The Write Time

Silly though it may sound, when I wrote my novel and set it in the late 1940’s, I didn’t stop to consider that I was writing a historical novel. When I saw my book listed in the historical section of one bookstore I remember being surprised.

I’ve always been fond of that time period. It is familiar, welcomed. It brings me comfort. I don’t know why. All I know is that I slip back into that time quite easily. In some ways it doesn’t feel like so long ago—I know, I know, it really does sound silly when I put it that way.  Sixty years wasn’t happening  just yesterday, was it?

Here are the fact: my current WIP is also set in the late 40’/early 50’s and the one before that has one story thread set around that time period as well.

Anyone seeing a pattern here?

Maybe it is because I listened to so many stories about my mother’s own childhood that in some strange way I feel as though I belong there. A child is left with lasting impressions. My mother is a wonderful storyteller. Maybe this is the reason why I like that time in history more so than those years of my own childhood. I’m amazed at the things my mother can remember concerning styles, fashions, ideas and fads. I only wish my own memories were as clear.

I’m wondering now if there is a certain time period you enjoy reading or writing about or do you like to read or write contemporary stories or stories set far off in the future?

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  1. In most cases I prefer reading contemporary stories — that’s what I write, too — but I’ve always liked accounts of frontier life, settling BC’s north country, or pioneering in the northwest such as in Jane Kirkpatrick’s stories of the 1850s. I’m currently reading a non-fiction book, “Diary of a Wilderness Dweller” by Chris Czajkowski which takes place in BC’s Chilcotin area.

    There’s a fascination in reading or writing about time periods for which we have access to memories… a nostalgic appeal. My parents moved away from Vancouver to BC’s Cariboo in the 1960s but had been camping and hunting up there since the 1940s, so perhaps their stories and experiences are behind my interest.

    • It’s been awhile since I read any contemporary stories, but I do read plent of them. Right now I’ve just been gobbling up a bunch of historical stories set around war time.

      Frontier life is rather appealing.There’s something about the lives of those brave souls, isn’t there?

  2. I’m looking forward to reading “Bitter Sweet,” Laura. It sounds wonderful. Interesting post. Looking at the 6th books I’ve written, it’s clear I don’t have a favourite time period other than the present day. One of my works starts in the 50s and concludes in the late 90s. It depends on when I began the story. I actually find time awkward and not an easy thing to decide upon. I love stories that take place in the 1800s, early 1900 century, and during and after W11. Yet, I don’t write in any of those eras. I’m not sure why. But I’m going to figure it out. Thanks for prompting me to wonder about this. It’s an aspect of writing that I haven’t spent any time on, and now seems a perfect opportunity.

    • Thanks Joylene. It sounds as though you like historical writing and I am surprised you haven’t tried your hand and writing in a different era. Who knows this may be the start of a whole new genre of writing for you, Joylene.

  3. I don’t necessarily have a favorite time period to read about, though as a child, I loved the Little House books. Because of my genealogy research, I’m interested in the time period of the turning of the 19th-century in America. I dearly love Conrad Richter’s trilogy The Trees, The Fields, The Town.

    I never write and rarely read stories set in the future. And I had a few flashback glimpses of the early 19th-century in my first novel, but other than that, the farthest back I’ve written is starting a story in the 1970s.

    Interesting question, Laura.

    • Like you, Linda, I’m not into reading or writing stories from the future. I don’t know why although it wouldn’t stop me from reading a book I wanted to just because it was set in the future.

      I share your interest in genealogy. Interesting stuff, isn’t it? :)

  4. If I write a work of Fiction it is usually set in a contemporary setting. I’ve never really thought about writing in a different time period. It never occurred.

    • Hi Richard. Welcome to my blog and for your comment. I have to admit that when I first began writing I set all my stories in the here and now. I’m much braver now, but it really depends upon the story I wish to write.

  5. Carol Ann Hoel

     /  September 12, 2010

    I think it is easier to write in one’s own time period, the years we remember best, and I’ve always admired writers that go the extra mile necessary to research another period of time. Laura, it was a blessing to you to hear the stories your mother told. For the time period to stand out along with the stories, she must have included many details that stuck in your mind. Blessings to you.

    • You are right, Carol Ann, I feel very fortunate to know my mother’s stories and the fact that she was able to include so much detail. I’m afriad when it comes time for me to tell my stories my memory will not be all that sharp.

