a writer's research process, author Heidi Eljarbo, Catching a Witch by Heidi Eljarbo, novels about witchcraft, novels set in 17th century, novels set in Norway, writing about women in history, writing historical fiction
Heidi Eljarbo grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. Heidi’s worked as a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and painter and after living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, now calls Norway home. Heidi is the author of Catching a Witch. Today she gives her take on historical fiction. Welcome to A Writer of History, Heidi.
I live and breathe with people from past centuries. I am there. I laugh with them when they are happy, cry with them when life is unbearable, and cheer them on when they need encouragement and hope.
Hopping between 2017 and 1660 and then tearing myself away to thoughts about what to have for dinner, is…well, grim.
When people tell me they don’t enjoy genealogy, I usually answer, “You probably haven’t tried it long enough.”
I feel the same way about historical fiction. I mean, what’s not to like about it? Stories based on facts from happenings of long ago. Some historical characters, some made up. It’s like walking out of history class and let the imagination make up the rest not found in any curriculum material.
History lends itself to big pictures, drama, and spectacular events. But more than that, it’s the characters’ lives that build a story. Good or bad. Rich or poor. Careful or daring. A good story usually has a mix of all kinds of personalities. It’s a privilege to give thoughts and feelings to both kings and outcasts.
I believe readers of historical fiction expect an open portal into a distant century. When they step into a realm they should be able to recognize that world, and hopefully they will enjoy it so much that they will miss it when they finish reading the last page.
It’s true that research takes more time than writing. I read history books and articles as research, visit castle ruins and churches, and search through documents and genealogical accounts. What the characters feel, how they react, and what they decide to do is all up to me. No, that’s not true. The fact is, they tend to do their own thing once I add them to the story. Even if I outline a destiny for a certain character, he often wanders off on a different path. I try to tell him he needs to behave according to his age, upbringing, and political setting of the time he lives in. Still, he may have opinions different from the rest. And that’s exciting and fun. Sometimes, I just follow along to see where he’s going. And when he opens his mouth, words come out that I would never have said.
The seventeenth century was a fascinating time in history. Thoughts on science and philosophy changed. The world became an extended arena for colonies and trading posts. There were wars and rumors of wars.
But this was also a time of superstition and ignorance. Those who had been esteemed as healers were now seen as evil accomplices. Fear of witchcraft and orchestrated mass suggestion made neighbors turn on each other. I am fascinated by how some thought they were safeguarding the community by blaming innocent people of ridiculous crimes.
There’s more. Women, as the weaker sex, were particularly vulnerable, as they were not smart or strong enough to withstand evil. Or so was the common opinion. Women were looked upon as more susceptible to temptation. Persecutions, bullying, and executions became widespread in many places. For my protagonist, Clara, that means she must make brave decisions without endangering the lives of the ones she tries to help.
Catching a Witch is not a narrative about witches. It’s about people; those who hunt, those innocently accused, and the ones who try to protect.
I like novels that are true to history with interesting characters and spellbinding happenings woven into the story. I like learning something new. The past is so different from our time and the people of a different world. But when we go into their heart and thoughts, are they really that diverse?
I love writing historical fiction. For me, it’s the excitement in creating a tale of people, places, and episodes that no one has ever read before. It’s the same feeling as taking a blank canvas and painting a scenery that no one has seen, or holding a piece of beautiful material and visualizing the finished dress.
You must have dreams, for dreams to come true. And for me, a life with patient protagonists and endless historical treasures to research, is my dream come true.
I love your enthusiasm for historical fiction, Heidi. Best wishes for the continued success of Catching a Witch.
You can connect with Heidi at her blog https://www.heidieljarbo.com/ on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/authorheidieljarbo/, Pinterest https://no.pinterest.com/heidieljarbo/ or Twitter: @HeidiEljarbo
Catching a Witch by Heidi Eljarbo. Clara Dahl, an educated and upstanding minister’s daughter, returns to her childhood home in Norway after several years abroad. She’s excited to reconnect with her lifelong friend, Bess and to spend some time becoming reacquainted with the townsfolks. But before long, Clara realizes her sleepy, little, picturesque corner of the world has been invaded by evil.
The year is 1660, a time in history when women—especially poor women—were tried and executed for witchcraft. When an English witch-hunter arrives in Clara’s seaside village home, she watches in horror as the townsfolk not only welcome him but begin to work with him. As neighbor turns against neighbor, Clara finds herself drawn into the fray, forced to do what she can to protect her friends and others she cares about.
Clara struggles against the witch-hunter’s influence, speaking out against his unjust treatment of those accused of witch-craft as he plays on other peoples’ superstitious and religious beliefs. She is appalled by the townsfolks’ behavior, and aside from a handful of close friends, she feels she has no one she can trust. But when Clara’s best friend Bess is accused of being a witch, Clara must find others to join her quest to save not only her friend but the entire town…before it’s too late.
FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.