I am delighted to present an interview with Leigh Hartman. Leigh is a focused and hardworking writer that specialises in Historical Literature. Here she lets rip about her love for history, Star Trek and Pennsylvania, and steam trains.
Leigh’s Bio – As a historical adventure writer, Leigh Hartman is filling her time with research, ornament making and reading. She’d love it if writing was her full-time job but, as life would have it, that’s also a work in progress. For now, She’s busy outlining, researching, and creating more characters than what’s necessary for her first novel series, THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES.
- When you write historical stories, do you take stories and move them into historical settings or do you take your inspiration from history?My passion for history reignited during a steam train trip in 2017. I wish I can tell you where it was, but the location will give away too much of my plot! My family’s always been interested in history, more so lesser known histories. Project Firedamp draws heavily from the history and people of my region (Southwest Pennsylvania).
Settings, historical figures and specific events are interwoven in my current work in progress. When the idea for this WIP came up four years ago, I knew I absolutely had to research. Pennsylvania, nicknamed “The Keystone State” for many, many reasons, has a rich and lengthy history from which to draw inspiration. As such, I prefer a combination of the two methods represented in your question.
History itself provides the groundwork for THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES.
2. How important is that your stories are historically accurate. How much research do you carry out before writing?
I researched my chosen era for two years before I even started outlining and accrued several notebooks filled with notes from multiple library visits and inquiries sent out to the fantastic librarians at the Library of Congress. (They have a fantastic “Ask a Librarian” tool – try it when the library reopens).
Naturally, during my “rabbit hole research” phase, the concept, plot, characters and number of books within my series changed many times. I’m now finally happy with the direction. Historical fiction readers (myself included) are notorious sticklers for detail. You can’t, say, choose to write a story set in 1873 but include an incident that happened five years later in 1878. Readers notice.
The closest I’ve come to this is including an event that happened, say, three months ahead but still in the same state. That’s when you adjust your timeline or include a section of historical notes to give further explanation. But of course it’s all still a work in progress!
3. What is your favourite period in history?
Every era is rich with its own nuances, people and advances, but my absolute favorite is the Victorian era. I chose this era and set my story in Pennsylvania because, not only do they say to “write what you know,” and heaven knows I know Pennsylvania, but great clashes also happen between industry workers and the business moguls who oversaw them.
Many inventions also came “straight outta Pittsburgh,” during this era – the Ferris Wheel, pencils with attached erasers, the toilet paper roll and pre-packaged Heinz tomato ketchup, just to name a few.
You can see why I, as a Pennsylvanian, would naturally draw inspiration for a novel from my own State and fall in love with its influences.
4. If you could meet one person from history who would it be?
Many people know I absolutely love the Star Trek franchise. I listen to podcasts put out by veteran actors. I’ve met a few of them as well. And, in college, I wrote a whole speech about Star Trek’s influence on the historical 1969 space race. A speech I wish I still had a copy of.
So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise I’d like to meet Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry. There are distinct connections between history and Star Trek, as many episodes from The Original Series drew Classic influence from the Greek and Roman civilizations. Then, during The Next Generation, actors Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner brought their Shakespeare backgrounds with them.
Even Star Trek draws influence from history. How can we learn from it if we forget about it? I fervently believe that was one of Gene Roddenberry’s missions, as he never shied away from including it.
5. How have you incorporated history into your current WIP? Tell us about your inspiration, what time period it’s set in and when it is going to be available.
Because THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES is still a work in progress, there is, unfortunately, no timeline for publication. They say it can take ten or more years to write historical fiction, and by jove I’m already a third of the way there. As I mentioned in my answer for question one, history is deeply rooted in this series and will be told, via a trilogy, through three main characters’ point of views.
Project Firedamp begins in 1892, Victorian Pennsylvania, with private investigator Edgar Kane. To say any more will give far too much of the plot away, so I’ll leave that up to your imagination!
Thanks Leigh, I think we have many of the same thoughts about history. It’s everywhere. I love how you catch little glimpses of out it out of the corner of your eye or find out how it has shaped our lives and our thinking. I really loved your answers.
You can read my answers to Leigh’s five questions about history on her blog here.