Four authors of historical fiction with Pacific Northwest settings got together to offer a panel at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference held this year in Portland, Oregon. From left to right: me, Kirby Larson, Libbie Hawker, and Janet Oakley. We called it “Historical Fiction through a Pacific Northwest Lens,” which seemed appropriate since the UK-based Historical Novel Society was coming to Portland. They meet in the UK every other year with North American sites in the opposite years.
The idea for our panel started with Janet Oakley and her writer friend in Washington State Carole Dagg. I had met Janet at a couple of PNWA conferences in Seattle, and she invited me to be part of a panel. The three of us put together a proposal which was accepted. We cheered our good fortune. Then Carole learned she’d be unable to attend so Janet found not one replacement but two. And Kirby Larson and Libbie Hawker joined us Janets.
For our session we had a lively discussion about what led us to write about this region and some of the challenges, like writing realistic history without offending 21st-century readers. We also discussed the pleasures of researching and the thrill of discovering actual documents from the times of our stories, about finding the untold stories, about the people who populated this land before the Europeans, and about other facets of history on America’s far northwestern frontier.
As we said in our proposal, “The region holds a unique position as the continent’s last frontier. When nearly every coastline in the world had been mapped, America’s northwest remained a mystery to explorers, a blank wilderness. That untamed edge resonates in the land’s character.”
Libbie served as moderator, and she kept us on our toes with some unexpected questions among the ones planned. We had a good Q & A afterward with an enthusiastic audience. A fun time.
Thanks to Stephanie West Allen for taking the picture.