Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. Psalm 25:6 (NLT)
When I wasn’t reading romance novels in High School and college, I was reading Barbara Tuchman and Eugenia Price. I reflected in my own novels how important Eugenia Price was in turning me on to history. It was her historical fiction that inspired me to be a historian and later, to write historical fiction. If someone else besides me would compare my work to that of Eugenia Price, I would be a happy woman. As it is, I can only imagine that someday, people will say about me, “a master storyteller” who “takes the plain, meticulously researched facts of history as the roots upon which she grafts the flesh and blood that turns into real people, whole people.” But, until this week, I forgot the influence that Barbara Tuchman had upon me as well. Once Eugenia Price encouraged me to be a historian, Barbara Tuchman taught me how it was done. She wrote books that went deep into historical subjects but made them not only understandable to the average person, but enticing. Barbara Tuchman was a consummate researcher utilizing primary source material. She liked to know so much that she felt like she as at the “elbow” of the people she studied. Then, like Price, but with perhaps less fiction, she crafted history that read like a story. I started rereading The Guns of Augustthis week, about the first month of World War I. I will soon be entering World War I with my characters in my latest novel. I hope that Tuchman will take me back to that time so that I can also make it come alive for my characters and my readers. Get ready for a rip roaring mother-son disagreement about joining the military in the midst of the patriotic burst at the beginning of the war. Louis wants to fight! As I started The Guns of August, I read a quote by Barbara Tuchman that describes my approach to historical fiction. She said, “I am a writer first whose subject is history,” and, “The art of writing interests me as much as the art of history … I am seduced by the sound of words and by the interaction of their sounds and sense.” As I read her discussion of how and why historians work as they do, I kept thinking, “Oh, right. That’s where I got that.” It’s been more than 35 years since I read a book by Barbara Tuchman yet I use her techniques and her influence shapes my world even today. It occurred to me that while both Price and Tuchman molded me as a historian, other people, many of them long forgotten shaped my character. I wonder who will someday say that about me? How about you? Are you regularly investing yourself into the lives of others, encouraging, mentoring, supporting, teaching, disciplining? If you can’t think of anyone, find someone and start today. You don’t know far your influence will spread. It just may change the future of our world.