Thirty-four of my forty books are non-fiction. Not that I don’t like fiction. I like it very much. And come to think of it, I actually have long written fiction: a sprinkling of short stories, TV and movie scripts. Still, for my serious writing, I pretty much stuck to non-fiction. It didn’t seem right to set aside my “worthwhile” writing simply to take up “fun” writing.
Oh, how much I had to learn!
Guess where I finally discovered my fiction voice… Buried in the depths of my non-fiction research. While in West Africa, researching Once Blind: The Story of John Newton, I “met” an 18th century English slave trader and his cruel African wife. I immediately thought, “Ooooh, what great characters for a novel! And if they’d had a daughter… hmmm… where would she fit in?”
Ah, my story question. And I knew the answer: Such a girl would have one foot in a white English world and the other in an African world, yet she would belong in neither. Right there, on the African savanna, my first fiction book was born.
I was working on The Call of Zulina when the first seeds of the Blessings in India trilogy sprouted in my mind. Sam Paul, an Indian Dalit (lowest caste) and I were both traveling through Ireland with a team promoting the movie, Amazing Grace. At the end of the week he asked me, “Why don’t you write about the oppression of my people? Why don’t you write about bonded slavery in India?”
I’d been to India many times. I had seen first hand what Sam Paul was talking about. Right there, on the grassy fields of Ireland, a story of India began to weave together.
Here’s what’s really fun: Using my non-fiction skills to write fiction, just as I have always used my fiction skills to write non-fiction.
What are those skills, you ask? Stay tuned. We’ll talk more about that on Thursday.
“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
Edgar Allan Poe