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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM JOSH LANYON
I was thinking long and hard about this Advent Calendar post. Mostly I’m known as a writer of mysteries and crime novels, but history was my first love. I was a history major for most of my college career. And, of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, the early career plan was to teach history and to write mystery novels on the side.
That didn’t pan out for a number of reasons, not least of which, teaching is not something you go into with an eye to moving on to bigger and better things. Teaching is, in my opinion, the most important job performed in our society — it is an enormous responsibility — and, for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t cut out for it.
But that didn’t mean that I did not still possess that burning desire to share and teach and proselytize. Oh, I most definitely did. But it occurred to me that I could accomplish much of that (while bringing down a healthy corporate salary) by writing those mystery and crime novels. Because, oddly enough, nothing teaches us about real life like good fiction.
And it is very difficult to comprehend the present without understanding the past.
I inherited my love of history, of exploring the past from my dad. I don’t talk about my dad much, but he was the single most influential person in my life. He was — and is…a tough guy. A very tough guy. But he’s a complex man. He’s a Korean War vet — best shot in his outfit, and naturally they wanted him to be a sniper. He declined. He thought shooting men from a distance was…evil. I’ve never seen him cry — I have seen him fight. I’ve seen him get into bar room brawls and I’ve seen him stand up at our little community civic association and speak long and articulately about why we needed to protect our community from moneyed corporate interests. He writes Haiku. He’s a bigot. He was a womanizer. He helps the grandkids with their homework. I believe it was through a childhood spent observing the contradiction that was my dad that taught me people are not good or bad, black and white, friend or foe…people are human and flawed and fascinating. You need to be patient and tolerant with them. It’s an early planet.
When we took trips as kids — and we took many trips — my dad spent most of the time talking about the history of the places and people we visited. We never went anywhere that my dad hadn’t researched everything about it, from the geography to the architecture. So the study of history was such a part of my life, such a natural thing, that I don’t think it occurred to me for years that it might be regarded as a separate field of study — or that this obsession with the past might be a trifle unusual.
Given my love of the past — and, frankly, research — I’m surprised that I haven’t written more historical fiction. I’ve done three historical romance novels now: Snowball in Hell, a noirish 1940s mystery; Out of the Blue, a WWI adventure and crime novel; and The Dark Farewell, 1920s paranormal and crime novel (due out from MLR Press and Samhain in the near future). The Dark Farewell is special to me as my dad was a primary source of the historical background. He wasn’t there, of course, but he listened to the stories and anecdotes of his relatives just as I grew up listening to him, and it was fascinating hearing him speak about these long ago tragedies — it brought them to life. I hope I’ve done them justice.
Frankly, there’s nothing more difficult to write than historical fiction — but there’s nothing more rewarding, either.
And Happy Holidays to you readers of historical romance!
Advent Calendar Giveaway!
Advent Calendar giveaway: name the historical figure you most admire and the person in your own life who has most influenced you in the comment section. I’ll have my legendary dad randomly pick from the responses. The winner can choose the ebook title of their choice from my backlist.