Monday, June 24, 2019

Why I Write Historical Novels

Most of my books are set between 1880 and 1890. There's a reason for that. In many ways, our ancestors struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me. For example:
Technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today.  The Victorians even had their own Internet.  It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.
What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?
Then as now, women fought for equal rights.  Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.

Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change?   

You bet they did.The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees.  A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”
Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.
What about environmental concerns? 
Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans.  Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”
During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets.  (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.)  Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats.  

As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during changing times inspires me and gives me hope for the future.  I hope it does the same to my readers. 

Margaret's New Book



  1. You're right! Thanks for the perspective.

  2. Enjoyed the post! Never thought of comparing telegraphing to texting. I love historical fiction, too - reading and writing it.

    1. Tom Standage wrote a fascinating book titled The Victorian Internet which was, of course the telegraph. He described how bored telegraph operators would play checkers over the wires, share gossip and tell jokes.

  3. As I read this I could see a newly-married pioneer woman who'd traveled west with her husband sending a telegram to her parents that simply said "Alive in Texas." I thought of the relief it would have been to her parents. Such a simple thing to us was a lifeline back then.

  4. Vickie, that is so true. We take so much for granted today

  5. I loved the part about the climate. I had never thought about how the telegraph was used either. Thanks for an interesting post. No wonder I enjoy your books so much. :)