Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Creative Use of Family History by Martha Rogers

Let's face it, story ideas are a dime a dozen. But the ones that mean the most to us as writers can come from a personal connection. Today, author Martha Rogers gives us insight into how her latest novel came about. -- Sandy

Martha: While doing genealogy research on my father’s side of the family, I came across some fascinating information. When I asked my dad about my grandparents and great-grandparents, he handed me a packet of letters his father had given him. Those letters dated back to 1860 and started me on the hunt for even more information.

What I found led me to the desire to write about my great-grandparents and their love story during the Civil War. I wanted to use not only their story, but also all the facts of things that happened around that time. The first story was for my cousins and other family members only, but as my aunts began to add information and show me pictures they had from their youth and my grandparents, the more I wanted to include in the novel.

Taking real information and facts and turning them into a fictional account was both fun and daunting at the same time. I wanted to stay true to the character of my great-grandparents, but I also wanted to portray the times in which they lived in a realistic manner. That meant more hours of research and visiting the places where they lived.

Using the letters and parts of a journal, I wove the information into a story using real characters in real places but with fictional situations. When given just enough information to make a story, I could then let my imagination take over and create a plot that would take my characters on a journey to love while incorporating real events and facts about those months following the war.

The most difficult part was knowing how much to embellish the truth and where to stick to the facts. If you know anything about your ancestors, look at the time in which they lived and what their life may have been like. From there you may find the story that sparks your imagination and leads to a novel.

Have you ever turned family history into a story? Have you used genealogy research in any of plots? 

~~~


Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the
Heart series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas and Not on the Menu in Sugar and Grits. Love Stays True, the first book in her third series, The Homeward Journey, is now available. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. In addition to fiction, Martha has contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Debra White-Smith and Karen O’ Connor as well as various devotion books. Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

8 comments:

  1. How wonderful that your dad could provide a stack of letters dated back that far! I can't even imagine...

    I used to love pulling out my grandmother's ancient cookbook whenever I visited. I enjoyed reading about homemade remedies for certain ailments and browsing various recipes. I have never considered genealogy research for my stories, though. Awesome idea, Martha! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see a historical in your future. :)

      Delete
    2. I learned a long time ago never to say never. lol

      Delete
  2. What a beautiful gift to receive, Matha. I can relate having researched my own grandfather's family; it's so exciting. Kids don't realize today how important family history is; interviewing older family members at gatherings, getting photos, etc. I'm grateful I wrote and got information from older relatives when I was a young mom; twenty years later when I started to research those people were gone, but I had their letters and history. Your book looks exciting and what a beautiful cover~ Blessings, Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Diane. A few months ago I was with an aunt and uncle. We were discussing my grandmother's old house and I mentioned my childhood memories of the rundown house across street. They told me it had belonged to my great-grandmother. I never knew that. No wonder I had a memory of having been in the house. Those conversations are not only enlightening, they're so valuable for a writer's idea book.

      Delete
  3. A stack of letters from as far back as 1860. I am pea-green with envy. That's the kind of thing I drive to archives to see. Great blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of those letters was from my great-great grandparents to my great-grandmother when she went down to New Orleans from St. Francisville to go to school. Their love flowed through the letter and the little tidbits about what was going on at home are priceless. Great-great-grandpa Woodruff had some definite ideas as how young ladies should behave. How far we've come.

      Delete
  4. I listened to stories my grandparents and great-aunts told, but at the time didn't think to write them down. Some I remembered, but others are only snippets. My cousin and I are going deeper into our family and finding some fascinating things.

    ReplyDelete

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!