The Power of Fiction – Authors have their say

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Do authors have a different perspective on the power of fiction than readers? (Readers gave their views last week.)  A number of authors are here with theirs today.

Shirley Patton obtained a PhD at 50 and left academia to write full time. She is the author of The Secrets We Keep.

To transport you into other lives, times and places so that you are transformed, enlightened, entertained, moved, enriched – all or any of these – as a result.

Lael Braday says she grew up poor in ‘podunk Kansas’ and now lives in ‘shoppingville, NC:

Stories tell the truth of emotions, relationships, and the underlying politics of dynamics.

Lynn Goodwin is an author, a book reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network, and she is an editor, writer, reviewer, and manuscript coach at Writer Advice. Lynn is the author of Talent.

Fiction has the power to transport the mind and transform actions. In addition it can entertain and enlighten.

Bob Rich is from Australia and is a writer and editor with 17 published books. He is the author of the novel Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance.

Fiction at its best is the distillation of reality. It can be more powerful than nonfiction, through focusing on emotional reactions. Reading well-written fiction can take a person into someone else’s life and circumstances in a way that movies, and even visiting places and talking with others cannot.

Inge H. Borg was born in Austria but moved to the US in 1965. She is the author of Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile.

To intelligent readers (now, don’t anyone groan!), apart from the escape of every-day life, well researched fiction broadens their horizon – but above all, it should bring them joy, curiosity – and the occasional nightmare if it’s a thriller).

Tony Riches lives in Wales and has written several novels about the lives of the early Tudors. He is the author of Mary – Tudor Princess.

When Lord Reith set up the BBC he said it should ‘inform, educate and entertain’.  I believe the power of fiction is that it does all these in ways which are different for every reader. The best fiction teaches us something about ourselves.

Clearly, fiction is pretty powerful stuff!!

Highlights from our readers: Escape … empathy … travel … risk … significant moments … defeats loneliness … builds understanding … bearing life’s tribulations.

Highlights from our authors: To transform, enlighten, entertain, enrich … tell the truth of emotions and relationships … transport the mind and transform actions … the distillation of reality … joy and curiosity … teach us something about ourselves.

A slightly different perspective, don’t you think?

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, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on Reading – with Tessa aka Book Concierge

Tessa is another reader who agreed to be interviewed. If her recommended books are a good indicator, I think we would get on wonderfully! Welcome to A Writer of History, Tessa.

Please tell us a little about yourself: for example, background, age range, country, general book reading habits. If you’re prepared to share your name or your first name, please do. My name is Tessa. On GoodReads my user name is Book Concierge.   I’m recently retired and in my mid 60s.  I was born and live in the USA.  I read voraciously across a wide variety of genres. Basically, if it has words, I’m willing to read it.  In the last three weeks I’ve read science fiction, historical fiction, classic, cozy mystery, young adult, literary fiction, detective mystery, and a children’s adventure book. However, my favorite genre is literary fiction; I like a book I can sink my teeth into, that makes me think, that engenders conversation and discussion at book club.  I belong to six (yes, 6) face-to-face book discussion groups (moderate two of them), as well as several groups on Goodreads.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? For me the power of fiction is its ability to transport me to a different time/place/circumstance, and yet allow me to connect with the characters in a way that makes me interested and invested in what happens to them. It fuels my imagination. And also makes me more compassionate, in that I can understand the similarities between myself and a character who may be of a different race, ethnic background, societal culture, religion, time period, etc.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I like character-driven works best, but am game for a great plot with many twists as well.  If there’s anything I steer clear of it’s probably paranormal and romance works.  I’ve read some, and will probably read others in the future, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’. Landscape that is practically a character … as in McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove  or  Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River.   Clear and vivid descriptions that have me practically smelling and tasting the food or environment … as in Gibb’s The Beauty of Humanity Movement  or The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones.  And period details will transport me as in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? I’m not quick to hand out 5-star ratings.  I read about 180-200 books a year and in the last 12 months (Nov 2017 to present) here are the ones I’ve given 5 stars to:

A Gentleman in Moscow– Amor Towles   –  love the character and the premise. His room is small, his world is not.

Inside the O’Briens– Lisa Genova  –  loved how Genova informed as well as entertained. I had great compassion for this family.

The Radium Girls– Kate Moore  (NONfiction) – informative, inspiring, and infuriating.

We Band of Angels– Elizabeth M Norman  (NONfiction) – informative and inspiring. Love reading about strong women!

A Thread of Grace– Mary Doria Russell – beautiful prose; an aspect of WW2 I hadn’t read about before; brought me to tears

To Kill a Mockingbird– Harper Lee (re-read) – a perennial favorite; I’ve read it at least 20 times and will never tire of it.

