Author Sandra Dallas is known for her beautiful tales of historical fiction. In Dallas' latest novel, this month's The Bride's House, she follows the story of three generations of woman who live and love in their family home in Georgetown, Colorado between the 1880s and modern times. Get an insider look at these three determined women as the author chats about what makes her historical heroines so special in this guest blog post.
There is this temptation among some writers of historical fiction to dress today’s women in long skirts and call them authentic. Although their book may be set in the mid-19th century, their characters are lawyers and doctors and newspaper owners. The women confront men, defend minorities, work to save the environment, and in general, are terrific role models. Only they’re not very accurate. It’s what I call the Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman Syndrome.
I believe that characters have to be products of their own times, or at least, those in my books do. My characters are shaped by their circumstances.
In The Bride’s House, my novel of three generations of women who live in a house in Georgetown, Colo., the women are very much products of their times.
Nealie, the first of these women, runs away from an abusive home in the Midwest in 1880 and finds work as a serving girl in a Georgetown boarding house. She’s courted by two men, a wealthy mining engineer and a common miner. Nealie has few options. It doesn’t occur to her that her future holds anything but marriage, and her dilemma is who she will marry.
Thirty years later, Nealie’s daughter, Pearl, has more opportunities. She considers college, and she involves herself in business, although it is as her father’s assistant. Still, her father makes the important decisions for her life, and she goes along with them--until she falls in love.
In 1950, Pearl’s daughter, Susan, has fewer restrictions than her mother or grandmother, more choices, although even in 1950, women were shackled. Few women 60 years ago expected to have careers. Birth control was unreliable. Men (often by law) controlled the family and the family pocketbook. But women then made their own decisions.
The mores and morals of the times help mold each of the women in The Bride’s House, but despite that, the women themselves have character that comes from inner strength. We are not totally the victims of circumstances, and that’s what breathes life into our characters.
No matter the time in which they live, my characters are strong women. That means in Nealie’s case, holding on to a sense of what is right. With Pearl, it is the challenge to stand up to her father, and with Susan it is to draw on the strength of the two women before her to make a difficult decision.
Time and place shape characters, but ultimately, they are human beings. They have hearts and minds. And it is their humanity that makes us connect with them.
- Sandra Dallas
So what happens to these three heroines? For answers to all of your questions, check out The Bride's House, which is available now!