Journey to the Past: Historical Fiction – Ohioana Book Festival 2020

Well, welcome everyone. I’m Linda Feagler, the former senior editor of Ohio Magazine who returned two months ago to the freelance writing career I left 24 years ago And I’m excited to begin my new chapter and hear about our authors newest chapters today So now let’s meet our authors Steve Goble is the author of The Bloody Black Flag, The Devil’s Wind, and A Bottle of Rum, The Spider John Mystery Novels The next Spider John novel, Pieces of Eight, is scheduled for release in March 2021 In July 2021, he will kick off a new detective series, City Problems, featuring a sheriff’s detective and is set in rural Ohio Steve is a former journalist who now works for a cyber security company based in Cleveland. A lifelong Ohio resident, he lives in Ashland with his wife and kid as he puts it. Plus a couple of dogs and a pair of fish Thanks so much, Steve for joining us today -Thanks for having me. This will be fun Victor Hess’s first novel, Jesse Sings was acknowledged as a finalist in the William Faulkner William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition in 2015 He was also recognized as an award-winning finalist in the fiction inspirational category of the 2018 Best Book Awards sponsored by The American Book Fest. His short stories have received honorable mention in a recent Gil- Glimmer Train Competition One made his list for 2017 Faulkner Competition. He is currently working on a third novel centered around Jesse Hall, the main character of his first two novels Besides a successful businessman, he has been an army bomb disposal instructor, and for decades, he has taught Bible study for both children and adults. He was raised in Ohio, attended college at Central State, and Ohio University, And he lives in Slidell, Louisiana with his wife and dog Welcome, Victor, and I’m glad you’re safe in Louisiana Thank you for that. Thank you, Linda Jess Montgomery is the author of The Sheriff Lily Ross Historical Mystery Series under her given. She wears several other literary hats She’s a newspaper columnist focusing on the literary life, authors, and events of her native Dayton, Ohio for the Dayton Daily News, and is executive director emeritus of the Antioch Writers Workshop Her first novel, The Sheriff Lily Ross Historical Mystery Series, garnered awards even before publication Montgomery, Ohio Arts and Culture District Artist Opportunity Graph 2018, Individual Excellence Award 2016 in Literary Arts from Ohio Arts Council, Johnny Nance Writer in Residence at Thurber House in 2014. It’s great to see you again, Jess. Thanks for coming – Thank You And Last but not least, David Selcer. It’s nice to see you again David, from a few years ago Graduated from Northwestern University where he studied in the Medill School of Journalism He then obtained a law degree from the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University and practiced Immigration Labor And Civil Rights Law in Columbus for 35 years His book, Lincoln’s Hat and The TEA Movement’s Anger won first place in the Chanticleer Review’s Best Book Competition in 2017 And is the author of Four Mysteries in The Buckeye Barrister series, Deadly Audit, Dead But Still Ticking, Muscles, Music, and Murder, and Dream Catcher Murders. Welcome. Thank you so much for being here Well if we could ask each of the panelists, could you tell us a little bit about your latest book, and what sparked the idea? Thank you for coming So who would like to start? Talk- Jess, how about you? Why don’t you start? – Okay Oh, first of all, I have to tell David I gave you a thumbs up because our younger daughters are too at Moritz so Yay! OSU Law School. Um, so my series was inspired by Ohio’s true first female sheriff In Southeastern Ohio, a woman named Maud Collins, who became sheriff when her husband unfortunately died in the line of duty in 1925 The next female sheriff in Ohio was in 1976, so there was quite a gap between Maude Collins and the next female sheriff. Um, and I was just really inspired by the notion of a female sheriff at any time, but particularly that long ago. Nearly 100 years ago. Not too many years after women got the right to vote. Um, And in a- a rural Appalachian part of our state and of the country. And my family of origin is from Appalachia and eastern Kentucky going back is, you know,- I’m the first buckeye actually, that’s how far back, um, all of my ancestors go with

being from Appalachia. And I was certainly reared in that culture and it was kind of fun to- It’s been fun to embrace, uh, the language. The beautiful like lyrical ballad type language as I’ve been writing Uh, and to explore, you know, in- in my mystery series case. What if the um- there was a mystery around why the lady sheriff’s uh husband passed away? Um, and so that kicks off the widows and- and the background I have workers rights, coal mining issues, women’s rights. The next book is called The Hollows um I know I’m supposed to hold up books to show the covers And it explores, um, basically how we can be haunted both personally and as a community by past events. So in that novel, Lily is still, um mourning the loss of her husband. Has a little bit of survivor’s guilt because she enjoys being sheriff and knows she would not have become sheriff if hr husband hadn’t passed away And als discovers some really disturbing parts of her community’s present and past Sounds intriguing. Jess. Thank you so much for that. Steve, how about you? -Well -What inspired your latest book? Um, well mostly I- I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen So mysteries were always going to be part of the picture. But my favorite book, probably of all time, is Treasure Island So I kind of took pirates and murder mysteries, put it in a blender, and I came out with stuff like this. The latest- And it’s called A Bottle of Rum This particular book was kind of inspired by my desire to not write the same book over and over The first two were mostly at sea Shipboard murders, nautical action things like that. So A Bottle Of Rum actually takes place almost entirely on land As Spider John and his friends get involved with some smugglers in Liminton, England, and a mad house and possibly ghosts. I don’t know Um so that I- I just wanted to do something different with this one The new one coming out next year is called Pieces of Eight and it’s about 50-50 land and sea Okay, thanks so much. Victor, how about you? What inspired you? Tell us about your latest book Well when I was- Back in 2014 I was still a businessman I had taken training at Ohio University as a finance major and really didn’t do much reading until in 2014. I just- I needed to get a story out. I had a story to tell, I just didn’t know how to write it um So what I did is I put a lot of words together uh about a period of time that I had when I was eight years old and bringing memories, putting them down on paper And I took all of this to a writer’s conference in Saint Augustine It was run by good writer there, Connie Mae Fowler and Those- those people gave me the humility that I never thought I would experience. I even had an English teacher that was kinder to me than these people. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that everything I had done was actually wrong And so after some advice from all of these friends- they are friends of mine, now close friends I changed all the names I put in fictional events, studied little history, and then came out with the story that’s fiction And so my idea of sharing my lifelong story all of a sudden got watered down by more interesting facts And so that put together Jesse Sings, which went out in 2017 And then recently The Clock Tower Treasure which, uh went out last year And then the third book of this series that follows a young boy named Jesse Hall, not Victor Hess, Jesse Hall is coming next year Okay, thanks so much. And David, how about you? David you’re muted

