Writing Historical Fiction for Children
by Mara Price
Grandma’s Chocolate came about as a result of my childhood memories, and my curiosity about one of the great contributions of pre-Columbian America: delicious chocolate! I have many happy memories of being in my own grandmother’s kitchen, drinking chocolate and listening to stories about her childhood and the things she lived through. One of my passions has always been the history and archaeology of Mesoamerica. I wanted to know more about the origin and use of chocolate, and how it tied in with the ancient cultures. Thus, I started by giving myself the task of reading everything I could find on those subjects.
Looking back on my process, I think that the following questions might help new writers in the development of a work of historical fiction for children:
- Can my story be entertaining, and at the same time, carry a valuable message for children?
- Will historical elements in my story make it different from others conveying similar messages?
- Is it feasible to frame the message within a historical context, or to provide bits of historical information throughout the narrative?
- How much historical information is appropriate to include for the age range of the children who will read it?
- Do I have enough sustaining passion for the concept to lead me through my research on the topic, and throughout the entire writing process?
- Read as much as you can, and your reading will show you the way the story can be developed.
- Have several initial questions to pursue, but be open to letting the information and the connections guide you. There are many wonderful surprises to be found while doing this kind of research, and discoveries in archeology and history are continuously being made.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Primary sources are always the best. On several occasions, I contacted anthropologists and historians to get clarity on specific points. Some—though not all—were eager to help, and responded generously with new information.
Some challenges you might encounter during your research:
In my research on the pre-Columbian era, I was surprised to find how sparse the information, and how disparate the sources are on the topic. I also found large gaps of knowledge, frequent contradictions, and heated debates among scholars. An example of this is the seemingly easy question of why so many magnificent Mayan cities were abandoned virtually overnight, without clear indications of what happened, or where the people went. Researchers and academics still can’t agree on the answer.
I hope that your story is important enough to you to motivate you to get up every morning and start working; to look forward to your research and writing, and later, move you to keep up your blog and website, do book signings, presentations, workshops, and other promotional activities to give your book the best possible chance at success. The luckiest people have a job that doesn’t feel like work. This story has been that and more for me. —Mara.
This is the last stop of Mara Price's blog tour for Grandma's Chocolate/El chocolate de Abuelita.
Please leave your comments below, as the author will give away a signed copy of the book to a reader of VOCES! At least four comments are needed within the next week to be eligible for Mara’s giveaway. One winner will be selected at random. Good luck, and we hope that you enjoyed the tour!
Grandma's Chocolate/El chocolate de abuelita is on sale now, so support Latino writing and go pick up your copy!