HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY! Delighted to be hosting Dietrich Kalteis CALL DOWN THE THUNDER blog tour today! I have a fabulous guest post from the author. First though, let’s find out a little bit more about the book and Dietrich Kalteis.
About the Author
Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal, 2017 IPPY, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, and Poughkeepsie Shuffle. He lives with his family on Canada’s west coast.
About the Book
Desperate times call for desperate measures in Kalteis’s lightning-fast crime caper story
Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm.
In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.
Writing historical Fiction
by Dietrich Kalteis
When I come up with stories, I usually start with an idea for a single scene that leads to the next one, and it just rolls from there. Rather than working to an outline, I write the first draft with a general direction, but not necessarily with a resolution in mind, at least not early on. I drop in the type of characters I want to see in the situation. I come up with the setting, and the pieces start to fall into place through the initial draft. By the second pass, backstories and subplots expand and the story gets tightened. I create separate character and fact sheets, along with a timeline. And I revise, add, and toss out anything that doesn’t work or fit.
Writing any novel takes a certain amount of research, but a historical novel takes some extra digging.
Gaining a good understanding of the time and place allows me to create a background that will be believable and transport the reader. I learn what I need about everyday life of the time period, the politics and social customs. Then I can let the characters show the reader their world. Letting them interact with their surroundings is a good way to slip in the details and paint a picture. What I don’t want is to make the narrative sound like a history lesson filled with facts, something that would bog the pace of the story, and likely bore the poor reader.
So, I gather the research, and I sift through it, and this is where it’s often tempting to include too much. There are always so many nuggets, and I just can’t include all of them. Talk about having to kill your darlings.
Another thing I want to get right is the speech for the times. I love to sink my teeth into great old expressions like “Guy had a handshake like an old sock,” or “She landed in happy cabbage,” or “I’m in the cat-bird seat.” Expressions that are authentic to particular times add color, and yeah, they might not be ones that we use today, but I think they’re understood and can add so much to the believability of a story. If you think about it, even expressions we use today could sound strange to a young person. Try telling a teen if they study hard, someday they’ll end up in fat city — likely have them thinking about clogged arteries. And saying, “Hey, could you dial me a number?” could get you a funny look. Or try asking a kid to roll up the car window. And if you really want to have fun, tell them to turn clockwise. Of course, the point is to let a characters’ dialogue flow, sound individual and interesting as well as true to the times.
Okay, I admit it, a lot of research gets done via the internet. It’s quick and easy, but I’ve learned to check and double check cyber facts. Libraries, reference books, a call or note to an expert or historian, or a trip to a museum are often the best bet. I enjoy sifting through archived newspapers, historical accounts, photo libraries, memoirs, letters and poems written by those who lived during the time. And while Google Maps has proven very valuable, nothing beats a visit to the place I’m writing about.
Another thing I’ve learned is to take careful notes and keep all related files organized, something that makes life easier through that final draft.
Choosing the right time and place for my stories adds just the right flavor and color, but there’s often something more to it. I set House of Blazes during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a time when the city was becoming modern, yet there was still this feeling of the old west, and that created an interesting layer. Also, the fires took on an ominous character-feel, cranking up the danger and quickening the overall pace throughout.
Zero Avenue is set in Vancouver in the late 70s, during the early days of punk rock. The scene was edgy and angry and lent the perfect attitude for the story of Frankie del Rey, a young guitarist bent on finding her success, running dope on the side for the wrong people, making ends meet, determined to make it at any cost.
The new one is Call Down the Thunder. It’s set on a wheat farm amid the hardship of the dust bowl times in Kansas. I chose the setting for its feeling of bleak isolation. No electricity, no phone, and the farm’s miles from town. There’s little money and little hope – just a determination to survive.
Wow! Thanks so much for the interesting post! Follow the tour here: