Friday, April 6, 2012

On Making Laura Ingersoll Secord "Real"

A young Laura Ingersoll Secord.
For me, one of the challenges in writing about a life that has been over for 144 years is how to make the subject live again, to make her story interesting.

Laura Ingersoll Secord had three different mothers by the time she was fourteen. Her birth mother died when the girl was only eight, leaving behind Laura and her three little sisters. The loss of her young mother was a tragedy made even more devastating when, a week later, Laura's father arranged for the baby, six-month-old Abigail, to be adopted.

Within fifteen months, Thomas Ingersoll married again. Although it was said of this wife that she introduced the art of needlework and drawing into the Ingersoll home, she died of tuberculosis after only four years.

Four months later Thomas married for the third and last time. This marriage lasted until his death in 1812 and produced seven more children.

In writing Laura Secord: Heroine of the War of 1812 I had the liberty of dramatizing a number of events in Laura's life — providing those events actually happened. One thing I did not do, however, was put any words into Laura's mouth that could not be documented. Writing these scenes helped me in my desire to breathe life into this Canadian heroine, to make her "real" for my readers.

The first scene I chose to dramatize is the one that opens the book. It takes place on that day when Laura learns that her baby sister is not coming back. I wrote the scene through the eyes of that eight-year-old child.

Look for Laura's story in bookstores in May!

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