By RD Larson
I’ve known Lee Roddy for a number of years and love his books. I just finished Days of Deception. It gave me such pleasure to go away in time and have a train adventure. In addition, all of the children in my life have at least one historical novel written by Mr. Roddy. It pleases me to say that each of those children has an abiding interest in history. You can’t go wrong when you read a Lee Roddy book.
Lee Roddy is a best-selling author who has written 50 novels and 15 non-fiction books with sales in the millions of copies. His credits include Grizzly Adams, which became a prime-time television series, The Lincoln Conspiracy, which made the New York Times best-seller list, Jesus, now a film in more than 500 languages, and four series of novels for young adults. Visit his websitewhere you can order his books and read more about him.
Lee Roddy: Hi, RD. I appreciate your doing this interview.
RD Larson: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. Readers want to know about your work. How old were you when you started to write?
L.R.: My first short stories were published when I was 14, so I’d been trying for a year or so before then. However, it took many years before I could make a full-time living off of my writing
R.D.L.: Did you always like history? And how did you to start writing historical fiction? Have you always had a great love for history?
L.R.: Some of my adult novels and three of my series for juvenile readers had contemporary settings, but my love of history moved me to write about that for both young readers and grown-ups.
I was very fortunate to have a high school teacher who taught me that history is not dates and events, but people reacting to their times. I really loved history from that time on.
R.D.L.: Where did the inspiration for The Lady Pinkerton Chronicles come from? Was there something specific in the time after the Civil War that you wanted to explore?
L.R.: I always try to write about something not well known in history, so I knew the Civil War has been the subject of more books than for any other period, but there was little on Reconstruction and building of the transcontinental railroad. I wondered what would happen if a female former Union spy and an ex-Confederate cavalryman were involved with railroading leading up to bridging the nation with iron rails. It took three books to tell this romantic suspense story
R.D.L.: Do you have a schedule that you follow when you are writing a novel? Do you work a certain number of hours a day, write a certain number of pages a day, etc.?
L.R.: I arise daily at 5 a.m. and am at the computer by 8 a.m. I work until 5 p.m; five-and-a-half-days a week. I do not try for a certain number of pages each day, but do write each one as best as I can.
R.D.L.: Do you always conceive the novels as part of a series, or did the idea for the series grow out of one book?
L.R.: I usually think of characters or a subject that is too big for one book although I have written several stand-alone novels. I prefer series or trilogies. That’s because they give me the space to explore the period, the characters and stories in greater depth. If readers become intrigued with the characters, it’s natural for them to want to read more about them and their situations.
R.D.L.: What are you working on now? What areas of history would you like to visit in your writing in the future?
L.R.: I have two works-in-progress: one has a different slant about the California Gold Rush of 1849. The other takes a unique angle about the Pony Express. As for the area of history I would like to write about in the future – well, for years, I’ve thought about how I could help people rediscover their true American heritage. I see so much deviation from the historic facts that I’d like to tell stories that recapture what it was really like, and not slanted as much of our heritage is today
R.D.L.: Your wonderful exciting novels come to life through your use of history. How does your research process work? Is it time consuming? Do you have any research tips for writers of historical fiction?
L.R.: I prefer working with original resources when possible, so I’m always looking for old manuscript sources, etc. I work by getting an idea of what I think would be interesting to readers and also keep me enjoying the search. Usually, I read an hour each night on various subjects that interest me. I travel to the historic sites where possible taking my video camera and tape recorder. Yes, it is very time consuming, but it’s a pleasure, not work. My interest stays high because I have a strong desire to pass on what I’ve learned through researching history.
As for tips: You’ve got to love what you do or your manuscript won’t have the spark and glow that should show in the finished story. Of course, all well-told stories have about the same basic structure and contents, so it’s how you tell the story that makes it appeal to readers.
R.D.L.: Some writers believe that every fact must be true, while other writers wish to take some dramatic license with their works of fiction? What do you think? A novel has to be exciting to take the reader into it.
L.R.: I believe a fact is always true, but I also believe it’s okay to “write from the silences,” as an author friend expresses it. That is, I sometimes take historic characters, described as they were and shown in a factual setting, and have them interact with my fictitious character. However, I never go against what is historically known about that character or the locale in which he encounters my made-up person(s). Often I can find what the historic character said or wrote, and use those words in a scene. I never change an historic character for the sake of my story. I want that character to be true to self, just as my imaginary characters are true to themselves as I envision them.
R.D.L: What is your advice to aspiring writers of historical fiction?
L.R.: First, learn the craft of writing a solid story. At the same time, begin or continue the unending search for both the historic facts to be melded with characters that only exist in the mind. The challenge comes in trying to write an exciting, page-turning story set against an historically accurate setting. The goal is to entertain while painlessly feeding in bits of heritage that make the reader understand the times, and glad they read the work so they’re eager to buy your next book.
RD Larson was born on the north coast of California. Two of her childhood stories were published before age twelve; at age fourteen, she wrote and produced a play at the local library for younger children. She attended Humboldt State, majoring in art and art history, and then continued her education at College of the Redwoods and Sacramento State University. Ms. Larson began to write again, attending many writing classes and seminars, each time saying she learned more about herself and her writing. In 1995, she began to enjoy e-writing on the Internet and joined writer groups and exchanged many writing ideas worldwide. In 1999, her anthology of her childhood stories was published by bookmice.com. Mama Stories has been read in New Delhi, Beijing, Sydney, and Ottawa, and many readers all over the U.S. have written to her in response to her work. She was a Pirate’s Alley Faulkner’s semifinalist in 1996, and she was nominated in 1999 for the Frankfurt Award. She lives in the Gold Country of California in the Sierra Foothills and enjoys an avid interest in the rich historical past of the area.