Guest post: Marie Gage
Last month, Gwynn wrote about her grandchildren’s interest in hearing, again and again, the many family stories she often shares with them. While our families may be interested in hearing about weird, funny ancestors or thwarted loves or the price of candy 50 years ago, there is another audience we should consider. Strangers who will only know those stories in books or articles decades from now.
Author Marie Gage recently posted about her interest in taking her fascinating family stories and turning them into historical fiction. It’s a nice companion piece to Gwynn’s Family Stories, so we invited Marie to share her insights:
We carry the past with us
I experienced a bit of an ah-ha moment the other evening as I sat listening to the acclaimed Canadian tenor, John McDermott. I wanted to share the experience because it relates to my writing inspiration. He presented a song titled, “Somewhere in Me”, with a repeating line of “Somewhere in me there is you.” The song talks about how his parents influenced who he is today.
As I listened, I realized that this is why I am intrigued by and write stories of historical fiction inspired by real people. As I research, I find pieces of myself, or other family members, that were carved by the past and bear remembering. The stories I choose to turn into novels have lessons embedded that are not only important for me, they hold universal truths. As they say, we need to understand and remember history if we wish to avoid repeating it.
After researching both A Ring of Promises and Promise of the Bluebell Woods, I realized that Canada, and more generally North America, was not the Promised Land it was touted to be. Our ancestors were often given to understand that a better life awaited them if they immigrated. But that was not always true. In fact, it was often far from true. And in the case of Will Parker, a character in A Ring of Promises based on my English grandfather, even the government played a role in using the immigrant labour force in a way that was not in their best interests.
Somewhere in you is the hard work and perseverance and untold stories of your ancestors. Why not dig a little and find out what tales lie beneath the surface? You don’t have to write them as novels like I do. But you should collect them and save them in a way future generations will be able to consume them. Once you are gone, no one else will know the truth, and I guarantee someone will care about the life you lived.
Fill in the blanks
Another reason I write these novels is to resolve my frustration about all the stories of my ancestor’s lives that I can never really know. There are so many missing truths that I am compelled to resolve my own disappointment by blending what I do know with one possible way it might really have happened. This is why I wrote my Guide to Family History Interviewing. It’s my free gift to anyone who signs up for my newsletter at www.mariegage.ca.
Now, please go and make sure you capture the story of your life, or the life of someone in your family in a way that can be passed down. If undertaking a Family History Interview makes you uncomfortable, then choose another way. Use a photo album but provide better explanations and details rather than just the pictures. Create a scrapbook. Write a diary. Tell your grandchildren a real bedtime story about something that happened in your life and audio record it.
Choose the way that is easiest for you and find a way to preserve it. It’s important. Your life is important, and it will matter to people in the future even if you don’t realize it today. Our world is made up of people just like you and me. In Promise of the Bluebell Woods, the war Rod and Pearl lived through wasn’t won by people like them alone. It was won by the collective action of many brave people. Some gave their lives, and others lived to tell about it, in the hope it wouldn’t be repeated.
If you are able to be in Minden on September 24, 2022, I will be doing a brief workshop at 2 p.m. on Family History Interviewing at Bookapalooza. This festival for readers and writers is at the Minden Community Centre, and admission and the workshop are free. Come join us if you are in the area!
Marie Gage‘s writing is inspired by real people. She is a passionate researcher, intent on using all available resources to make history come to life. The weaving of fact and fiction to create stories that are both believable and inspiring is her forté. The passion she develops for her characters adds depth and life to the story. Gage writes for adults and children with equal passion.