Memorial Day has me thinking about how the past inspires good fiction. Some of my ancestors ended up in Russia and Poland because they were Mennonites—and I assume they traveled to escape persecution, but I’m not sure.
There’s a story in there somewhere. And a good nonfiction story often leads to an even better fictional one.
I have another ancestor who came to Utah by handcart and nearly froze to death along with half her family. Depressing, but heroic too.
Maybe it’s because I live in Utah where pioneers are a bit overdone; maybe it’s because I don’t want to bother doing the research necessary to write historical fiction. But for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to look to my own family history for novel ideas.
Then I read A Northern Light and Hattie Big Sky. Both are excellent, award-winning books. And both began with the author’s interest being sparked by real stories from their own family’s history. Both made me ask, Why couldn’t I have thought of writing that book??
Probably because my grandmother didn’t homestead in Montana by herself or work at a hotel where a murder happened. But now I’m itching to know just what my ancestors did witness, what amazing feats they did accomplish—and how they felt all along the way.
What incidents in your family’s past would make a good story?
What good books have you read that were inspired by someone digging through Grandma’s journal?