Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who are (were) you?

Who are (were) you?

If you’ve seen the movie Patton staring George C. Scott, you might remember the part where Patton goes out to visit the ruins of Carthage in North Africa. And he tells his companions about how the Romans destroyed Carthage, as says that he, Patton was one of the Carthaginians talking about his past lives.

This movie and a discussion of past lives came up in the instructor’s dining room between a bunch of us history teacher when I was teaching (college level). The conversation was you had to assume that you had past lives, so each of us had to identify our past lives, and since we were all history teachers we all had eras of history to which we felt closest.

So where do I feel a connection? Much to my surprise when this conversation came up, instead of saying Elizabethan England (my master’s is Tudor and Stuart England), there were other time periods.

Letting my imagination run with the idea of past lives, I came up with several past lives, as it were. I’ve marched with Alexander the Great (probably as a camp follower), stood in a line of men with a muzzle loading rifle and fired at the enemy. And since I feel very close to WWII, I decided I was a WASP who died in the war, as I was born (in this life?) after the war.

Just like when I started to write, instead of Medievals, I’m writing in the Americas. My first book, KENTUCKY GREEN, takes place in frontier territory in 1794. I feel drawn to the frontier. When I visited Yorktown Victory center many years ago, they have a recreation of a colonial/frontier farm. Walked into that log cabin, and felt at home. I could have lived there in the 1700s.

This is a really great exercise for writers, to image, or feel the past in some way. So are you writing in the era that you feel closest to? Have you visited historical sites and ‘felt’ a connection? Or maybe didn’t feel a connection much to your surprise? Our local chapter had a workshop about past lives once, and everyone had a lot of fun with the idea. I would have never thought of this as a tool to use with writing without that conversation in the teacher’s dining room.

Do you think imagining past lives might be of help with writing historical?


Regencyresearcher said...

I found myseld drawn to Regency England. I don't have much interest in other periods or American history ( even though I have taught US history).I will read some stories set in other periods and visit historical sites connected to other periods but do n not feel compelled to research it or to write stories set in that period.
In a past life I probably was a scullery maid .

Susan Macatee said...

I feel most drawn to the American Civil War and that's the period most of my stories takes place in, despite the fact that it's not supposed to be a popular time period for historical romance readers. I even spent ten years reenacting the Civil War as a civilian, so I feel very close and knowledgeable about the period.

Don't know if I lived through it once, but it's such a fun idea, my first romance was a time travel where the heroine, a modern day woman, travels back to the Civil War and learns she lived there in a past life.

I love using past life scenarios in stories!

Angelyn said...

I would love to read that project, Susan. Folks in my family did Civil War calvary re-enactment--camping and charging with horses--I can't think of a better way to live a past life.

Great post, Terry. I loved that movie Patton, even though it contained a lot of inaccuracies. That scene you described is especially moving. You can see through the character's eyes what it was like in the past.

Through a glass, and darkly.

Ella Quinn said...

I live and breath Regency England. For some reason I am so drawn to that period in history. The strange thing is I lived in England and didn't like it. Of course that was in 2000, not 1814.


Terry Blain said...

Regencyresearcher - guess then it all evens out, my area of study was Tudor & Stuart England, and European Studies --- and now I write about the American West.

Terry Blain said...

Civil War re-enacting sounds like fun. But since I lived most of my life on the west coast, not much going for the Civil War our here.

My ideal 'fun' job would be re-enacting in Williamsburg, VA. Love the colonial and Revolutionary war era.

Terry Blain said...

Yes, the movie had inaccuracies, but how else are you going to condense a war into 2 hours? I've seen a lot worse -- take the Tudors where they morphed Henry VIII's two sisters into one .

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I sort of have proof that my great, great grandmother influences my writing. She is supposedly the first woman to have stories posted in a magazine. They are kept in the vault at the State Library in Sacramento.

When my mom died I seriously went through the five geneology books she left me and found these stories. It was life altering to me as I read her first story about her leaving home in the east and coming to California to marry. In one section, I had written close to verbatim what she wrote, our heroines under the same circumstances, and because it was actually an accounting of her life, a person who does past lives was convinced I was her. It was so weird I had to go in and at least change some of the words. It was my second story. My first story I had used my great, great grandfather's journal (her hubby) for research. It is considered five star and is kept under glass at the Bancroft Library at the UC Berkely. I am grateful these ancestors of mine sent along some of their writing genes. I don't know if I believe I am her, but I sure don't know where my ideas come from and they are set at the same time period. What do you think...am I my great, great grandmother?

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

At the risk of sounding like a nut job, I've had dreams I consider to be reincarnational. My lives weren't glamourous: kitchen slave in early Roman Empire and I believe I also died of starvation in the Holocaust.

In my first novel which was based on a reincarnation theme, I wrote a scene where one of my characters mentions the French Resistance blew up a Nazi train near Dijon France, and when I later did some research--I tend to wing it first then back it up with research--I discovered documention that this actually happened.

Georgie Lee said...

I'm drawn to British history in just about any era. I don't know why but I've always loved reading about it.

Terry Blain said...

Paisley, must be nice to have ancestors who actually wrote things down. I have seen a letter one of my grandfather's uncle wrote on the eve of a civil war battle saying he could see the fires of the rebels across the valley.

Most of my family 'stories' come from sitting on the front porch at summer family gathering listening to my grandparents and great aunts and uncles tell stories of when they were childern and repeating the stories they heard from their grandparents.

marybelle said...

Imagining past lives must be inspirational.


Toni Noel said...

Fascinating discussion, Terry,

Toni Noel

clara johnson said...

This is so interesting. I love history and sitting here reading these blogs just makes me hunger for more!! I'm not a writer but, I have a wild fascination with the Civil War era.