ED- One of the most popular genres of writing today are Historical Fiction, and I am proud to introduce fellow Virginia Writer’s Club member Diane Scott Lewis to all our readers. Diane what was your greatest inspiration to become an author?
DSL-Thank you for having me at Eerie Digest. I love to lose myself in imaginary scenarios. What would happen to someone if…? I’ve read voraciously since I first learned to read, and, I must admit, epic movies such as Mutiny on the Bounty and Cleopatra inspired my fascination with history. I started to write stories as a small child, and penned my first novel at age ten. A story about ancient Rome. Of course, I didn’t yet have the concept of plot, theme, character arcs or Point of View. My stories rambled on as long as there was lead in my pencil. In school I discovered I excelled in creative writing and the “dreaded” essay questions on tests. Through helpful critique groups, I grew as a writer.
ED- Tell us of your earliest achievements in writing and how they strengthened your resolve and confidence in what you do?
DSL-Every story I wrote was praised by my teachers and that gave me confidence. At seventeen I had a short story submitted from my high school to a literary festival. I didn’t win, but that also urged me on to write. I wrote many stories and poems for school magazines. Two years ago, I won second-place in The Golden Nib for my non-fiction essay, Islands. My recently released novel, The False Light, won the CTRR Award.
ED- Please tell our many readers about your novel, ‘The False Light’. Our readers are students of Mystery and we would love to learn all about it.
DSL- Here is the blurb for my novel: Forced from France by her devious guardian on the eve of the French Revolution, Countess Bettina Jonquiere must deliver an important package to further the royalist cause. In England, she discovers the package is full of blank papers, the address false and she’s penniless. Stranded in a Cornish village, Bettina toils in a bawdy tavern and falls in love with a man who may have murdered his unfaithful wife. Tracked by ruthless revolutionaries, she must uncover the truth about her father’s murder—and her lover’s guilt—while her life is threatened.
ED- What is the process that you use to gain the historical accuracy that you base your work on?
DSL-I find research as intriguing as creating the fictional world. I spent many hours at the Library of Congress, poring over books written during the time of my novel. I studied research books written by experts on the eighteenth century. I discovered that historians disagree on certain facts, and often you have to make a decision on which fact to use. Now with the internet, research is so much easier, but you must always double check to make certain what you’ve found is correct. I’ve consulted on-line with a professor at a university who is an expert on the eighteenth century.
ED- As this is a work of fiction please describe the era it is written in and the inspiration behind the book.
DSL-The era is the eighteenth century, also referred to as The Age of Enlightenment. Poetry, novels and the notion of romantic love flourished in this era. The Industrial Revolution was beginning. The American and French Revolutions tore apart the dominance of the ancient ruling classes. Women—yes, as far back as this—were demanding equal rights. So much happened in this era and that inspired my story. I threw a young woman of privileged upbringing into the lower classes, and watched her fight and grow as a character.
ED- Your next novel is entitled ‘Elysium’. Please tell us the theme behind the story.
DSL-I researched Elysium during the same time as The False Light. My theme was to throw the proverbial monkey wrench into history. Could a man as cynical about love as Napoleon, suffering in his exile on St. Helena, be transformed by a pure-hearted (yet tenacious) young woman who loved him for himself? And could he escape from this remote island?
ED- Was your book based on a real event and describe the era it was written about.
DSL-I based this novel on Napoleon’s real exile up to a point. I read numerous memoires, including servants and courtiers, written by his fellow exiles. I studied the island through books, on-line pictures, and spoke to a Napoleonic scholar who has visited the island many times. The possibility of escape was discussed by the exiles, and feared by their British captors. Two American men were on their way to free him when they learned of his death. I used the facts of the exile, the people who were there, and who might have contacted him, as the basis for my fictional escape. The woman who loves him is purely fictional, but I’d like to think she could have softened his battered heart.
ED- How does one proceed in writing historical novels of any nature, and what are some of the problems and pitfalls in creating as accurate settings as possible to make them believable?
DSL-Find the era you like, and make your characters believable in that era. Don’t try to shove a 21st century woman into the age of Queen Victoria. The story won’t ring true if you do. Work with the restrictions and realities of the past to form your characters. Then do your research. So many novels published by big New York publishers have errors in them concerning clothing, setting, historical events, and more. Be as accurate as possible. With the internet, it’s easy today. Use your local library, too.
ED- We understand that you have another work-in-progress entitled ‘Ring of Stone’. Can you describe this novel and tell our readers a little about it.
DSL- Here is the blurb for Ring of Stone: Rose Gwynn is determined to study as a physician in 1796, when women were barred from medical school. When she insists on helping the local doctor, Rose uncovers a dreadful secret that will threaten Dr. Nelson’s livelihood. Catern Tresidder returns to the Cornish village to face the man who raped her and murdered their unborn child. When Rose’s sister is betrothed to a brutal earl, Catern struggles with her demons to warn Rose of the truth. Through it all, the ancient stone circle near Rose’s house holds the key to her family’s past, and is positioned through the myths of Cornwall to save her sister’s life.
ED- Where can our readers locate your work?
DSL-The False Light is available at Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. Elysium will be published in April 2011. For more information, please visit my website:
ED- Diane, we have many students who dream of becoming writers, including many in the UCLA English Department who submit stories to us, what words of wisdom can you bestow upon them to usher in their goals?
DSL-Polish and revise your work the best you can. Join writers and critique groups for feedback, and if writing historicals—do your research.
ED- Diane, I want to thank you for spending your time with us and allowing all of us to view the world through your work. Please promise to stay in touch with us and keep our readers abreast in all that you do.