History in the remaking
by Jessa Slade on November 16th, 2009

Currently working on: Replotting Book 3
Mood: Annoyed (who plotted Book 3 the first time ’round?)

I love a good story.  I am less enthused about “real life.”  Real life is too often poorly plotted, with slow pacing, wimpy motivation and murky conflict.  And a lot of times there are too many coincidences.  And not enough sex.

For those reasons, I don’t read a lot of biographies.  They just aren’t as engaging to me as a well-crafted, entirely fictional story.  The parts I like of the “based on the true story” movies are the not-true parts.  Although I make a few exceptions.

The movie GRIZZLY MAN is one of those exceptions.  Not only is Werner Herzog an intriguing storyteller, his subject — an obsessed man and the unrelenting power of nature — was too engrossing to need fictionalizing.

But as anyone who has tried to convince a 9-year-0ld why he has to do his American history homework can tell you, history poorly told can be dry, disconnected and booooring.  So I don’t usually feature a lot of real-life historical events or people in my stories.

Which was a bit of a problem when I decided to have immortal heroes in my Marked Souls series, many of whom were born in long-gone eras. 

Even in a contemporary story, characters are influenced by historical events, whether from their own personal history or the times through which they lived.  Having characters who have existed for a couple hundred years — experiencing times outside my personal knowledge and, really, my interest — was daunting.

And kind of fascinating.  I started poking around in past events, looking for times when circumstances might have been such that the demons of my storyworld — repentant and otherwise — would have found plenty of vulnerable souls to possess.

Ferris Archer, the hero of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS (October 2009), was merely a farmer’s son — but a Southern farmer during the Civil War.  One of the heartbreaking aspects of that particular war was the way it pitted brother against brother.  Obviously, when better to rebirth a man pitted against himself?

In Book 2 of the series, FORGED OF SHADOWS (June 2010), Liam Niall’s soul was winnowed down to rotting pulp during the Irish Potato Famine.  Though he has honed himself to a fighting edge when we meet him, that hunger is still inside and makes him vulnerable not just to the demon that took him but — decades later — to his heroine.

All through history, we’ve had times when men were challenged… and found wanting.  I like this oppportunity to give them a second chance in my stories.   Not that it’ll be easy, of course.  It never is.  And that’s true of fiction and real life both.

Which time period in history do you think created the most lost souls?

3 comments to “History in the remaking”

  1. 1

    Jessa, I love the pasts you gave your heroes. History shapes us all.

  2. 2


    Like Annette, I’m all sigh-y about your heroes’ pasts. You don’t live through events like that and not grow into a deeper, more compelling character.

    What time period created the most lost souls? For some reason, the opening imagery from the movie ENEMY AT THE GATES flashed through my mind, about the German invasion of Stalingrad. Throughout time there have been so many devastating periods of war…again, like your characters, you don’t live through something like that, and witness the terrible things that occur in war, without being forever and deeply changed.

  3. 3

    One long series of soul destroying events was the Highland Clearances, when the crofters were turned off the land to make room for sheep. Kind of like modern expropriation for industry, only woollier.

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