Why I Write the Bone Rattler Series
I am often asked why I commit so much effort to writing a series set in the distant 18th century. The challenge of responding to such queries is knowing when to stop. My short version is that I write the Bone Rattler series because Americans have become alarmingly disconnected from the amazing human drama of our country’s founding. My fuller answer is as complex as that extraordinary century. I write a series about the path to the American Revolution because:
-The 18th century, particularly the middle years that my characters inhabit, was a pivotal period in the history of mankind. It was a time of profound tragedy (reflected, for example, in the near-extinction of woodland tribes and Scottish Highland culture), as well as transformative progress in science, medicine, technology, education, literature, and government. The world was a vastly different place in 1800 than it was in 1700.
-Our textbooks have dehumanized history, rendering it a sterile landscape of charts, graphs and statistics. Historical fiction provides the best vehicle for making history resonate at a visceral, human level.
-New generations are too often being taught accounts of America’s founding that are anchored more in contemporary political agendas than factual accuracy
-It is a disservice to our ancestors, and ourselves, to reduce the past to images of bewigged gentlemen and charts of military campaigns. I want my readers to smell the gunpowder, join the joy of tribal harvest festivals, feel the salt spray on their faces as the immigrant ship reaches American shores, and experience the wonder and fear of encountering the American wilderness.
-In retrospect history seems built on events presented like scenes on a stage, but in reality it was an ongoing daily drama populated with living, breathing humans, characters with whom many of us share the same blood. Historical fiction breaths life into those ancestors. I want my readers not just to grasp this history in their brains, I want them to feel it in their hearts.
-We are taught to think of the Revolution in terms of a compressed military timeline when in fact the real revolution was a gradual process of transformation over decades as scores of thousands of very diverse colonists reinvented themselves as Americans. My novels bear witness to the pain and exhilaration of that process, casting light on the remarkable people of all walks of life who suffered through this identity crisis.
-When I was ten years old I embraced the Liberty Bell and felt a spark that ignited a lifelong journey of 18th century discovery.
-As demonstrated in national surveys, formal education alienates Americans from their history. The more education Americans have, the less they know about their history—8th graders know more about the founding of America than the average college graduate.
-Our forefathers had no template for what they were doing. Never before in the history of mankind had a nation been created out of shared values rather than shared ethnicity. We need to regain a sense of wonder about what they achieved.
-The woodland tribes of the Northeast had remarkable cultures that are shamefully ignored in our history books. We need to recognize the important threads they contributed to the tapestry of America.
-In a recent national survey thirty-seven percent of Americans thought Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb.
-Understanding our history adds enriching texture to our lives. We can’t truly know who we are without knowing who we were.
In short, we suffer from an epidemic of historical apathy—and historical mysteries can be powerful antidote.
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