David? Bottom- Bottom of your screen there to the left is the mute button I just asked you to- -Can you hear me now? -Yep, I’m clear, thank you -Ok Can you tell us about your latest book and the- what sparked the idea for it? My latest book, uh, The Old Stories, is actually inspired my by my grandfather who was a uh immigrant from Russia uh, The theme of the book is basically that ordinary people often do extraordinary things. He, uh- He did not enter North. America through Ellis Island the way most people uh do uh, most immigrants. He entered through, uh, British Columbia and Vancouver Uh, and this was because he was drafted when he was a boy in Russia and taken away to fight in a war that, uh Russia was having with Japan at the time in 1905 The battleship that he was on sunk and he deserted And uh ran away to Manchuria and there he found out that uh, he could make his way to Canada by selling his labor to work on a a Canadian railway And that’s what he did. He came to this country He married, he had two children, but he was an ordinary person. He wasn’t very well educated He spoke very broken english and he just didn’t have an education. And so as a result of that he was- he was sidelined by his family who ran the grocery store sort of without him. All he did was drive a fruit truck out in the neighborhood to advertise the grocery store And uh he was just kind of left out of things Then along came World War II and he was worried about his relatives who were left in Europe And this is where the extraordinary part comes in So he joined something which very few people know anything about, it was called the Jewish Secret Fleet It was a bunch of old World War II surplus ships that uh uh were repaired and sent to bring uh, uh displaced persons uh out of Europe after the camps and the Holocaust uh revealed that that they had been in these concentration camps. They had no place to live in Europe and it was to bring them to a Palestine And so he had been a machinist in Russia. He was a machinist in the Russian navy And uh, he was a machinist on one of these tramp steamers that tried to bring people to Palestine uh, it’s kind of an extreme, you know, he did an extraordinary thing. But he was a very ordinary person who uh, otherwise probably wouldn’t have mattered And I just got- got a kick out of it. I liked him a lot. Uh, it’s uh, the story is actually fictional it has to be because there are two generations separating me from him and a lot of things that I- I didn’t know about and- and had to you know Check out uh through history and such to get straight. But uh Why was I inspired? I-I enjoy I was inspired by him He taught me how to speak Russian when I was a young boy growing up with him. Tried to teach me anyways And uh I was a history major at my college and i’ve always loved history so Why do I write the historical fiction? I love history, okay? Thank you Are there, and it’s for any of any of our panelists, are there special challenges in writing historical fiction that you don’t find in any other genre? Steve? -Um yeah, ah, all of my witnesses are dead My stories are set in 1720s. There’s no one that was there that I can interview The accounts that I use to sort of recreate, uh, pirate lives, uh come from newspaper clippings, uh trial records of the the fellows who got caught, um and accounts from survivors But in many cases, uh, the pirates themselves they had great incentive to lie um, So I can’t really take anything for- for uh for truth, you know. They tended to lessen their own role in the crimes and maybe put some of the blame on other people. So I have to take all of that with a large grain of salt

and try to distill it down to what a pirate’s life might have been like But uh, I don’t really trust the sources sometimes that I’m- I’m reading about Okay. Thanks. Anyone else like to- Yes, Jess So my time period is obviously much more recent than Steve’s but um what I found when I was a kid, I really loved the Time Life Decade By Decade series -Right. Yes -Yeah I loved those books um, So I was, you know, When I knew I wanted to write set in the mid-20s the first thing I try to start very general in history and then narrow down. So I went on Ebay and I got a copy of the old 1920s Time Life book and somehow I was surprised, but maybe shouldn’t have been, to discover that every story was about either New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, which is fine, except it leaves out a lot of people um, And I discovered how hard it is to uh dig into the lives of rural people, rural everyday people. Just you know, What what were the day-to-day lives like where? How far into the country had um, you know developed roads gone? You know Were they still riding horses or or driving cars? Of course, it turns out it’s a mix. Um You know, do they have electricity? Do they have telephones in the specific area where I’m writing? So I ended up just you know going to the area that i’m writing about and looking up old newspaper archives um to read articles to get a sense of what was there in 1925 um and looking- Actually it was really fascinating to look at old advertisements for, you know, stores and whatnot to see You know how much did they sell cans of soup? And if so, how much did it cost what kind of styles were available for the women to buy, you know in the local town or what have you? So that- it’s surprising that even you know 100 years ago, it can be a challenge to uh to research -Okay Yes, David. I think that uh, uh, one of the uh, most important things about uh, trying to write historical fiction is to get your historical facts, correct because if you don’t you will hear from readers and um Uh A perfect example of that is this wonderful book that’s out. Uh, it’s called American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins And uh it’s about uh, uh, real quickly it’s about someone who’s immigrating from Mexico to the United States with her son But uh, there’s a lot of controversy about the book and so much controversy that they actually stopped the book tour because Hispanic writers said the facts weren’t right. She would have things in there about how they were unable to get a birth certificate, uh for her son and therefore that was uh inhibited them crossing the border and was a big problem for them. And uh, But the fact of the matter is according to the Hispanic writers who also write things like this, it’s very easy to get a birth certificate for your child if you’re from Mexico. You can get it. You can get one. So they’re yelling and some- they don’t like that when people make mistakes like that. So I think it’s important to have your facts correct, even if uh, you’re not actually writing history. You’re just the- the real thing we’re doing is or one of the things we’re doing is telling a story that could be told. That could happen anywhere but happens against a historical background. But the important thing is the story But the characters are doing the story Victor did you want to comment? -Yeah, um, I agree with what everybody said here. And- and the uh fact finding and doing the research is real important One thing though for sure is as you’re doing the research I use and other resources. Uh, Ebay. Jess, I too have bought many things to help me there but you can’t get distracted. Sometimes your research will pull you away from your story and you’ve got to be careful of that. You don’t want to let that happen And so be sure in your mind, you know where your story is going to lead and then stay true to it even though the research might take you away. And I don’t mean with facts. I just mean that as you research these things there’s other little sub-stories that you want to go ahead and grab hold of. And- and expand

