Why I write historical fiction
I first tried to write a historical novel in 1976. I’d been a history major in college and had just started reading John Jakes’ bi-centennial series. So chasing my dreams, my first wife and I headed to Maine with our two-year old son. We were enthralled with the back to the land movement and we lived in a tent for seven months while I built a log cabin. I cut and peeled the logs from our ten acres of land, hauled stones from neighbors’ fields for the foundation, and mixed cement by hand. It was a major undertaking, and it didn’t allow me time to cut firewood or plant seeds.
I had envisioned us growing our own food during the summers and my hunkering down to write a revolutionary war novel in the winter months. Instead, I took a night job at a local woolen mill to buy groceries, and spent my days cutting and splitting firewood. I found that I was much too busy to write — at least that was my excuse. The following Fall we sold the cabin and moved back to Michigan.
Over the following years I worked many sales and management jobs, owned two businesses, and wrote four mystery novels, but I never lost the desire to write a historical novel. In 2009, after writing my Wes Darling mysteries, Key Lime Blues and Dog River Blues, I decided it was time.
I figured it was thirty-five years too late for that Revolutionary War novel, and I’d been writing mysteries for years and rather enjoyed working in that genre. The only questions I had to answer at that point were when and where?
I chose to set The Storm Killer in 1935 because I thought it would be interesting to include Ernest Hemingway as a character and I enjoy movies set in that time period. As for location, I knew there would be lots of information available on the internet for New York City in 1935, and I chose to have the book end in Key West because that’s where Hemingway was in 1935.
Will I write another historical novel? I don’t know. I have an idea for a sequel to The Storm Killer, but frankly, readers seem to prefer my Wes Darling mysteries. I guess only time will tell.
Mike Jastrzebski, July 23, 2012