Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For the Love of History

Gabrielle Here:

I've always been fascinated with history, since the time I can remember. When I was little, and learned about the Civil War era, I begged my mother for a hoop skirt and gown. My sister and I repeatedly embarrassed our older brothers by parading about in our historical garb, with our horrible southern accents (I was born and raised in Minnesota, so you can about imagine how bad it sounded), when their friends were around.

As I grew older, I fell in love with historical fiction. For the space of a few hours, I could immerse myself in the times and places that so captured my imagination. No longer was I living and breathing the 1860's. After I discovered my love for books, I was a princess in a medieval fortress, a lady-in-waiting in Queen Victoria's court, a brave pioneer on the American Frontier, a gold-digger in the California hills, and a young woman coming of age in a charming turn-of-the century Midwestern town. The options were endless and I reveled in them.

Here I am sitting near the Lindbergh piano, portraying
Evangeline Lindbergh (Aviator Charles A. Lindbergh's
Mother) in a living history event at the
Lindbergh Historic Site.
I went on to work at a historic site, and later a county historical society. I delved deep into the history of my own hometown on the banks of the Mississippi River, and I swam with abandon. I sang with the voyageurs as they plied the lakes and rivers, I shot the rapids with Zebulon Pike on his search for the headwaters, I stood on the lookout with Chief Hole-in-the-Day as he watched the white men come into his region, I rejoiced and cried with the men and women who toiled to start my hometown, I balanced on the billions of logs as they floated downriver to the mills, and I waved toward the sky when Charles A. Lindbergh, our hometown boy, became a national hero and world-renown pilot. The stories of these brave men and women, many of them as common and ordinary as me, did extraordinary things with the time and resources they were given.

These people from the past began to speak to my heart, and I longed to tell their forgotten stories. People who lived, fought, and sometimes died so I could enjoy the "simple" luxuries of life. They harnessed the falls in the Mississippi for power to cut logs, mill grain, and ultimately produce electricity. They cleared, leveled, and paved roads so I can drive down the street with ease. They constructed bridges, so I can effortlessly traverse the wild Mississippi River several times a day. They hauled thousands of wagon loads of dirt to fill a massive ravine, so commerce could fill our downtown, and make life easier for all of us. They designed the courthouse, with its high tower, and built it from local, handmade brick, and did it all before modern technology produced skid steers and power tools. The list goes on and on.

As I discovered all these things, and began to share my love of history with those around me, I realized that most people think of history as dry and boring. To me, it's anything but boring! History is alive, it's active, it's dangerous and fierce. History allows us to look at the past from a place of safety and step into the shoes of the people who lived it out. It teaches us lessons on what to do and what not to do. It's full of wisdom, insight, and experience.

When I was in college, it became my deepest desire to tell the stories of the men and women forgotten by history. I don't want to retell the stories we all know so well; I wanted to resurrect the names and places of people that didn't make it into the textbooks. The stories I love telling are found in old letters, dusty journals, faded photographs, and yellowed newspapers. Their stories are like buried treasures, waiting to be discovered and unearthed, full of untold riches for those lucky enough to find them. 

One of those stories was told in my novel, A Family Arrangement, which released with Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical (LIH) line last December. A second came when Inherited: Unexpected Family released in September with LIH, and the third is found in The Gift of Twins, which releases this December with LIH. All of these stories are inspired by real people, places, and events in my hometown's history--and they are just a morsel of the stories I long tell.

Your Turn: What are some true stories you've heard about your hometown? What do you love about history? What's your favorite era? How were you first introduced to history?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events. Her next novel, The Gift of Twins, releases with Love Inspired Historical in December 2017.

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  1. My hometown was the brick capital many years ago.

    1. That's cool! I love knowing what towns were (or are!) famous for.

  2. The only way that the name of my home town made sense (South Reading) was if you knew where the center of town was back when it was populated. Maybe that's why I have no sense of direction!!! Thanks for telling us your history!

  3. My states has some unique history--the Oklahoma land runs. I've enjoyed researching the land rushes and writing about them in my Land Rush Dreams series. It's hard to imagine so many people leaving their homes traveling hundreds of miles by horse or wagon in hope of getting land. Those folks were a lot heartier than many of us.

  4. My hometown completely burned down in 1931, due to careless handling of fireworks in a store. A true family story about the Civil War: One of my husband's great grandmothers wouldn't go to bed without looking under it, because one night she found a soldier hiding under her bed.