I think you’re absolutely right. That what happens when that happens is it tends to make your book boring because the people want to read the story they don’t want uh pages and pages of facts Right Would anyone like to comment about um, where your research for your latest book took you and were there any surprises along the way? I’d like to say- I’d like to address that if I could right now Um as I mentioned this started out as a memoir and so a lot of my research was in Xenia, Ohio I found on Facebook, if you grew up in Xenia, a little group there that where I could get information But as I went through all of this had articles which all of a sudden revealed a lot of things to me about a past life, so Jesse- his father, this is the protagonist, his father has left the- actually the mother has left him because he’s an abusive father And what he has done is created this situation where Jesse is wondering. Why did she marry him to begin with? And- and as I go through these articles I discover that here’s a man who was part of the chamber of commerce and who taught Sunday school And I’m reading these articles about this person, but this was not the person that I knew And so as you go through all of a sudden this is going to affect where the story is going to go But at the same time it’ll affect you too. So, uh, it did take me- I think that was your question, Where did it take you? -Yeah -Those are very much. Uh you get surprised and then you have the dilemmas of Where’s my story going to go now? You know- -Yep, David -Uh, one of the things that I learned, uh, that really surprised me is in the book that I was uh working on, uh, The Old Stories, there were 10 of these ships clunkers that got revamped and sent across the ocean to pick up displaced persons and take them uh to a new place to live This was also a time when the British were blockading bringing in any immigrants to Palestine What and- and- and- and one of those ships, one of those ten ships was actually and, you’ve all heard of it, The Exodus You’ve seen the movie The Exodus uh, That was actually a- that was actually a- a- a- a vacation. Uh, uh ship from the Chesapeake Bay that got converted into one of these uh, tramp steamers Well, there were ten of them Not a one of them made it to Palestine. Not a one of them uh embarked- disembarked their people that they were carrying, thousands of people actually, in Palestine They were all interdicted by the British Navy and the people were taken to Cyprus And then they slowly slowly let people out of Cyprus very slowly in small numbers that wouldn’t uh, uh upset anybody, uh into uh, the ma- British mandate of Palestine at that time. I didn’t know that. I thought “Oh the end of the story is going to be how wonderful. We’re going to make it to uh, the promised land.” Didn’t work that way Steven? Steve? Yes -Um, my books have sort of taken me on a uh, a bit of a guided tour of 18th century medicine and I just want to say we’re all lucky to be here based on some of the practices that were put in place. I’ve researched apothecary methods where they made medicines out of all sorts of different plants,, but also maybe incorporated some cat urine or cow urine or whatever Amputations often on merchant vessels and pirate ships weren’t done by a doctor or someone who knew what they were doing. They were done by the ship’s carpenter because he had a saw

So, um Some of the mental health practices: wrapping people in wet sheets to keep them from moving around, and hurting themselves and then just leaving them lying around um We’re- I”m just glad to see you all and we all lived through that and modern medicine I think is a little bit better than- than some of the stuff my guys- – Now we have Covid A century from now writers will be you know crafting stories about that. Would be interesting But yeah Jess, how about you? You want to mention about your research and maybe where it took you? Any surprises? Uh, yeah for the book that’s actually coming out next March is called The Stills, um, which you know talks about prohibition, of course and also about the still moments we all have from time to time to reflect on our past and our future um, But prohibition is in the background of all my books because they’re set in the 20s so they have to be in the in the background um But for The Stills, I decided to put it in the foreground and then researching and and taking kind of a deep dive in prohibition era and law I was sort of delighted and surprised to run across a woman named Mabel Walker Willibrandt who was the assistant attorney general? of the U.S in 1920 And she um philosophically didn’t think prohibition made a whole lot of sense, but she very much believed in the rule of law. And so um, she was determined that- that this law would be enforced and- and that it would work Um, and it’s just fascinating to read about her and you know, her story which is totally- should be its own book written by somebody not named Jess So if anybody wants to write a biography of this woman, I say go for it because I would read it in a heartbeat But um, she was just really fascinating and I also discovered that um, Anti- the anti-saloon league was started near Columbus, Ohio So, um- and was very active in the the time frame in which I’m writing and is not too far from where my stories are set So although I don’t know that Mabel would have come to give a lecture near Columbus. She certainly could have because she did a lot of uh lecture tours. So I devised a way to bring her to my part of Ohio that I write about to meet up with with Lily the sheriff Um, So it’s just really interesting to you know, kind of throw those two together in a fictional way um even though Mabel was very much a real person. So fascinated by her Thank you Courtney, would you like to uh- I guess we have some questions from our audience. Would you like to take a couple and we’ll do those? Sure. Are you ready for those? Okay, our first one comes from uh Clayton Carmony I was wondering how damaging is it if a work of historical fiction has an anachronism in it? For example, a multi-shot rifle in the revolutionary war? Steve? – Yeah, I’ll take a crack at this one. I- I think it does hurt um, if your readers know the history and they realize you just goofed. It takes you right out of the story and you’re no longer thinking “Wow, what a predicament these characters are in.” You’re thinking “Didn’t this guy do any research?” So yeah, you have to be a little bit careful. Um I spend a lot of time checking the etymology of words and phrases, uh to make sure my characters aren’t using insults that didn’t come into play For 40, or 50, or 100 years later I sometimes feel like I spend more time checking the etymology of words than actually writing the novels um It’s very frustrating. But yeah I totally get it if -if i’m reading a novel set in some period that I happen to know something about or think I know something about, and I spot something that’s off it uh It can mess me up a little bit – Yeah, well, you start doubting the rest of the work, I think. Many times That can happen. I think what I try to do just as a writer. I’m not a historian, but I do try to get things, right um, I try to focus on my characters and the situation and- and their goals And then just sort of weave the history in and around in the background, you know? I try not to go off on lectures, uh or anything like that But yeah, you have to check a lot of stuff because if your story- You’re trying to write a compelling story as David mentioned and if you uh, take people out of it, you know there’s thousands of other books out there they could be reading and you don’t want ’em putting yours down and grabbing someone else’s Thank you, Steve. Anyone else want to address the question?

