Friday, August 6, 2010

Blending History and Fiction, an Article by Leonora Pruner, Author of Close to His Heart

Today's guest blogger is historial novelist, Leonora Pruner, author of Close to His Heart.

In this eighteenth-century romance, a young and naive Grace Carstares plans a midnight elopement with a handsome stableman with suspicious motives. Their plans are thwarted, however, when Grace discovers a mysterious stranger lying guard at her bedroom threshold. All is explained the next morning when, to her dismay, Grace learns her nighttime guardian is young Lord Buryhill, a suitor approved by her father who caught rumor of her misguided romance and decided to protect her from ruining her life.

Determined to marry this particular young woman, Lord Henry Buryhill comes to deeply love Grace and hopes to win her love in return. Yet buried beneath this determination is his own abandoned hope that he would meet a woman who might share his commitment to God.

Henry wins Grace’s heart as well as her hand in marriage. But Henry cannot overcome his nagging fears that Grace clings to her affection for the stableman. His distrust darkly clouds their wedding night and shatters their hopes for a joy-filled union. Unaware of the reasons driving her husband’s suspicions and jealousy, a devastated Grace withdraws from Henry, busying herself in gardening and taking solace in God’s love.

An ensuing pony-cart accident, through which Grace loses all memory of former things, presents both Grace and Henry the opportunity to either abandon their shattered marriage or begin anew. A guilt-ridden Henry is determined to win Grace’s heart once again, but Grace must decide whether to accept the courtship of a complete stranger or continue her life in the small community among the people who found her and nursed her back from a head injury. Will Henry’s determination, forgiveness, and tender care be sufficient to rebuild a foundation for their marriage?

"Blending History and Fiction" by Leonora Pruner

People seem to read fiction more for a vicarious experience than learning facts as in non-fiction.

In writing fiction that takes place in a previous century, I think we owe it to the future readers to be pretty accurate in presenting life like it was then. That is, to avoid describing modern things that were not yet there, like a bridge not yet built, or using current American expressions, like “step on it” in a time in Europe when there were only horses for transportation, or current expressions like “no problem”.

A certain amount of “license” is permissible in placing a historical person in a place where he might have been, but may not have been at that precise moment. Fiction is not limited to the bare facts in telling a story that brings out Truth in a different dimension. It is not strictly limited to what did actually happen (although the facts may be given a very biased presentation). A great deal of history is based on surmise. Fiction goes beyond that.

In reading historical fiction, I like to have the experience of seeing things as they were, better understanding that time, how people lived then, and the things they might have experienced. Iain Pears recreated the 1600s in a fascinating way, from several perspectives in his “An Instance of the Fingerpost” and opened my eyes to a part of English history that was very vague to me. Kenneth Roberts did the same with “Oliver Wiswell” helping me understand the American Revolution from a non-revolutionary perspective.

When I was writing Love’s Secret Storm, I only read novels and history of that period or about the flowers and geology of the south of England and studied old maps of Oxford. The pleasure of reading anything else was denied. In so doing, I tried to soak up that time and place and those people’s lives in order to recreate it realistically.

Also, with dialog, I try to reflect different dialects without becoming burdensome to the reader. Since I could not remove a certain book on library loan from my library, I copied the entire dictionary of Sussex dialect to insure the correct use of terms and phrases. In addition, I asked a friend of mine who was born and raised in Yorkshire to review the text of a novel soon to be published for local dialog so the spelling would be correct.

Mentally and emotionally, I tried to “live” in that period of mid-18th century England and record what my characters experienced, saw, and thought. It was enjoyable and challenging. Imagine my surprise when I emerged after typing “THE END” of the first novel to see women’s shoes advertised with heels under the arch, like they had worn then and to observe men’s jackets in wide plaids and patterns as in the 18th century instead of plain black, dark blue, or brown. The past had become the present.

Leonora Pruner was born in Dubuque, Iowa, but has lived most of her life in California. Writing has been an important activity since junior high. She graduated from Westmont College in 1953 and earned an MBA from Pepperdine University in 1981.

Fascination with a possible eighteenth-century English character led to five years of extensive research, which resulted in the 1981 and 1987 publication of two period novels. That time remains of great interest to the author, and she continues to use eighteenth-century England as a setting for her work.

Leonora married in 1953, and her family has expanded from two children to thirteen grandchildren and five great-grand-children.

She lived in the Republic of Maldives from 1987 to 1997, where she collected folklore and taught economics and computer science. While there she wrote the first drafts of this book.

Other books by Leonora Pruner include Love’s Secret Storm and Love’s Silent Gift. The title of her next novel is The Aerie of the Wolf.

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