to speak at Village Lights
to share research
and writing techniques
Helen E. McKinney
(May 2010) James Alexander Thom has always
been keenly aware of the importance of history. After 30 years of experience
in writing many historical works of fiction, he has penned a non-fiction
work detailing his advice on research and writing techniques.
Good fiction can perceive and convey historical truth as well
as nonfiction, said Thom, who lives in Bloomington, Ind. Thom
is a regional and national New York Times best-selling author of such
historically based novels as Follow the River, Long
Knife, From Sea to Shining Sea, Panther in the
Sky and The Red Heart.
Battalion book cover
His recent book is titled The Art and Craft of Writing
Historical Fiction. I hope the book might help a little
to raise the quality of historical novels, he said.
Thom will present Once Upon a Time, It Was Now at 1 p.m.
on May 22 at Village Light Bookstore, 110 E. Main St., in Madison, Ind.
He will share details on the differences and similarities between research
and writing techniques of academic historians and historical novelists.
He will also speak about his book, Saint Patricks Battalion,
his current book in progress, and will be signing books.
Becoming a historical novelist requires imagination, an understanding
of the causes and consequences of historical events, the stamina to
research and write hard and long, and love of language, said Thom.
When writing, he uses any and all factual historical information he
can find, just as a historian would. I feel a responsibility to
be historically accurate, even if fictional characters and subplots
are at work in the novel.
He bases this responsibility on the fact that many of his novels are
assigned as supplemental reading for high school and college courses.
I respect historians highly, and Im happy when I earn their
respect in return.
My wife (Anne Vestuto) and I have been fans of his for a long
time, said Nathan Montoya, owner of Village Lights Bookstore.
When we opened our bookstore, the first thing that came to mind
was that we wanted to have him come here for a book signing.
Montoya and Vestuto opened their bookstore last November. The couple
has had many local and well-known writers and poets hold programs in
their bookstore. Its a great honor and privilege to have
all these people come in, said Montoya, a retired academic.
He believes a bookstore should host such author events as this one.
His goal is to turn Village Lights Bookstore into a cultural hub
where people can experience a broader culture.
Montoya provides musical programs as well, having a Steinway full grand
piano in the store in addition to an art gallery. He and Vestuto, who
have previously lived in Europe, strive to maintain a high quality
bookstore that will become a vehicle for culture, he said.
Montoya said Thom is the perfect writer to visit Madison because he
often writes about the Ohio River Valley. This sort of event is
very important, he said. We support and promote literacy
and a love of reading and books.
History is not necessarily all that palatable to the average reader,
Montoya said. Thom presents history as an engaging story and develops
characters beautifully that are faithful to the history they portray.
Thom said that most characters in his books have been real people, so
he doesnt necessarily have to invent them, but choose whom he
will study and portray in a novel. In his last three novels, the story
has been related through the eyes of fictional characters who can add
to the scope and understanding of the true characters and events without
altering the factual history.
One of these novels, Saint Patricks Battalion, tells
the story of Paddy Quinn, a boy who kept a diary throughout the Mexican
War. In Thoms latest work-in-progress, he continues Quinns
story as the character is now an adult reporter for Harpers at
the end of the Civil War. Thom hopes for a 2010 publishing date for
this new novel.
Thom will be accompanied at Village Lights Bookstore by his wife, Dark
Rain, who has two current projects in the works. A revision of her Shawnee
tribal history book, Kohkumthenas Grandchildren, is
due out in a new edition next year.
Dark Rain is also working on a novel based on the life of one of her
ancestors, which takes the reader on a journey from the late 1800s into
the World War II era. Reading about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake,
the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl will give the reader a different
understanding of their country and their familys part in the sacrifices
it took to establish it as a nation.
James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain are in the tier of authors
wed like to have come in often, said Montoya.
For more information, contact the Village Lights
Bookstore at (812) 265-1800.
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