Yeah, I think it’s very damaging -Yeah, then Jess. Go ahead, David. Then Jess -I’m sorry. I think it’s very damaging. I mean readers- readers get insulted by punctuation they don’t agree with So if- if you tell a historical fact that’s not true you’re going to hear about it from somebody. People get upset about things like that I don’t know, readers are very- What, what’s the word that- Picayune is- I don’t know if that’s a word? -Yes, it is -So that’s what I think Well, I agree, of course, you know research is- is paramount um, But that’s one reason I have extensive author notes at the end of my books um is to make sure- especially if I’ve come across a really shocking element of history that even when I came across it, I thought “Really?” Um, so for example in The Hollows, the WKKK, the Women’s KKK, plays plays a role and was a real group. There was a chapter in every state of the union back in the 20s They lasted until 1933 when surprise financial shenanigans put them out of business um and they were not um You know just helping out the KKK, they were their own women’s group And um, I was stunned by this. And so for- especially for facts like that I make sure to point out you know, here- here are my sources and here, you know this really happened I didn’t make this up I wouldn’t make this up Um, if I did make it up nobody would you know, nobody would appreciate that So um and you know and the example I gave of Mabel, you know in my author’s notes for my forthcoming book I’ll make sure to point out she was a real person. Here’s some information, you know sources to learn more about her if you’re interested, but she she did not come to southeastern Ohio that I could find. So um because I know there will be readers who will say “Well, did she really show up in southeastern Ohio?” And the answer is “I don’t know but she could have and it is fiction.” so I try to figure out, like where I need to be very clear, um and fair with readers of this is absolute fact. This is where I’m inspired by these facts Thanks. Jess. Anybody else with that question? We can have another if you like. Courtney, another question from the audience? -Okay uh, Nicole Henneman asks, uh Have you run into any issues with living descendants or extended family of the historical person being upset that you wrote about local historical figures or events creating history through fiction or them not writing the story themselves? And how faithful do you try to keep to actual historical people and events? This has never happened to me and I hope to God it doesn’t because they would be descended from pirates and pobably know how to kill me pretty quickly um I- I do try very hard to to stay true to uh historical figures but I use them quite sparingly for the most part, um as I mentioned earlier they tended to not always tell the truth. Um If they got caught they would lie about where they had been and what they had done, so I- I try not to focus on the historical figures, uh, and- and stick more with the guys I made up because I know where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. So Well like in my case, my sheriff, Lily Ross, is inspired by the true sheriff Maude Collins. So um, I try to make it very clear that that Lily is inspired by Maude. Lily is not Maude I am not telling Maude’s story. Um, there is some overlap at the beginning in that they were both married to uh, male sheriffs, both of whom died in the line of duty. Um, and they both served as the jail matron you know, and worked for their husbands. And so they knew, um- they knew local law. So, but that’s where the story splits and I make it very clear um, and I haven’t had any push back from from anyone um, I’m sure it helps that you know, I make it very clear and also that you know Lily is a is a a good person so that helps Okay, anyone else that question? Nope? -No, I do. They’re um in um Jesse Sings and in The Clock Tower uh Treasure, we’ve got a situation there where um, we’ve got

