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.