Write What You Know?

A friend was told she shouldn't write for teenagers as she didn't live with any. But she was a mother of teens, now grown, and a teen herself, not so very long ago. Why shouldn't she set her tales in the teen-hoods she knew for today's teens to read? After all, we're not a different breed; we're not even history. We're just the same people growing in different worlds.

That, of course, led to my wondering about historical fiction - not that my teen-hood is history yet. Some authors build on family records and letters; they know, or knew, the people of the time and words they used. Others write of distant lands, and ages only remembered in history. Do we have to read all those ancient documents to write? Do we have to carry certificates around to prove we've done our research? Or can a wary mathematician develop a love of history in later life, then write her tales of Bible times?

Science fiction might need some scientific consistency of course. Historical fiction might need an understanding of what's guessed and what's known. Medical tales should use the right terms, as should police procedurals. And we authors should certainly strive to know enough to make our fiction seem real. But then we guess, imagine, create and reveal the rest.

My question is: Should we really just write what we know, documented in black and white, or is fiction's task, perhaps, the art of coloring over the lines? Whatever your answer, please pour some coffee then peruse the book reviews below to decide what you'll read. And remember, the stars rate the coffee you'll drink with them.

Since I started this post with teen fiction, I'll start these reviews with a vividly present-day teen novel that every mom should read then give to her daughter. It's called All The Feels by Danika Stone, and it's so much more than teen angst or teen romance. Plus it takes readers to a real-world sci-fi convention filled with dizzying crowds, cosplay, and internet identities suddenly made real. I love this book! Enjoy with some rich elegant four-star coffee, and read it again and again if you have teens of your own.

Heading back into hidden history, my next review is for Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter, a long, dark, haunting read set in the thirteenth century, which combines myth, horror, faith, hope, mystery and romance in a heady brew. You'll want to find Mouse's soul as you read, and you'll be pulled into a dark and complex world of royal machinations and betrayals. Enjoy with some rich dark five-star coffee.

Moving forward in time, Wild Life by Molly Gloss is set around the turn of the last century, presents a classic "found" manuscript, inviting the question of whether this is fictional fiction or fact. It's an intriguing question, and an intriguing tale, written with authentic style and verve, and presenting a cool blend of real life by the water's edge, and real mystery in the trees. Will you believe in sasquatch by the end? That's for you to decide. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee and ponder it.

The Quarry-Man's Wife by Mary DeMuth tells a story set in the 1930s Depression, and follows a year in the life of a widow, caring for family, waiting for failure, and struggling with faith and finances in equal proportions. Her Ukrainian neighbor tells of worse misfortunes in other lands, but this only leads to further of questions of how a loving God can allow such things. It's a dark, mournful novel, lightened with passages of humor and fun, and enlightened in the end by revealing truth. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a different darkness reigned, as told in Barbara Stark-Nemon's Even in Darkness. Achingly real and threaded with real-life loves and dreams, it tells of a Jewish woman marrying before the first world war, surviving against the odds during the second, loving and losing, and finding comfort in quiet anonymity. The story's long, filled with memorable images, and powerfully told, with an honest blend of darkness and light. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee.

Set in the future, The Harvest by N.W. Harris is another young adult novel, this time with echoes of familiar YA themes. In the absence of adults, the future of the world is left in the hand of teens, who train themselves through extreme sports and combat, ready to fight an alien invasion. But who is betraying whom? Best read after the Last Orphans (first in the series), the novel's intriguing but not as complete as its predecessor and clearly demands a sequel. Enjoy with some more dark intense five-star coffee.

This must have been my week for dark and intense - and good reads!


maryrussel said…
If I only wrote about what I know, I'd be very limited. I do find that my writing contains a familiar theme. Most of my writing includes people who grew up in the foster/adopted care system and animals, especially dogs, have a way of sneaking into my writing. I enjoy researching the rest.

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