Siri Mitchell featured in my News & Notes column in the March issue of FamilyFiction's digital magazine. I'm delighted to share Siri's complete response to my question about her latest release, The Messenger, with my readers. Enjoy!
Rel: What was the most challenging aspect of writing about the time period in The Messenger?
Siri: Just one? Can I sneak in a second? Or a third?
The most challenging aspect was trying to get the information I needed. The Revolutionary War is one of the first major historical events studied by elementary school students in the United States. It’s the conflict upon which the country was founded, so the materials available on the topic are voluminous. It’s easy to find the when and where about almost any date during the period, but the how and the why are much more difficult. I wrote the book around an escape of patriot soldiers from a British prison that took place in May 1778. I was able to find out the date that it happened, how many prisoners escaped, and a mention of the patriot lines participating in a diversionary skirmish but the link between the Continental Army (who had to have planned the escape) and the prisoners has been lost to time. I spent several weeks in a fruitless search for more details. I finally decided that if I couldn’t turn anything up, no one else would probably be able to either. At that point, I gave my novelist self permission to ‘make stuff up’!
Another challenge was trying to approach this period with depth and a fresh eye. When American students study this war in history classes, there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. But the war was much more complicated than that. The Good Guys sometimes did bad things and the Bad Guys sometimes did good things. It’s a shame the war is studied at such an early age, because the complexities are too difficult to navigate in elementary school. Another problem is that most Americans think they know everything about this period…or at least everything that’s important. I took it as a challenge to investigate the ambiguity of being an outsider during a partisan conflict and being a pacifist during a time of war. A third facet of this particular challenge was trying to maintain suspense throughout the story. I’ve never written such a strong thread of intrigue before and the outcome of the war has been known for several centuries now. I’m hoping the story will feel so immediate that readers forget what they’ve learned in history class and just give themselves up to the story.
My third challenge transcended time and place. I think this is a way in which historical fiction can really illuminate modern culture. In this book I wanted to tackle the question of how to know God’s will and how to hear him speak. If God seems to be saying something contrary to popular opinion, how would a person know that it’s truly God and not just wishful thinking? How can a person truly recognize God’s voice?
I had many challenges in writing this book, but I had lots of fun as well!
Relz Reviewz Extras
Exclusive RBC Book Club Interview with Siri
Review of A Heart Most Worthy, A Constant Heart and She Walks in Beauty
Character spotlight on She Walks in Beauty's Clara Carter, Love's Pursuit's characters and A Constant Heart's Marget & Lytham
Visit Siri's website
Buy Siri's books at Amazon or Koorong