The MIRA editors are always excited to bring you great voices in Women’s Fiction. This March, we’re especially thrilled for the release of Garden of Stones, a powerful story of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, by MIRA author Sophie Littlefield (who you may know from her Aftertime series with Harlequin LUNA).
Today on the Harlequin blog, Sophie talks about her love of reading, her distaste for history, and how those two elements eventually came together to inspire her new novel, Garden of Stones.
Writing a Story I’d Want to Read
by Sophie Littlefield
I never thought I would write about history. I avoided the subject by skipping class in high school and fulfilling the requirement in college by taking one class on expressionist art and one on Richard Nixon. (I got Cs in both.) I didn’t even know who won the Civil War until I was an adult.
But as a lifelong reader, I inadvertently absorbed a fact or two along the way. I wasn’t setting out to further my grasp on history when I picked up Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus. That was quite an education, but I almost didn’t notice because the story dragged me around like a rat terrier shaking the hell out of its prey.
My reading habit gradually convinced me that I wasn’t the worst and laziest student on the planet, something I believed to be true about myself for a very long time. Instead, I discovered that I absorb history best when it’s wrapped up in fiction. Dates and places and events mean little to me, unless there’s a little scandal, a love story, a tragedy, a crime—something juicy to glue all the dry facts together.
I began actively seeking out historic fiction, but I still felt decidedly unqualified to explore the past in the books I was beginning to write. It was as though history was the big box of crayons that only advanced kids got to use, and so I continued to color with only the basic set, creating stories that didn’t require research.
Then one day I heard about Japanese internment from a friend who grew up in California, where Garden of Stones is set and where I now live. I was immediately hooked, because the story was rife with everything I love in a book—tragedy, crime, cruelty and compassion and redemption. I started secretly longing to write about it. The thing that broke the dam for me was discovering I was far from alone in my ignorance about this chapter of American history, which freed me, for some reason, to learn enough about the subject to build a story on.
And suddenly, because I had a cast of characters and a story in mind, reading history became not a chore but a thrilling privilege. Every detail of my fictionalized internment camp was enriched by my growing knowledge of the real ones.
Now, I find, I can’t wait to learn more. If only I’d discovered this in elementary school. I can’t help wondering if there is a child in a classroom somewhere, bored out of her mind, who only needs someone to hand her a novel to create a student of history.
Many of my early reviews mention that the reviewer knew little about internment before reading Garden of Stones. It’s thrilling to think that my book might bring history alive for someone.