Hi, I’m Donna Schlachter, and I love history.
Funny thing is, I never knew that until about seven or eight years ago. Up to that point, history, as I recalled it from school, was a heavy and successive load of dead kings and queens, dates, and boring wars.
But that all changed when I met up with my good friend Mary Davis at an American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I asked what she was working on, and she said she was putting together a proposal for a novella collection featuring the Pony Express. I said that sounded interesting, and I’d love to do something like that, too. Unfortunately, she had all the authors she needed, so that was that, although she promised to let me know if that changed.
I knew nothing about the Pony Express. Yikes! What might I have gotten myself into? So hubby and I took a couple of road trips between St. Joseph, Missouri, through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah, following the Pony Express trail. I was hooked.
And a month later, Mary contacted me, said one author dropped out, would I like to join? Would I? Yes.
And the rest is, as they say, history (no pun intended). That collection did eventually release, but even more so, it ignited an interest and passion for history that didn’t include dead monarchs and dates to memorize. I discovered that every piece of history includes real people, just like me and you, with real lives, worries, fears, hopes, and problems. And while the problems aren’t quite the same now as then, they still needed to be overcome.
Another thing I learned is that I have a fascination with cemeteries. I love looking at the names, the ages, the family plots, the line of tiny headstones for infants, some so young they didn’t even have a name. I wonder about the heartbreak of those families, and whether they moved on and started over somewhere else. I marvel at those who made it to a ripe old age in a time when the other stones indicate shorter lives. What did they do differently? And then there are the markers that indicate the person traveled across the ocean from Ireland, England, Germany, and Russia, to name a few countries. What brought them here? Did they find what they sought?
Since discovering that newfound love for history, I’ve traveled the depth and breadth of the continental US, east to west, north to south, including Alaska. In Sitka, I found a Russian Orthodox cemetery hidden in a small grove of trees. Tripping over tree roots, shaded in the dim light, the stones dripping with moss and moisture, everything quiet around me—I truly felt I was walking on holy ground. What brought these Russian immigrants to Alaska in the 1700’s and 1800’s? Life must have been incredibly difficult in Juneau, a land of contrasts in weather and seasons. And the journey itself must have been dangerous, tossed on the open ocean for thousands of miles. Did they even know where they were when they got there?
These are all questions and situations that create fodder for books that still need to be written. I find that wherever I go, I find far more history and personal life stories than I’ll have time to pen. But that won’t stop me from trying.
If you’ll leave a comment, I’ll draw randomly for a free print copy (US only) or ebook (winner’s choice), of The Mystery of Christmas Inn, Colorado. This book is based on research I did into the old Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, and is loosely based on the demise of that hotel.
Question: What is your favorite time period in history, and why?
Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, and CAN; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests.
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