I really enjoy going to meetings of the Rosewood Scrub Historical Society, not the least because many of its members know much more than I do about the area and its original settlers. An interesting trend is emerging though, that whenever I go to the meeting I get asked tough questions about what I am doing.
After one of the meetings, I was asked what my qualifications were for writing a historical novel. Yesterday, someone pointed out that most settlers in the Rosewood Scrub were Prussian and mainly from the area right on the Polish border. They wondered why I was making my characters come from Marburg. These are good questions and certainly not ones that I haven’t asked myself.
My migrant family, the Jaeckels, are going to come from Marburg for several reasons. First it makes for a nice narrative balance, moving the story from one Marburg to the other. Second, I’ve been to Marburg, Germany and have a mental picture of the area that I can draw on in my writing. The Jaeckels are going to be free settlers so they need to come from a more prosperous area than many of the other migrants. They will arrive with enough capital to start a bakery here. Finally, I want to draw on local experiences but not faithfully replicate them. This is a story, not an academic history.
As for my qualifications, I am a historian and writer by trade with experience in academia, journalism and business. Whether that translates to the writing of fiction, I will have to leave it to the judgement of my readers, but I will give it a good go.
I’ll also keep going to the meetings with interest and caution, making sure that I am well prepared to answer questions. I discovered yesterday as well that there are several aspiring writers in the area – maybe we should set up a historical writers club.