Monday, September 20, 2010

TAKING HISTORY TO HEART

Please help me welcome multi-published and award-winning romance author Beth Trissel to the blog.

Years ago, I was riveted on the travels of Lewis and Clark in the Ken Burns documentary: Lewis and Clark, the Journey of the Corps of Discovery.


Brief description: ‘Sent by President Jefferson to find the fabled Northwest Passage, Lewis and Clark led the most courageous and important expedition in American history. It was the United States' first exploration of the West and one of the nation's most enduring adventures. Journey with them across a breath-taking landscape for an experience that explores the history--and the promise--of America.’

Fascinating. I was so invested in these men, particularly Lewis and Clark, and of course, their Godsend guide and interpreter Sacajawea. After the expedition concluded and Lewis and Clark parted, Lewis struggled to find his way. Seems he suffered from black depressions and was bi-polar, had been dependent on the support of his good friend William Clark for stability. Then it happened. Lewis was dead. I didn’t realize he shot himself in 1809—or was possibly murdered—and I lost it, sat in front of the TV sobbing, much to the disgust of my then teenage daughter Alison.

A friend of hers walked in the room, took one look at me and asked, “Sad movie?”

Alison rolled her eyes. “It’s a documentary!”

But it happened, and still felt very raw to me.

Similarly, back when I was doing research for Red Bird’s Song and read A Sorrow In My Heart, the Life of Tecumseh, about the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, I was devastated to read he was killed in battle in 1813 at age 45. Tecumseh was so awesome and vital to his people. I rushed out into the garden, wiping at tears, and railing against the injustice of life while aimlessly weeding. I should have seen that one coming, but there are tons of notes at the end of the book and I thought he had pages left to live.

So, what do these and my numerous other grapplings with history have to do with Red Bird’s Song? Simple, it’s historical, a poignant romance, and written more deeply from my heart then any of my other books. Many of the events depicted in the story and the inspiration behind it are true. Red Red Bird’s Song is based on events that happened to my early American Scots-Irish ancestors in the Virginia colonial frontier and further west. And it’s the first novel I ever wrote and rewrote and learned how to write in the process. The novel began as carefully researched historical fiction with a strong romantic element but evolved into a historical romance, still painstakingly researched and pulsing with emotion. The romance between Wicomechee and Charity throbs with tension & tenderness, passion & angst.

*A bonus for readers, at the end of the book is the account of this Shawnee warrior I discovered in distant branches of the family tree. Yes, Wicomechee really lived and he comes vividly to life along with the others characters in this adventurous romance with a strong The Last of the Mohicans flavor.

The romance between Charity and Wicomechee is also inspired by an account I read of a Scots-Irish captive who fell in love with and wed the son of a chief and was later forced back to her white family. Her warrior husband did the unthinkable and left his people to go and live in the English world, but before he could reach his true love, her brothers intercepted and killed him. Heartbroken, she grieved herself to death shortly after giving birth to their daughter, who survived and has descendents to this day, I might add. So affected was I by this heartrending account that it also played out as a profound influence in my historical fantasy Daughter of the Wind.

Obviously when writing a romance, the death of the hero and or heroine does not qualify as a HEA ending, unless you’re Nicolas Sparks. (And don’t tell me he’s not writing romance). More research, dreams, and visions helped me contrive a far more satisfying ending for Red Bird’s Song. Also for Daughter of the Wind, I assure you. After two novels, I hope I’ve worked through the affect that tragic account had on me.

Who cares that it happened over 200 hundred years ago? IT WAS REAL. I suspect I’m what some might refer to as sensitive and deeply attuned to those who have gone before us. My parting advice is to draw from the events and people who touch your heart, either from the present or the past, and interweave this poignant wealth into your writing.

Red Bird’s Song is out in print and digital download at the Wild Rose Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and will travel on to other booksellers.

For more on my work please visit my website at www.bethtrissel.com
My blog is the happening place at: https://bethtrissel.wordpress.com/

By the way, I’m giving away a digital download to some lucky visitor who leaves a comment!
Beth Trissel is a historical & light paranormal romance author with the Wild Rose Press, avid gardener, passionate about the past. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of VA, Daughter of the Stars, with her husband and the wolf pack, as they affectionately call their dogs. *Also love cats. The valley and mountains are her inspiration. Contact: bctrissel@yahoo.com

15 comments:

  1. Beth, I love how you FEEl so deeply for those who came before us! I can definitely understand. We are who we are today becuase of these people, they have all left a stamp on us and its sad that so many of the later generations don't seem to care. Or maybe that's too harsh, I guess it could be that the people of today are so caught up in their own lives to think about those who came before them. Its a crying shame. I hate it everytime I see a historical landmark torn down! WE need to preserve our history or one day it will be GONE!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Andrea

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  2. Lovely thoughts, Beth. I, too, seek every book I can find about Comanches, my heritage in Central Texas. As I say on my website, Indians were human just like the white man of the day. They loved, laughed, cried and mourned loss. Nothing has changed in those regards in today's world.

    As for weaving life experiences into our stories, since I've been lucky to have ancestors, and relatives still living, located where I set my stories, I sure do find characters to weave into my books. Even contemporary experinces I've had with horses when we had our ranch are liberally sprinkled throughout all my books. :-)

    Best wishes with this latest book of yours.

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  3. Thanks so much Andrea and Joyce for stopping by and sharing my passion for the past. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it or something of that sort as I recall the saying.

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  4. Beth,
    I think it's so nice that you have this interest and recently my cousin and I were saying we wished that everyone would leave something about themselves for future generaions to understand their heritage.

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  5. Beth, thanks so much for being here today. You always have great things to share.

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  6. I, too, am an avid lover of history. And, yes, I weep easily over someone's pain. I think to write about our characters' emotions, we have to feel things deeply ourselves. Don't you think that writers look at both the physical and spiritual worlds differently? We don't just see flower beds, we categorize the colors, imagine their smells and long to rub petals betwen our fingers to experience their textures. The sky is never blue; it is robin's egg blue or an angry blue-grey. We see, think and feel is layers.

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  7. Yes Vonnie. I think writers are "the More people" because we see and feel things more deeply.

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  8. Really interesting especially the story of the warrior who was killed by his brothers. So many sad stories from history are found as we research books.

    Thank you, Beth!

    Monti
    MaryMontagueSikes

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  9. Sadly, that is all too true. *The warrior was killed by her brothers, not his.

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  10. I love history, too, (although I tend to go back a bit further--about 600 years further), and find the seeds of many stories and characters in the research I do.

    Cool what you found out about the distant cousin/ancestor, although they have a very sad story.

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  11. I agree with Keena. The story about your ancestor is great. Since I write about Japan (and go back 400+ years), I use my wife's family in my stories.

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  12. Very interesting Walt, and Keena. Thanks!

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  13. Thanks to all for commenting. Andrea won the digital download of Red Bird's Song.

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