Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Miniseries in My Mind: Why I Write Historical Fiction

At first when it came to my attention that some have coined my works as “soap opera-y”, I was mildly offended. Upon further reflection, I then realized, though they may have intended it as a burn, my work DOES resemble a soap opera! When I think of the impact soaps have had on the history of dramatic work, such as All My Children, the cancellation of which caused quite a stir among fans, I could not help but revise my view of this opinion. Many people love drama, not because it is unrealistic, but because it captures reality in an emotional, creative, and often relatable way; drama reflects life. Examining any family, one will see interwoven stories rife with all that makes drama compelling; rivalries, addiction, betrayal, misguided love affairs . . . Some may call it a soap opera, I call it a Tuesday!

I can say with pride I attended the most exclusive film school in the United States, right in my parents' living room. They raised me on classics such as Dr. Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, Camelot, The Lion in Winter, and miniseries such as The Thorn Birds, Roots, and Rich Man, Poor Man. I was enthralled by the scope, the subtleties, and the nuances of the actors that captured emotions in a way today’s film industry only touches upon. We did not just watch movies, we experienced them. With in-depth analysis, discussing the motivations of the characters, the director’s choices, and the theme of films, I was taught a deeper appreciation of the art of drama that would shape my professional life.

Always an avid reader and writer since I could hold a pencil, I longed to capture the kind of emotion I saw in these films, translating it onto paper in a way that would engage a reader’s heart. A miniseries in my mind . . . And so I took to writing in earnest as a teen and into my twenties, when I was at last fortunate enough to secure an agent who shared my vision, landing my first book deal at the age of thirty. My dream of sharing my love of drama, characters, and intensity could at last be shared with the world!

My stage is historical fiction. History for me is a vehicle in which drama and emotion play out in a palatable form—everything is back there waiting to be delved into and experienced. It is not just names and dates, battles and politics. It is the human condition, a tale timeless, transcending any era. SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT and RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT (both of Kensington) were character studies of ambition, avarice, jealousy, loss, adultery, abuse, and madness. Historical figures and events provided the framework for my intent, that of translating the weakness and strength that is humanity into a moving, compelling drama. I relied on as much research as was available to me at the time, and continue to learn how to hone those skills along the way to lend more credibility and authenticity to my work. It is an ongoing learning process, and someday I hope when I look at my last work as compared to my first, I will see growth and improvement along the way, not just in my research abilities and the filtering of anachronisms, but in my exploration of the vast gamut of emotion that encompasses the human story.

So enter the miniseries in my mind, if you dare, and let me take you on a journey of the heart and the soul, a journey we all experience—the journey that is life!

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