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New Upcoming Books and Stories

The stories are all different—very different. And the writers have different styles, different tones, different messages.

I’ve spent much of the summer working on manuscripts. Well, I always spend a lot of time working on manuscripts, but we have a great crop of novels coming out next year that I’ve been spending a lot of time recently trying to get into shape.

Among them are several that I’m very excited about, and I was thinking today about how they’re alike in many ways. The stories are all different—very different. And the writers have different styles, different tones, different messages. But I realized that several of the books I’m working on are based on actual events in history that the author has spun into a story.

For instance, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo. This book, the follow-up to Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, stemmed from one line in a Jane Austen biography. A footnote, really. Jane Austen, it said, was engaged once—for one night. The next morning, she broke the engagement off. I wanted to know why, and how that brief romance affected her. Beth Pattillo looks at that, and also draws on the very real, very complicated relationship Jane had with her sister Cassandra. Jane’s books focus so much on sisters—how might this relationship have affected her writing? This novel explores those questions, and while this story is made up, the basic facts of the story are real.

There’s also Shakespeare’s Lady, which is a love story between William Shakespeare and the Dark Lady from his sonnets. The author, Alexa Schnee, took what facts she could find about Shakespeare and Emilia Lanier, the woman she postulates is the mysterious woman from his famous poems, and has built a romance around them. It dances on the line between fact and fiction, and brings the true facts—about Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Tudor society—to life in a way a history book never could.

We also have The Loom, a book about what happened in the loom rooms on southern plantations, which came out of a true story in the author’s family history. And we have Remembering You, about a real division of the army in World War II; the author drew on actual first-person accounts from soldiers to create this story.

Looking at the list, I realized that part of what often draws me to a story is an element of reality. None of these books claim to tell what actually happened, but each uses something real, something true, as a starting point.

Which, I suppose, is what all good stories do anyway. If a story doesn’t illuminate reality in a new way or speak to some greater truth, it’s probably not going to move me. But a book that can show me something true in a new way? Now that’s a story worth telling.  

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