Someone Knows My Name– Lawrence Hill – historical information I was unaware of; characters I cared about and cheered for.

Exit West– Mohsin Hamid – such a unique concept, yet focused on the characters.

Educated: A Memoir– Tara Westover  (NONfiction) – inspiring and horrifying. Looking forward to book club next week!

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café– Fannie Flagg (re-read) – These characters fairly leap off the page.

Of Mice and Men– John Steinbeck (re-read) – a book that never fails to touch me for its depiction of love and loyalty. I think this was the 4thtime I’ve read this; as well as seeing at least two movie adaptations and watching a live performance of the play twice.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I only buy hardcover first editions, preferably when I can get them signed by the author.  I tend to buy literary fiction only.  Virtually every book I read comes from the library.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I am lucky to live in Milwaukee Wisconsin where there is an excellent independent bookseller who knows me, knows my tastes, recommends books to me, brings in authors, and generally feeds my addiction to hardcover first editions.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. I don’t do this, though people tell me I should.

Many thanks, Tessa. I’m sure your thoughts will inspire others – both readers and authors. Have you read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah? I finished it recently and based on your comment on landscape as a character, I think you would enjoy it.

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, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on Reading – Jill from Florida

Jill is a friend of mine. She’s a delightful woman who always has a smile on her face and is always ready to lend a hand. And she runs an excellent monthly book club discussion. 

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a 65 year old grandmother, very engaged in community service. I read 3-4 books at a time, switching between them like programs on a tv. I read a little of everything, fiction and non-fiction. I also moderate a book club in my neighborhood, with 8-40 attendees. We read a broad range of genres.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? Fiction inspires and informs us.  Fiction writers do extensive research for us, and then entertain us with a story woven around the events of the time, whether the events are real or fantasy.  Fiction gives us a way to escape, to learn and to dream.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I could never limit my reading to one genre.  I need to move between historical fiction, classics, thrillers, murder mysteries, sci fi, fantasy and various non-fiction.  I don’t really ‘steer clear’ of anything, although I sometimes find it difficult to suspend my sense of reality long enough to truly enjoy science fiction or fantasy novels for very long.  Occasionally, I object to reading too many stories of women dealing  with regimes like the Taliban or Saudi Arabia or too many WW2-based stories in a row.  I love to read stories with clever plots, complex characters, and interesting themes.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’? Details!  The devil is, I’m sure, in the details for an author. But for a reader, details pull our minds into the story.  What did the characters find on their dinner plates? What were they wearing? What was the room like that they were in?  What smells came wafting in the window? What were the background noises, the music?  How did the light hit the scene around the characters?  How were they reacting to all those stimulants?

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? Hillbilly Elegy [J.D.Vance]—it says so much about our current culture and societal problems.  The Accidental President [A.J. Baime]—I’m from Missouri and enjoyed reading about Truman, our Missouri president.  The Girls of Atomic City [Denise Kiernan]—I had no idea that the production of the hydrogen bomb was so big an undertaking and that an entire city was built up to support the research and production—and that it was a huge secret!  I also enjoy the writings of a Haines, Alaska writer, Heather Lende. She’s an obituary writer for the Haines and Anchorage newspapers and has published 4 or 5 books now. She has made me eager to spend a month or three in Alaska.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I am a big fan of several book critics and reviewers.  Elaine Newton and Jean Lewis give me a long list of books to look forward to each season! I also read the NYT book review section every weekend and check in with Book Bub and Goodreads online.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I have lived, most of my adult life, in big cities, and have lived among many people from other cultures. I enjoy books that let me explore those cultures more and  live vicariously with families all over the world, or who have come to the US from all over the world.  I’m intrigued with the experience of immigrants and refugees.

Is there anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on? I embrace technology and read most of my books on my Kindle. I love being able to carry my entire library in my handbag. I love being able to travel with stacks of books to read at the tips of my fingers.  I also love being able to find out about new books online.  I rarely hold a  physical book in my hands and find it awkward now.  Travel guidebooks, cookbooks and picture books are really all I have on my bookshelves now. I remember taking a book 20 feet up an apple tree, so that I could rest on a limb, against the trunk of the tree, munching apples and reading up in the leaves. When I was a child, my fondest dream was to live in a library.  I have been known to read all night long, only putting my book down as the sun began to light the sky.   Oddly, I didn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird until just a few years ago, and it might be one of my all time favorite stories now.

Many thanks for your insights, Jill. 3-4 books on the go at one time is too much for my brain!! Looking forward to our April book club discussion of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

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, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.