Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Slice of Historical Fiction and a Dash of Confusion

The first question my new friend asked me when I told him I wrote an historical novel was "What years does it cover?" I answered that the novel begins in 1901 and ends in 1940. "A family saga after the Spanish American War."

I made a face. "Kinda, but not really."

"Who was the decent woman? Anyone famous or historical? You've named your novel, A Decent Woman."

"I guess you could say that it's a family saga," I said, "but, it's not a saga about one family. My novel is about the lives of two women during this time period and how their lives intersected, deviated and came together at the end."

My friend looked confused. I shared that Ana, my protagonist, was my grandmother's midwife, comadre, and the character of Serafina is based on my Puerto Rican grandmother.

"So, your main character isn't anyone famous, but you include Puerto Rican history. Did you include Hurricane San Ciriaco? That happened around that time." It was clear to me that he wanted to stay focused on dates in history.

"Hurricane San Ciriaco hit in 1900. My story begins in 1901. I investigated, researched, but I wrote about two women's lives."

"This is historical fiction? I thought historical fiction had to be about a real person and real events." Had I written an historical fiction novel or not? Was this a women from Venus and men from Mars conversation?

My friend is quite a history buff and is well-versed on the wars to include the Spanish- American War. We have great conversations about history, but he's not as well-versed on the history of Puerto Rico. He wants to learn about the history of the island, but didn't seem as interested in how my characters maneuvered life during that time in history which is what interested me in writing the novel in the first place!

"So, you kept to real dates in Puerto Rican history?"

I nodded. "Yep. I've included the hurricanes and tropical storms of that time frame and even included the earthquake that hit Ponce, the town where my story takes place. I'm accurate with women's daily lives--how they lived, loved and died at that time. I researched quite a bit, but I've always had a feeling that my novel and characters were set in history rather than an historical fiction novel based on a real person in history. It's the story of two women." 

"Well, it sounds like women's fiction to me," he said. My friend seemed confused and I felt as though we were destined to agree to disagree.

"I read more non-fiction than fiction," he admitted. "But, I am curious how you marry the two." He returned my smile.

I read novels for entertainment and I love historical fiction. But honestly, I don't want a history lesson when I read. I want to be entertained and swept away by events that the characters find themselves in. History by osmosis, perhaps. I'm a people person. I love novels about people and how they maneuver situations and life's challenges. My novel, A Decent Woman, is the story of an Afro-Cuban woman and a Puerto Rican woman who forge a fierce friendship despite differing racial, social and economic situations of the early 1900's. My novel is about how Ana and Serafina lived, thrived and overcame personal challenges while discovering who they were and what they were made of in a tumultuous slice of time of Puerto Rican history. A slice of time. I like that phrase.

I also like the description--a novel set in history rather than an historical novel. That works for me. I wrote a fiction novel that I hope will be as entertaining as it is historically educational in the literary sense of the word.

I'm okay with that.

Peace and love,


  1. I hate the term "women's fiction"!!!

  2. I would LOVE to read your novel Ellie and I hope some day I can! :)