Real History with Real Imagination!
I love ships! Especially tall ships. Look at the cover. Feel the waves? The sea spray? Hear the flapping of the mighty sails, the creaking of the masts? Worried about pirates? Storms? Your destination? Food? Water? Survival? That’s the idea! Live it. Feel it. Learn it!
I have a number of projects on the burners, but this is the big one ~ the full-course feast ~ the one that will occupy a goodly part of my time, thought, and effort for the next few years, should I be blessed to stick around for a while.
Braving the New World is planned as a historical-fiction series (emphasis on the historical), designed to immerse the student (13 and up?) or adult in the culture of the time, seeing events as they happened, from that moment’s perspective, living alongside and dialoguing with the major figures, most of whom were significant in the founding and development of what we call America. The fictional characters help tell the story and provide context and background as well as entertainment. Just wait until you find out who some of those characters are!
I interpret the people and events with three approaches: the documented, the probable, and the possible, marrying the determined curiosity of a history addict with the enlivened imagination of a playwright. What did happen? What very well might have happened? I try to stay within the well-defined lines as best I’m able while filling in with as much color as the known facts permit. Here’s the ambitious, 4-book plan:
Braving the New World 1616-1702 [Book I]
Becoming Americans 1702-1789 [Book II]
Building the New America 1789-1880 [Book III]
Battling the Rage of Nations 1880-1955 [Book IV]
…and the Ideologies of Power
Book I is currently half written. For every reader, there will be a chapter-by-chapter commentary in the back of the book that will clarify fact from fiction when need be and list important sources. For students and teachers, there will be a separate Student/Teacher manual and workbook. For writers and researchers, the Teacher’s manual will contain the detailed documentation.
Why Tackle Such a Project?
Indeed. Why in the world would I saddle myself with such a task? (Sigh) I’m a playwright. I get ideas. And, I’m an insatiable consumer of all things historical. It’s got to manifest in some form, though all of my musical comedies manage to incorporate some history and cultural literacy. The cast actually enjoy it. But, here’s a few specific motivations:
- Never before has the study of real history been more urgent. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help us, God. Literally.
- History should not be segmented and compartmentalized. We should read it weighing the perspective of the whole context, taking in the full tapestry, applying the vital background.
- Christianity in all its aspects cannot be separated or ignored. It shaped and drove the history of Europe and the Americas. And, yes, in certain ways, so did Islam.
- Some important and fascinating people and places have been left out of most history studies ~ even well-versed history buffs will most likely make some interesting discoveries!
History of any age has fascinated me since elementary school. When reading of another time, whether 80 or 800 years ago, I have often tried to imagine snapping my fingers and traveling back to see exactly what it was like for those people who laid our foundations and blazed the trails that brought us here. How did it look? What really happened? What did they truly think and feel?
Or, what would a person I was studying think if the snap brought them forward in time, and I could say, “Look! See what has happened! Behold what you have done!” I have very often wondered what Shakespeare’s reaction might be! That would be fascinating!
Miraculous Details. A Tip-of-the-Scales Change. Who Would We Then Be?
Braving the New World is intended to be a personal adventure through American history and culture and the European and especially British history that created us, gave us what we have, and made us who we are today. How did England come from far behind to eventually dominate the race for the New World? How many life-changing “nicks of time” were there? What tip-the-scale details could have turned a drastically different page in our history? And who would we then be???
The savory stew of history demands all of its spicy ingredients ~ not just dates, events, and leaders, but the rich, full context of culture, literature, religion, inventions, occupations, education, daily life, entertainment, and many individuals not so well known who deserve our attention. And it demands the best of our imagination. As I began researching the recipe for this entertaining tale of history and fiction, I realized that, in the year 1616, Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and Squanto were all present, at the same time, in what was a relatively small city of London, and all were major actors in the drama of British colonization. Into the pot of genuine events, toss a very real merchant named Slany, a very fictional mouse (yes, mouse) with a Shakespearean manuscript, and a very real bookseller named Clerke, stir vigorously with imagination and ~ what could have happened? How might they ~ and how did they ~ interact to tell us the tales of their time? And so on, through the next three and a half centuries. Writing this is hard ~ but it’s fun!