  6. I think I would tend to write contemporary stories, but .. then again, I don’t know that for sure yet. I like to read stories from long ago times .. and, now that I think about it … all settings are fine with me as long as it is a good story. Pretty easy to satisfy, aren’t I?

    • Yes Lynn, I’d say you are a very versitile reader and writer. You sound as though you are one of those people who like a good story no matter what time the piece is set in. Nothing wrong with that. :)

  7. The novel I’m working on is set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. It was inspired by stories my mother told me of her life growing up during that period. Most of the other story ideas I’ve had are contemporary, but not as interesting to me as this one.

    I like reading medieval tales, regencies, and science fiction, as well as contemporary romances. What I feel like reading depends on the mood I’m in at the time.

    • Hi Carol, So nice to see you back. I have missed you! Hope all is well with you.

      I like the 30’s as well. Something about those depression years hold a strong appeal for me. Life was tough and yet people persevered. They had to.

  8. my shorts are all in the ‘now’. My fist novel is also now, but my wip is set in two time periods, 1914 and 1867. Took me a while to figure out why that is, but there is a very good reason :)
    i don’t really read many books that are ‘now’ but I am beginning to….

  9. I’m glad you figured out why you WIP has two time periods. Of course this peaks my interest! I honestly think it just depends upon the story we are writing. Some stories work better set in the past and others work better set in the now.

  10. Hi Laura,
    The whole idea of historical fiction is something I’ve thought a lot about, mainly because it seems to me that most of what’s published by writers here in Newfoundland is historical, to the point that I’ve often argued that Newfoundland writers are obsessed with the past. It’s possible that Newfoundlanders are no more obsessed with the past than anybody else, but a look at the local section of the bookstores here is pretty telling. It’s not as if there aren’t interesting things happening in contemporary Newfoundland, so why is there such a predominance of historical writing in Newfoundland?
    I have nothing against historical fiction, I quite enjoy it actually, but I’m concerned that the contemporary is often neglected in favour of the historical. Since the contemporary is actually where we live and I think writers have a role to play in interpreting the world around us, I’d like to see more of us tackling contemporary settings.

    • I understand what you are saying, Keith and while I enjoy historical history I certainly don’t think that’s all there is out there. I also read contemporary fiction as well. As for an over abundance of historical fiction in Newfoundland you would certainly be a good judge of that. I do agree with you when you say that writers have a role to play in interpreting the world around us and obviously what is today considered contemporary will not be fifty years down the road. A writer observes the world around them and records our interpretation of life which as a writer yourself, you likely know only too well.

      When I set out to write a story, I think first about the story I want to tell, and then decide what time frame to put it in. A story such as Bitter, Sweet I don’t think could have happened today therefore I needed to find an appropriate setting and yes I’m a push over for the 30’s 40’s & 50’s. While I like historical, I’m not necessarily planning to always write historical, as I said it will depend upon the story itself.. Maybe I’m just getting old..LOL!

  11. I enjoy reading stories set in Ancient Greece and Rome as well as Victorian times, since they were both interesting time periods, but most of the time, I prefer to read about contemporary events and people. It is nice to be able to relate to some of the writing and cultural trends.

    • Hi Pauline, I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story set in Ancient Greece or Rome..Interesting! I do love Victorian times, as well. It seems like such a romantic time in history..

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

  12. I like historical & contemporary, or historically contemporary – but nothing futuristic or historically futuristic. Used to read the Cheerios box but now it’s written in Spanish, at least down here, & the plots don’t hold my attention. I do plan to read Bitter, Sweet very soon because I really like the whole comma in the title thing goin on …. & it’s written in Canadian, which looks remarkably like English, so I should be okay.

    My oldest son worked at McDonalds when he was 15 – when he got home his clothes always smelled like ancient grease – Not a recommended choice for a setting – IMHO.

    • See, that’s where we differ, Dave, haven’t bought Cheerios since the kids were small and I never, ever read the box.I’m not a big cereal person but steel cut oatmeal can make me happy during the winter months.

      If you get a chance to read the book you’ll have to let me know how you liked the comma after you’ve read the story. Seriously, I’m worried now that it may be too dull for your tastes. There be no pirates between the covers.

      If you need any translating for the Canadian spellings give a shout. One second thought you’re pretty smart I think you can translate it all on your own.

      And I have to say I have never read any stories set in ancient grease…lol! But I might be tempted if you were the author!


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