Good day everyone! Please help me to welcome Kathleen Shoop, author of After the Fog, to the blog today! I had hoped to have my review for you today and Kathleen’s post tomorrow but due to a really sore shoulder I’ve had to move things around so for that I apologize but the review should be up tomorrow for sure! This is a great novel full of history and family and I am really enjoying it. I haven’t had a chance to read Kathleen’s first novel The Last Letter but so many of my blogger pals have loved it so I know that I will too. It’s certainly on my list to read especially after reading After the Fog. Kathleen joins us today to talk about her love of history, research and fiction…
It’s such an honor to be here at Peeking Between the Pages, thank you!
In thinking about the books I write, research and family stories always come to mind. For writers the way family history fits into writing historical fiction can be tricky. First of all, unless you’re a Kennedy or a Kardashian, writing the true, exact details of your life are probably pretty boring. Frankly, even the rich and famous admit the nuts and bolts of their existence are less than gripping. Well, most of us will never know if that’s true, but for the most part, it’s safe to say, writing fiction—even with the help of family letters, documents and lore—should involve more than the “truth.”
For example, when I wrote The Last Letter I had the benefit of more than 50 family letters to inform my story. In fact, the letters that inspired my novel are so full of beautiful turns of phrase and intricate detail, that I published them as a companion piece for people who love primary historical sources. But, in writing the novel, I knew the story needed more than what was in the letters. I needed to tell the story that wasn’t in them. The detail—the way my great-great grandmother helped lathe a house, how they used oil to soothe frozen body parts, and what she read—would make it into my novel, but only as it pertained to the larger plot.
In After the Fog, I have a 1948 industrial disaster that changed the way the world viewed the environment and public health. I didn’t have family letters, but I had eyewitness accounts, even interviews with people who were in Donora, PA when the killing smog descended on the town. I had my grandmother and relatives who lived in steel towns. I had the rhythm of their language, the first-hand insight into how their lives were shaped by the mills in the same way the steel itself was.
Also, I had the gritty details which were paramount in recreating the life and times of post-war America: Using putty to pull soot off of walls; constant sweeping of porches; dusting of every surface that held filth; and the way men needed a white shirt to get to work and a second shirt once they arrived to replace the first, blackened one—the pride they felt in owning these material goods in the first place.
But, the details alone, the ones in family letters or the minds of those who lived through the “five days of fog” are not enough to sustain a fictional story. I needed to be immersed in the research so that the characters would enter the stage bearing the hallmarks of the time and setting, through the way they talked, moved, and used the objects around them.
Keeping that in mind and knowing it’s important that the characters and their lives reflect the time in which 0the story takes place, I am careful not to clutter the book with clichés or stereotypes. The characters might have the window-dressing associated with stereotypes, but hopefully I manage to create characters that step past what we all think we know about a particular time. That to me, helps make a narrative compelling.
I am fortunate to love history, the research and also to adore fiction. In combining the two, I hope I bridge the gap between necessary detail and riveting storytelling. My hope is that readers find themselves lost in the past.
About After the Fog
Rose Pavlesic is a straight-talking, gifted nurse who is also controlling and demanding. She has to be to ensure her life is mistake-free and to create a life for her children that reflects everything she missed as an orphaned child. Rose has managed to keep her painful secrets buried in her past, away from her loving husband—who she discovers has secrets of his own—their dutiful children and their large extended, complicated family.
But, as a stagnant weather cycle works to trap poisonous gasses from the three mills in town, Rose’s nursing career thrusts her into a conflict of interest she never could have fathomed—putting the lives of her loved ones at risk. As the fog thickens, Rose’s neighbors are dying; thousands of people in the community are becoming increasingly ill. Rose is faced with decisions that can destroy her carefully constructed House of Pavlesic and reveal its true character.
About Kathleen Shoop
A Language Arts Coach with a Ph.D. in Reading Education, Kathleen lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US only)
I have one copy of After the Fog by Kathleen Shoop to share with my readers. To enter…
- For 1 entry simply leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
- For 2 entries, follow my blog. If you already do, thank you, and please let me know in your comment so I can pass the extra entry on to you as well.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway and spread the word.
This giveaway is open to US residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, June 9/12. Good luck!