a story about Tecumseh the Indian leader and Rebecca Galloway, who was a pioneer girl, probably a teenager at the time, having a romance. And I brought this thought to um Katherine Kidd in Xenia about uh, did this really happen? And nobody seems to know And there are books that support it So I went ahead and just continued the legend I’m- I’m- I haven’t had anybody come back to me and say “Uh, my great great great grandmother never did um what you said in the book.” Um, but I assumed that she could have. And at the same time I’ve got uh, Jesse Uh, somehow he’s he actually is delivering groceries to Helen Sanmyer Um which Is feasible, let me just say And um Uh, there’ll be in-in the third book, there’s going to be uh, something going on. In fact I had her giving him a book and then when I read the copyright of the book, this is after I’ve written it, it was copyright 1962. Well, she couldn’t have given it to him in 1950s So that- I got that out of the book. It’ll be in the third one though Okay -I – I- I have had a few close scrapes Not really harmful ones but from my bio you can see that I was a lawyer for about 40 years before I started writing and I don’t care what anybody says, when we make up characters we’ve got somebody in our mind that we- that we we met somewhere, or worked with, or did something with And uh, so of course, uh being from Columbus and practicing law here I did too And a lot of people would ask me, especially in the mysteries that I’ve written. I write this series called the Buckeye Barrister Series Series “Well, is this guy so-and-so?” “Is this guy the guy who used to run the CBS news outlet here?” You know, is this guy- this guy was the president of the Huntington bank at one time wasn’t he?” You know? And I consider those to be uh close- close grapes because I’m never using their name and I’m never using facts, actual facts, that happen. But I try to cultivate their personalities, you know, and people can see it. They can find it Can you talk a little bit about what the writing and research process is like? Do you research a bit then write? You wait until all your research is done and then write? Anyone would like to address that? I’d love to hear the answer to that one Well, I start with a story first and figure out you know, where my characters are and what their goals are, and what they’re doing um And- and usually where- They’re doing what the setting is But I- I know what this- what their goals are and then I have to do a lot of research to find out what’s going on around them while this is happening. You know, I don’t want to have Spider John and his friends show up in a particular place at a particular time and then find out later that there was some great historical event right there that they should have noticed and I didn’t mention it in my book So I start with story then do uh the research to build the- the history into it And sometimes you know, you’ll find out well, maybe I’d better not have uh Spider and his friends go to this place because I don’t know enough about it. Or there’s not enough information Um, so yeah, it’s- but it’s always story first for me than history I tend to research both. I tend to write and research at the same time. Like Steve I do- I do put the emphasis on you know, what’s the character arc gonna be? What’s the overall plot gonna be? And yes, it’s always good to find out um, was there some big event that I should not overlook? You know? So if I write a book set in the 30s, might want to mention The Great Depression, you know in passing. Um, so- so I definitely agree with that. But I try to write and then I- I leave little notes for myself about you know, for- for when I re- rewriting and revising go double check this, go find this out, because otherwise, I could go down a research rabbit hole and not come out for two years because

in some some days it’s so much more fun to research than it is to write Victor? David? You want to comment on the whole research writing? How much you do of each, or you do them together or separately? I do- It’s- it’s all at the same time as you’re writing. Those questions do pop up I had Jesse with his class in Sabina saying the Pledge of Allegiance and I had to be sure whether “under God” was in it or not. And lo and behold you talk about a rabbit hole, Jess. That was the year that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance So there’s two more pages there because I got to let everybody know what Dwight Eisenhower thought about that Yeah David? Any comment about research and writing? Uh, with me, I- I would have to say it depends on what kind of story I’m writing Um, for instance if you uh, try to write an alternative history, Uh you better know what the real history is first before you write this alternative uh a historical uh, uh a novel If you’re uh placing characters against a background and the story could happen anywhere or at any time, it’s just this background, then I tend to write the story as Steve does or focus on the story and check myself- check them- check on certain things Uh, do you ever get obsessive about research like do you know when to stop? No -Not ever No when I start researching- When I start researching I thought “Oh, that’s interesting. It’s not even on the subject, but I didn’t know that.” You always worry that you’re missing something in the research? I get obsessive about stuff like that and I wonder with you- your authors, how do you like know I have this? I’m done. I got to move on instead of staying with it? There’s this thing called contracts and deadlines to turn the damn book in and- and have it published. So, um, yes, it can be very distracting if you’re researching pirates And you know I read this book is called The Pirate’s Own Book from the Marine Research Society, and it has a lot of details about trials and survival stories; witnesses, etc And yeah You can start reading and just keep going and going and then you realize I could have written 3 000 words in the time I spent reading that book. It’s a constant struggle but that deadline helps. Sooner or later you gotta stop Anybody else? -I think it matters to look at “Is it really going to serve the story?” Um, I’ve told this story before that, you know one day my husband came home He’s like, “How did your- how did your writing go today?” And I said “Oh, it’s terrible. I was- I spent all day just trying to figure out what kind of egg beater- and I really did. I mean I was on Ebay, I was googling, I was doing this or than or that Um, I- so I called the library like “What kind of egg beater would Lily have used to you know make make scrambled eggs?” And he was silent for a minute and then he looked at me and he said “Couldn’t she have used a fork?” I’m like “She could’ve- You’re right.” uh, I could have just had her, you know, whisk the eggs with a fork And that would have saved a day’s worth So I always- -Thank you for that I always think about that, you know when I start to get really obsessed about a detail That’s when I leave the little note for myself and then later I go back and think “You know, if- if you could use an everyday object or- or you know, not worry about this then- then don’t because nobody’s reading my books for the history of egg preparation.” So Thank you -Sometimes when I when I- Oh sorry, did I interrupt you? No, no, go ahead, David -Sometimes when I’m researching I- I come across something that I- that is so interesting to me having very little to do with my story that I write it into my book For instance, uh, uh when I was writing, uh, this book, uh, Lincoln’s Hat and the TEA Movement’s Anger, I came across- I was looking at uh, it’s a story attempted assassination of Lincoln that not the real one, but somebody else, a journalist was trying to assassinate him And uh, I came across Lincoln’s security

