D.S. Loren is on the blog today talking about her writing and her most recent novel, DASVIDANIYA RODINA, the story of a 16-year-old girl in 1935 Soviet Union who has been seduced by a commissar and then denounced as a enemy of the Soviet people. She is sentenced to five years imprisonment and faces barbaric inhumanity. This is a story of fall and limited redemption; of a young woman’s descent into a world of madness and inhumanity.
Can you tell us a little of how you came to writing and specifically historical fiction? One of my teachers gave a class assignment – ‘WRITE YOUR OBITUARY.’ From that exercise I began writing the narrative of my life; what had been and what I wanted it to be. It was some of the most self-involved GAWD-AWFUL crap ever written, and certainly nothing of an original idea. Regardless, I’d caught the creative writing bug.
History has always fascinated me. History is also the fundamental of any subject. Language has a history. Geography has a history. Math has a history. Everyone and everything has a history. If you’re studying any subject, you are by default, studying history. Duh!
DASVIDANIYA RODINA is my second historical fiction novel. My first, was a coming of age novel, entitled AN IMPERFECT HUMAN HEART, set in mid-1930’s England. AN IMPERFECT HUMAN HEART was immensely gratifying to research and write, and when the challenge arose of writing another historical novel, within the same era, but within a different societal context of the Soviet Union, I invested myself entirely.
What was the inspiration for Dasvidaniya Rodina? The inspiration to write this story was a former elderly neighbor, who has since passed away. She’d been born in Moscow in 1919, amidst the upheaval of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war that followed. At age sixteen, she was denounced as being unpatriotic and imprisoned, eventually within some of the most primitive and violent gulags imaginable.
She spent five years within the gulags, and upon release, was exiled to a collective farm in the Ukraine, upon the eve of World War II. The German Army invaded the following year and she was eventually captured and sent to a series of slave labor camps, an experience she miraculously survived.
I’m unaware of there ever being a story about a person who survived the horror of the gulags and the terror of the Holocaust.
This book is largely a fact-based fiction, extensively researched upon historical accounts of other prisoners, and interwoven as texture within Lyuda’s life story.
What themes are you exploring in the novel? Of all those within this work, I consider the primaries to be ‘man’s search for meaning,’ and ‘redemption.’
Regardless her fall from grace and her sometimes willful choosing of evil, Lyuda is searching for a greater meaning to her suffering. Hers is a spiritual quest, unaware. Throughout the text are symbols, representative of personal attributes. Among these, are the wolf.
How did you go about researching this book? The majority of my research began online, augmented by library searches. I suppose as any novice would, I Google-searched key words and ideas and from there followed the various threads that appeared. The research built upon itself. Each search would suggest other and new ideas to pursue, until I had thousands of pages and volumes of ideas I wanted to explore within my text.
I think the value of extensive research was in how easily the creative process flowed, as I rarely was at a loss as to ideas and direction of narrative.
What was the most difficult aspect of this particular book? Fundamentally, the most difficult problem was getting the voice right. The original one page writing exercise from which this work grew, had an uneducated, peasant ‘feel’ to it that I knew was wrong even as I wrote it.
The real life Lyudmilla upon whom the MC is modeled, was educated, intelligent, and well spoken, though she did sometimes lapse into a form of odd construction that clearly reflected an ‘English as a second language’ pattern of speech. For that reason, I chose a limited form of hampered speech that I think makes the voice more engaging while not overly taxing the reader, struggling to find the ‘rhythm’ of the word usage.
After expanding the exercise to a short story length I completely rewrote the voice and narrative style.
Have other writers of historical fiction influenced you and, if so, how Admittedly, I have read less historical fiction than factual history, although among my fave reads are counterfactual history, such as WHAT IF? (VOLS. I & II).
As to factual history, two books I highly recommend are THE VICTORY OF REASON by Rodney Stark, and CONNECTIONS by James Burke
Are you working on a new novel? I have three in partial process. If that sounds a bit scatterbrained, it is. I’m constantly battling ADHD as to what I should be concentrating on, and whenever I run out of steam on one, I focus upon the other.
One, obviously, is the final in the DASVIDANIYA RODINA trilogy. I’m only three chapters into that one. Another is a YA novel about teen sisters within a dysfunctional family, one of whom has passed away, and whose storyline is revealed by an unexpected discovery of a manuscript she wrote before her death.
A third book in partial progress is a political/suspense thriller in which the MC, a homicide detective investigating a series of brutal murders, discovers the women with whom he’s fallen in love, is someone directly involved.
The final book in partial progress is a World War II historical fiction novel about the cultural war viciously waged by the political and media establishment, against women who put on military uniforms and those who worked to support the home front war effort.
The current day perception that the nation was united is a misconception. While that might have been true relative to the roles of men, the roles of women were uncertain and fought over constantly.
Truthfully, how do you feel about historical fiction? Historical fiction is like a lover who steals my sense of self-worth; who drunk dials me from some other girl’s bed. Historical fiction forgets my birthday and leaves me alone and lonely on a Saturday night. Historical fiction does not love me as much as I love historical fiction. SIGH!
I think it’s safe to say that many readers of A Writer of History suffer from this same challenge! I’m always excited when other writers talk about their experiences. There’s always something to learn.
Thanks for telling your story, D.S.