment -- google Irena Sendlerova and you won’t look at the Noble Peace Prize process in the same manner. Nothing against who won that year she was nominated, but the sacrifices made, I just don’t think can compare to hers.

(Sorry -- another part of me likes to educate, too. I’ll step away from the chalkboard now ;-)

While the bulk of historical fiction focuses on the setting as much as the characters and story therein, Release is more like a section of time in Miranda’s life, which just happens to be during WWII. Writing about vampires who live a long time allows for that, as those of you who read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s series know. The sequel to Release, entitled Return, is set in New York City during the fall of 2001, and the final novel in the series, Redeem, will be in present-day.

In the end, whether it’s the history of a character or the time period for an entire series of novels, historical fiction is an often underrated way of learning -- and time-traveling -- you can be Doctor Who, every time you pick up an historical fiction book!

Thank you for the laughs and lesson, Nicole. I always enjoy reading your take on things! If you find Nicole as amusing and informative as I do, may I recommend you visit her blogs?
Write In The Shadows (a group blog with several great authors; Nicole keeps good company ;)
Other Titles by Nicole


  1. Hi Nicole! Had to pipe up with a loud affirmative on Rita Mae Brown: Loved those first couple of books ... she made me want to move to Charlottesville!

  2. Oh Rachel - I was living in VA at the time I was reading Rita Mae's books and I very nearly took trips to Crozet and C-ville based on them! Thank you so much for having me here today and I"m very glad you enjoyed Release (and yeah, with all the re-makes today, I do think it would be something FRESH for Hollywood to do!).