agent in- in my research and the- and it so happens that his security agent, uh founded one of the biggest security, uh, uh companies in the United States And uh, uh, basically, um, uh, started the idea of the private eye because his logo was a diamond with an eye in it And uh You know- So, you know, you get a few paragraphs that way. Maybe even uh half a chapter depending what you thought. And I thought it was just so interesting that I threw it in I don’t know whether it was any good or not to do that, but I did it – Factoids mean a lot in there Absolutely. Courtney, any questions from our audience that you want to uh share? -Yep, we’ve got another one from Nicole What advice would you give new writers of historical fiction? Well, I’ll go First of all, I would say read a lot of historical fiction if you aren’t already. There’s so many great historical novels, historical mysteries, um historically inspired sci-fi, etcetera. So find- find the masters in in the genre and sub genres that you’re interested in and read, read, read. I can’t emphasize that enough And then I think the second thing to do is to figure out you know, what really speaks to you, um know the marketplace, you know and and try not to copy the marketplace. Because you want to do- nobody can do you, Nicole, as well as you. So you want to figure out what story inspires you from history and connected to you know your- your personal life and why it inspires you Um and third point I’ll make and then what I want to hear from the other writers uh is there’s a organization called the Historical Novel Society. So you might want to just, if you’re writing novels, take a look at that organization. The Historical Novel Society They have a great little magazine that comes out with reviews of tons of um historical novels, articles about them, uh and a writer’s conference, uh every year Are there some writers also- there’s a great- it’s a great question our audience member asked for- the- are you- are there- specific authors that inspire you? That you like to read in your off time? Oh, I really like um for historical, uh mystery, uh, Lori Roy. Um, she’s a fantastic uh writer. She writes in the mid-century U.S history and then William Kent Kruger has a couple of standalone novels that are just lyrical, beautiful historical uh mysteries. So I would recommend those two writers -Thank you. Okay next Another question? Advice you have for people who write historical fiction? Steve, go ahead -Sorry, um Jess is absolutely right about picking a period that you’re personally fascinated about Don’t write about World War one just because you think it’ll sell if- if you’re personally invested in that period you’re going to research it all the time whether you’re working on a book currently or not and you’re going to absorb that stuff and it’s going to be a part of you. It’ll stay in your head and influence your stories If you’re just digging into that period of history because you want to write a book ,you’re turning what should be kind of a fun adventure into work And then as far as other authors of historical fiction who inspire um, I really enjoy reading Susan Spann. She writes historical mysteries set in ancient Japan And her research is awesome. She makes you feel like you’re really there I don’t have one of her books here handy to show you but it’s uh- if you like historical murder mysteries with ninjas, Susan Spann’s got you covered I- I- I uh kind of inspired by E. L Doctorow, who wrote a uh a book called The March, and that book is basically about uh, General Sherman- Union General Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea and splitting the house- splitting the confederacy, basically in half, and pulverizing it and destroying it But that’s not really what the book’s about it’s written against the back- you learn a lot about uh I don’t know how he did this. You learn a lot about Sherman,

but Sherman is not the main character. He’s just the main theme And uh the- the characters are a bunch of people who he’s made up in various walks of life who are suffering from this apparently horrible destruction of the south during his march to the sea, and how they coped with it, and what they did And I just thought that was a great, uh, you know, I like the way that- – That sounds like he’s known for ragtime but you’ve added a new book now to his mentioning that and I appreciate that you introduced us to that. And how about any advice for aspiring historical fiction writers? David? Oh, I- I just would uh say again what everybody- what- what- what Steve has said: You can’t write about a period that you’re not interested in. It’s got to be something that really attracts you. I mean I wrote Lincoln’s Hat. Uh, I was born on Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln’s always been my uh, uh hero. Abraham Lincoln I studied, uh in history- in- in in college, the history of the Civil War era in that history Now I really like it. I couldn’t write about uh Henry The Seventh if I had to It just- He just doesn’t turn me on, you know? Victor? Oh sorry. I’m sorry go ahead Victor? Any favorite authors you have? And any advice for historical fiction writers? So you caught me in a lie, uh because I said I didn’t read much and then I think now of uh, all of the Allan Eckert books that I went through and how interesting they remained even though they were probably footnoted more than any books ever written So I’d say Allan Eckert, and believe it or not- and- and Jess, you might appreciate this: Rebecca Caudill wrote a lot of good folksy surviving- survival stories about pioneers, you know in the area of Kentucky Carolina and all of that. So I’ve always enjoyed those books, and I think any young reader would too just because of the resilience they teach about the pioneer spirit Okay Courtney any other questions from our audience? Yeah, we’ve got a couple -Okay, let’s do those -David Mold is wondering how you deal with shifts in time. Um and he says it’s kind of technical, but he’s wondering about things that span years and- and moving from scenes in the past and how it would be viewed in retrospect today Anybody talk to that? Uh The I- I guess I can. I mean, uh, the book that uh, I have at the festival this year, uh, The Old Stories, spans uh a period of uh, uh 87 years So it takes uh- it covers a period when uh, actually when uh, uh, uh Czar Alexander Three was the star of Russia, to the fall of the uh, uh Russian empire and uh into uh, uh, uh World War One and World War II uh, And uh, and- and- and- the way I spanned it for better or for worse, was uh my character- It starts with the death of my uh protagonist and we’re at his funeral and his sons who never really understood him or particularly thought much of him, are hearing uh the eulogy about him and listening to people who come to visit- uh stop coming- coming to visit. They call it the uh, well, it would be like an Irish wake or uh, for- for Jewish people it’s called the Shiva. They come to your house and they sit with you and they make you- try to make you feel better And these people are telling stories about my main character and that’s how I expand- how I uh span all this period of time. Through the eulogy- through his oldest friend, who comes to visit who’s still alive,

