Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lisa's Way: Mixing Science Fiction and History

It's always great to hear from other authors and today I am rounding off the year with a guest post by Robert Collins, author of both history and sci-fi books.  Over to you Robert!

My second published novel, Lisa's Way, is available once again. It's a science fiction novel. As such you wouldn't think it had much to do with history. But it was history that went into making the story what it is.

The novel began in high school as an idea that a friend and I came up with. We would write a post-apocalypse novel with ourselves and our friends as characters. Of course, it wasn't enough that we would survive; we'd also have to gain psychic powers.

Not long after high school the story became mine. I turned the real people into fictional characters and wrote the novel. The first draft wasn't very good, but I liked the idea, so I kept at it. One main character emerged: Lisa Herbert, the smart, caring, red-haired teenager. She would be the one to lead the effort to rebuild.

There was one problem: how would Lisa do it? The novel became short stories, then went back to being a novel. The question of how remained.

In 1992 I began my "other" writing career when I published my first "Touring Kansas Counties" book. From then to now I've been writing nonfiction about Kansas history as well as science fiction and fantasy.

While researching some of the TKC books, I came across the history of the Santa Fe Trail. The Trail ran from western Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was rarely used as an emigrant trail; it was a commercial route used to ship goods. The Santa Fe Trail was so prosperous that it inspired the leaders of the Santa Fe railroad construct their line from Kansas to Santa Fe, and on to the Pacific.

Lisa's story was never too far from my mind at the time. During my research inspiration hit. Trade would be method Lisa would use to rebuild society. Trade would allow her to travel, to make friends, and to restore the connections that had been broken.
Getting that idea allowed me to focus on a coherent plot for the novel. It still didn't quite work. The final piece was moving the setting from Earth in a near-ish future to outer space and a bit farther ahead. That's when the novel finally came together.

That's not the only instance of history helping me tell Lisa's story. One of the stories that will make up the second book was inspired by a true tale of a Kansas small town. A man came to town one day and killed another man who had recently settled in town. Capturing the murderer revealed a sordid link between the two. I'm presently working on the fourth book. One of the plot threads takes inspiration from the "Dodge City War of 1883". I can't say much about it now; if you're curious look it up.

History has inspired other genre stories. Several of the plots of my "Frigate Victory" science fiction stories come from Kansas history. I've recently written a fantasy story that combines magic with John Brown. All I need is a good character or story idea from the past, and I'm off.

There's a wealth of material waiting to be discovered. Time will tell if my research will result in fiction books that sell. Here's hoping it does!

You can find out more about Robert Collins and connect with him at:

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