Available June 15, 2015

"Dr. McFarland told us we were the only ones who could cure the unfortunates under our care. Our benevolent kindness would lead them to sanity. At first I believed him, but it was not long before I learned of unspeakable acts committed on those lost souls."
For Their Own Good
For Their Own Good

Available June 15, 2015 at
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Getting It Right

For Their Own Good takes place in 1857 Jacksonville, Illinois. My characters traveled in wagons and read under gas lights, but the lack of modern conveniences was not the only difference between the times. Phrases, words, and even gestures were different, too. I did my best to get the facts right about the era, but historical correctness alone is not enough to draw readers into another century.

My novel’s Beta readers did not hesitate to point out millennial-sounding words they thought would not be said in pre-Civil War America. Their objections were sometimes based on easy to find facts. Search an obscenity online and you can bet someone, somewhere has researched its origin. But often my dear readers’ doubts were based on instinct. Some words just didn’t sound like 19th century utterances to them. Even though I could find no evidence a particular phrase was used then or not, I paid attention. If readers believed 19th century characters wouldn’t use a particular word, I took it out.

It’s a challenge to balance historical accuracy with readability, too. If an unfailingly accurate 19th century world is not understood by 21st century readers the telling of the story suffers. For example, many of my characters in For Their Own Good speak in rural dialect, which is often difficult to read. I attempted to write dialogue that gives a hint of the dialect instead of reproducing it exactly.  

How authentic is too authentic? Human needs are pretty much the same in any century. The time period characters live in is one of the biggest determiners of how they go about getting those needs met. A writer’s challenge is to compel the reader to identify with the characters’ struggles no matter when or where they occur.

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