to a friend who’s too sick to come and visit but went on these ships with him overseas to try to deliver a displaced persons, uh telling- telling the story of him That’s how I did it But uh, I don’t know what you would call that mechanism I think the closest thing in my books to a shift in time is when uh, my protagonist is reflecting on past events in his own life. So I don’t have large spans of time to cover Um, but I try to do those things naturally in the story uh in a way that keeps the current story moving forward. So for instance He might see a ship or taste food that he hasn’t eaten in a long time, and it might cause him to reflect a moment on how he became a pirate or that ship looks just like the one that came and attacked us at another time. Or he might be explaining his circumstances to somebody else in the story. They’re like “What you used to be a pirate?” Well, yeah, here’s how it happened. That kind of thing rather than just you know, artificially throw in a lot of background. I- I’m writing mysteries and adventure and I want things to move forward all the time, so I try to work those things in as naturally as possible. That’s the best advice I have for technique on that Anybody else? Victor I- I wonder if that question might also be referring to how we might look at things that were looked at differently in the past I could see in, uh, Jess’s- I’m reading all of your books, by the way, just to let you know. And I’ve- I’ve finished two of them But um, with um dealing with the woman sheriff there, I’m thinking about I’ve got a situation with Jesse Hall where he is a little disappointed to find out that he was in the wrong line when they handed- when they did the Polio vaccinations And so that- the viewpoint then and the- the issue of Polio, and the fear that it created, and the way that it changed the way that you actually lived your life: Did you go swimming or not? And it wasn’t as far as masks were concerned but that could be um viewed differently now. And it could raise you know-, it’s a theme that could be treated a little differently today than it- than it would in that time period. I actually had a couple reviewers think that I was a little politically incorrect.They weren’t real specific about places, but I have an idea that it may have had- had to do with uh, things like that And Also the fact that I used Eugene as one of my characters in my book And if you’re from Ohio and had been for a long time, you know that Eugene was this Black man that died and was put on display in Sabina for a long period of time And I think that there’s probably some reference there, too What else? Yeah, um, I- I’m glad Victor pointed out that it’s also, you know, tricky to figure out how to portray characters from the past both accurately in a way that are sympathetic to the modern reader So I’ve- I’ve had a few- a few readers push back and say that Daniel, the sheriff that Lily was married to and who- who passed away, was killed in the line of duty Um, you know her memories of him or things people say about him portray him in his life And they say “Well couldn’t he have been a little more sensitive? Couldn’t he have- Why was he a boxer back then in 1915 or so? Couldn’t he have talked about his feelings a little more?” And um, I feel like I made him as um sensitive um as I could without turning him into a male from you know, 2020. Um, so I felt like no a guy who was a boxer and fought in the great war and then became a sheriff probably is not going to say to his wife “You know, I really need to talk about how I’m feeling right now.” I just don’t think that would have happened So, um-

So- And yet at the same time I wanted him to be sympathetic. So I had to kind of show that he was a sensitive person with uh deep feelings but through you know action or surprising little things people might remember about him -Okay Courtney, before we take another question, do you want to remind our audience how they can get copies of these wonderful books? Yes, all you have to do is head to uh, the uh It’s- it’s not the book loft. It’s just And uh and Head straight to the homepage and click on the great big Ohioana Book Festival banner and it will take you wherever you need to go And those are all available and you can get some signed copies or book plates or however you would like to do that Okay, thank you. Any other questions from our audience? -There is one and I believe it might just be a yes or no This is from John Young. He would like to know do you have a historian review your finished first draft to help catch errors or make suggestions? No, no That’d be me Anybody else? Okay Oh somebody wants to know Who is the author Victor mentioned that wrote about Kentucky pioneer history? Rebecca? What was it? Caudill. C-a-u-d-i-l-l One of the questions I have is do you- what an author told me one time, they never had writer’s block. Now. I find that hard to believe but god love them if it’s true. If you have had writer’s block, can you tell me a way that you kind of get out of it? How do you handle it? I don’t have writer’s block I’m, sorry,. I- I don’t have writer’s block. I almost always have more stories in my head than I possibly have time to write But I do occasionally get locked on a plot problem -Okay A tendency to put my characters in situations before I know how I’m gonna get them out of it And so it’s like “Oh my gosh, you know? Spider’s tied up on his sinking ship or whatever How am I gonna get him out of this? And so my solution to that is walk away from the book and think about it and just let it run through my head and not come back and try to write until I’ve worked it out um That does happen to me sometimes -Okay, anyone else want to mention their suggestion for that? Do they have it? I had one- I went to a conference uh down here. This one guy said he was able to get so much written because he would write and then he would nap And I kind of liked that answer He would- he- that would be one way to escape it But also I think you could, if you just go to another part of your book and start doing some editing or something like that, that somehow keep busy. Or you know, go for lunch Okay, Courtney. How much time do we have left? Or does this go on and on forever? We’re about at time Out of time? Well, I want to I’d like to ask two more quick questions. One is we talk,-you know I love print magazine -Not like somebody’s waiting on the room, so- Okay, you know that’s right You know, I love- I love the printed word and I think we all do, looking in our backgrounds of bookcases And I’d hate to see them completely replaced by digital versions Can anybody- want to share their thoughts on the future of actual print magazines and books? The printed word? Well, I- I don’t know about the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know that I am probably about 50-50 between real books and digital books Um, I- I favor real books. I think they become conversation pieces in your home. People walk by and they say “Oh you read this?” and that kind of thing And there’s just something great about sitting in your chair and opening a book and drinking your coffee and going. Um, the convenience of the digital stuff gets me a lot though I’ll be reading a book review online or talking to somebody and they’ll mention something and you know a few clicks: Oh boom, there it is Yeah, I’ve got it The nice thing about the digital too is if I’m accompanying my wife on a yard sale voyage or something like that. She loves yard sales, garage sales I don’t. If I don’t see a box or a table full of books, I don’t get out of the car Um, But having a few books in my phone gives me something to read, you know while we’re doing that. So I- I think- But I- I think print’s always going to be with us. I really do. I mean we surround ourselves with them and- and that physical- “Yes, this is my book. I own this.” I don’t think it’s going to go away And to forget um, I buy a lot of ebooks and then I forget that I bought them

