Step into the Past with Historical Fiction

It’s always a pleasure to introduce a new author to you. To kick off this month’s theme, step into the past with historical fiction and author Gretchen Carlson. Take it away, Gretchen!

What’s your favorite book genre? Fantasy, mystery, western, thriller, romance, science fiction?  I enjoy these, but my favorite (drum roll, please) is Historical Fiction. 

While history books cover facts of what happened, historical novels dig into how events felt. I find it incredible to slip into the past and live history through an author’s characters.   

Author Caroline Wood writes “Historical fiction brings people out of history and sets them beside you at the table—whispering, laughing, and fearful.”

Over and over historical fiction novels become New York Times best-selling novels. Why? 

Readers are more than entertained—they are often inspired. Historical fiction shows the nitty gritty of true life and survival.  

Some authors place fictional characters in a real historical context. Kristin Hannah’s best seller The Nightingale is a story of two sisters in France and the desperate paths they take to survive and combat the Nazis who occupy their country. Using fictional characters, Hannah captures the struggles of women caught in World War II. 

An opposite approach to historical fiction is to research a real person and write their story in a fictionalized account. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is based on the true story of a Russian woman who was a deadly sniper during World War II. 

Both approaches require research in order to remain accurate to the historical events and details of the time period. Historical fiction authors must convey authentic living conditions, food, clothing, technology, entertainment, and language for the era of their novel. 

My first historical novel, More Than Grit, is based on my grandmother’s true story which takes place in rural Kansas during the Great Depression. As I outlined my novel, I researched and created a timeline of national and international events for 1939. The website History Skills is one of many online sites that provides links to historical sources of information. Wikipedia is helpful for general information, but I double-checked Wikipedia with other sources to be sure the information was credible. Another valuable source of information is through the Smithsonian, The National Museum of American History

My timeline went beyond major worldwide events and included tidbits about sports, movies, popular books, inventions, cars, fashion, and prices of household items. This gave me a rich layer of details for that era which I wove into the plot. 

For example, “The Wizard of Oz” was the first movie to debut in technicolor in 1939. Desperately poor, my protagonist hears about the jaw-dropping film, but she fears her dreams will never come true, even on the other side of the rainbow. 

To avoid using modern language that doesn’t fit a time period, historical authors keep their nose in The Oxford Dictionary which provides the origin of words. Was the word “pickup” for a truck used in the 1930’s, or did that evolve in the 1940’s? My local librarians at the historical reference desk helped me find the answer through newspaper advertisements. Yes, I could refer to the farmer’s truck as a pickup.

Museums, antique stores, and car shows also gave me hands-on information. I was surprised to see how small a Model A Ford farm truck was, so when I described a family driving to church, they sat cramped and on top of each other. 

Looking for a page turner? Historical fiction breathes life into the dry bones of forgotten history. Step into the past. You won’t be disappointed. 

If you’d like historical fiction book recommendations or writing tips, contact me:

For previous posts on writing historical fiction, click here.


When do secrets become lies? When is grit not enough? 

A story of broken lives and deep friendship, inspired by true events from1939, when the shadows of World War II lengthened. 

Scarred by burns from a kerosene lantern, twelve-year old Sissy knows electricity is more than her farm family’s dream. It’s vital. She also knows they can’t afford the required deposit to be connected to electric lines, so she wrangles a secret deal to help her parents. As she faces danger and sacrifices to support her family, Sissy’s best efforts fail. She’s blind to what she needs most, and when she tells her secrets, she fears it’s too late. 

Set in Kansas farmland, More Than Grit is an unforgettable story of determination to succeed against all odds that will appeal to middle-grade and teen readers, their parents, and anyone who roots for the underdog. Award winning author Gretchen Carlson fills her characters with grit and grace as she shares the story her grandmother kept secret.


Gretchen’s background in journalism and education fed her heartbeat for writing and sharing stories of hope. Her debut novel, More Than Grit, won the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis award for the young adult category and the 2017 First Impression’s award. Growing up, she spent vacations on her grandparents’ farm in Kansas where she collected memories and heard stories of hard times and strong friendships. Her grandmother waited for decades to share the family secret of how they got electricity, and it was this story that inspired More Than Grit. She is a member of Front Range Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and The Storyteller Squad.She is available and loves interaction with public schools, book clubs, homeschool groups, and readers of all ages. Contact Gretchen: and follow her at




More Than Grit


3 thoughts on “Step into the Past with Historical Fiction

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  1. Thank you so much for stopping by and telling us about all those great sites for research! If I wrote historical fiction, I would definitely dive into the Oxford Dictionary so I didn’t have 19th century characters speak like 21st century ones.

  2. This is a great article! I’ve said many times that I learn and retain more from historical fiction than from any history class.

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