That happens um, So I like having the physical to be read pile because you know, then I see. Oh, yes. I want to read this. Or uh, I bought it because I, you know, wanted to experience it. Um, and I find that I’ve kind of divvied up um what I read based on you know, the type of book will- will lend itself to a certain kind of format for me. So for example, I really like um biography as an audible- audible books um, I tend to like just fun light or the research um books as e-books. And then most of the fiction I read I buy um hard copy or hardcover or paperback. Um, and I think you know, whatever format books take, um story will always be with us. So I think we can assure ourselves that you know, telling each other stories is part of how we exist as human beings. It’s baked into our DNA. Um, so story will never go away When I think about your question, I think about the destruction of the great library of Alexandria which had a horrible impact on the forward history of knowledge and thought in the world And I think that uh, as Steve said, the written word printed uh since uh, the Gutenberg, press, the- but the written word, uh will um, has to always be with us because uh computers, it doesn’t matter what you put in them, pretty soon it- you get so much information into them that it gets lost It gets lost. It gets- you- you- you can’t find it anymore Uh, it’s too far back But, uh, the printed word, uh, it has to always be there and then- and it always will. They won’t stop doing that uh, I don’t think it’s gonna devolve out of our uh consciousness, the printed word Victor, any thoughts on that? Well, I- I agree with what everybody said, but- and- and I’d add that the printed- once the book is printed and it’s on your shelf, it’s not going to change The words are going to be there And um once you digitize everything um it- it can be changed -Yep And my last question is, what’s- what’s next for all of you? What are you- what are we working on next without giving away any secrets? Well, I just finished the third book in the Kinship Mystery Series called The Stills, so um, it’s been approved. The revisions are approved. Yay. So I’ll be working on uh copy edits um and author notes for that. Um, and I’m brainstorming my fourth book in The Kinship Mystery Series Okay. Thanks Steve? – Um, I have a brand new book series debuting next year that has nothing to do with pirates or anything like that Um, it’s sort of a hard-boiled detective series set in rural Ohio. A little bit of mix of police procedural and- and private detective stuff and that’s that’s from Ocean View Publishing I’m really excited about it Uh, hoping to continue the Spider John stuff, too So I’ll be good Thank you. Victor, How about you? Yeah, book three will uh- will be finished. Um, I’m finishing that up and Jesse’s story He’ll finally graduate and go to college My brother died last year and I owe him a memoir so that I’ll be working on. He was quite the, what do you call it? A journal, uh, not a journalist- A journal-er? I guess that would be the right word for it And then my great-grandfather has an interesting story which I want to turn into a novel. So I have a lot to live for here -Okay, and David, how about you? What’s next? I have a book that is finished that needs to be uh uh I guess you could say copy edited before I release it. But it’s called Closure And it’s a combination mystery and a story about the effects of PTSD on um- on on two people One, uh, uh a marine who’s returned from Afghanistan,

and two, the woman that he falls in love with who um was uh a victim of uh, of uh, uh male brutality. Of uh rape and- and- and- and how the PTSD is affecting them Okay And I see with one more question from one of our audience members, Nicole would like to know any editing software critique groups or resources you would recommend for writers who do not have publishers, extra money, or peer networks? Anybody want to take that? Address that question? Um, i’m married to a professional copy editor and one of my best friends in life is a professional editor as well and uh, they’re both book people. We read a lot write a lot, etc And they both love me enough to tell me when I screwed up So I let them read everything before I show it to my agent, before I show it to a publisher, and- find people in your life that love you enough to tell you you need to do this better Okay anybody else? – I would suggest a book. See if I can grab it quickly off my shelf, called Intuitive Editing, um by a woman named Tiffany Yates Martin. So it’s not free, but it’s uh, it’s, you know, the cost of a book. And I highly recommend it as a way to um think about how to revise your own- your own work. Um, it doesn’t go into copy editing, but it goes into all the structural um pieces of what a developmental editor would do. And Tiffany is, in fact, a developmental editor. So I would recommend Intuitive Editing – Thank you. Isn’t it great, you just go to your shelf and pull it off? See if we can e able to do that. There are some benefits to this -That’s right How about you, Victor? Any advice for um, someone looking for critique groups or resources? Well, there’s usually a writer’s group near you. I found mine on Meet Me I think that’s the name of the group. The Bayou Writers Club is something. We actually do workshops. We have uh, I’m not an MFAcbut we have MFAs as- that support us and they will actually participate in our workshops And then if you can attend, like I found that Saint Augustine Group is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. A being able to take your work to that and letting yourself listen to what others had to say is just a great uh thing. So find a writer’s group. That would be my advice Thank you. And David, finally David. Any advice to add? Well, I would say that I agree with Victor that- that those methods are among the best uh to uh learn the craft and to uh learn new things happening uh I- I have a group that it’s actually it’s out of the state of Washington called Chantaclaire And they do- They have yearly conferences and they do- They review books for you. And at these conferences you’re learning all sorts of things about the printing, about the book and the publishing industry The one thing I would say is steer clear of the people on the net that want to help you for 99 dollars I would say watch out for them -Okay, Courtney, anything else you want to add or ask? um The only thing I want to say is thank you to everyone for being on this panel and thank you to everyone who came and watched this with us. This has been quite the experience and experiment for us here at Ohioana Well, thank you – Thank you for making this work – Yes. This is the first live panel of the weekend so thank you all for being here with us for this Thank you for helping us be here -Yes, and to our audience. Thanks for coming. Please go and buy everyone’s books at the and visit our website for the schedule. And um, thank you very much to all of our sponsors who helped us put this together Stay safe everyone and let’s wait for the day we can all be together again in person – Thank you – Thank you -Thank you, everyone – Bye Bye -Take care – Bye