Author David Ross has written a piece today that takes a close look at the research, ideas and development used in his trilogy, The Three Hares.
Hello! My name is David Ross, and I am, with Scott Lauder, co-author of a YA trilogy called the Three Hares. It’s a fantastic adventure that takes the reader from Song Dynasty in China to the palace of Byzantium to Viking raids in England, in which three teens battle an ancient power seeking revenge by exerting its force in the modern world. Fasten your seatbelts!
Writing the Three Hares trilogy took place over a six-year period. One activity I really enjoyed was doing research. First off, the history I learned was incredibly inspiring! As Scott and I worked our way through our text, we found ourselves coming upon stories from the past that were not only fascinating, but true. At the heart of these was the enigma of the three hares themselves, a symbol that can be found in Asia and Europe at sites geographically distant from one another. This mystery, and the diverse history of the Silk Road, spurred us on to research events and mythologies we thought would enrich our telling of the Three Hares.
Taking factual information and making use of it in fiction has helped me re-think my own writing. While we know how important it is to see history as a story, stories seem to have a different “agenda” than history as it is found in textbooks. Few history books make the effort of telling a story as we would like to have one told. The focus in history books is more upon causes and effects, with lists of characters and events; the dramatic events have been levelled into an accumulation of facts. This deprives learners from engaging with retellings of historical events with their senses, of engaging with history as if they were there. This, I believe, has another unwanted but less obvious effect – it clouds the understanding that readers of history are in fact making their own history.
Literature has the power to put the story back in history, foregrounding not only the lived experiences of historical actors, but their inner lives as well. Using carefully chosen details to depict a historical setting gives the reader a place where they can experience history by identifying with the characters.
This, to me, strikes at the core of what we want to do when creating realistic settings for our fictional characters. While this is true of world-building in fantasy fiction as well, it is of great importance when using historical materials. Research allows us to re-create the world, give or take, so that readers get a chance to relive history.
Using historical fact in a work of fiction must, I think, be done with a bit of extra caution so that we don’t misrepresent what actually happened. Writing, of course, is selective. We must choose which part of the story we want to tell, whose perspectives to take and how to represent them. The scope of the Three Hares trilogy is very broad, and it was important to the two of us that it wasn’t simply factual, but that the places and cultures we wrote about, especially each of our characters, were treated with respect.
Another area we enjoyed researching was Chinese mythology, which we used as the backbone for the text. Having lived in Asia, both of us were already familiar with some of the myths, but we kept discovering tales that made us want to read more. The Eight Immortals are such a colourful cast of characters to work with – it was a real pleasure trying to bring them to life, to imagine how they might act if they were real.
Books of fantasy both make the unusual seem commonplace and make usual aspects of our lives dramatic. One value of reading fiction is that we learn how to tell our own stories. Stories help us realise how rich in detail and miraculous our lives are. Seen this way, all of our lives are stories that deserve to be told.
Scott and I hope that readers find our use of historical details not only makes our fictional story more exciting and interesting but inspires them to seek out what actually happened. Similarly, we hope our books promote an interest in diverse cultures in world, their belief systems, and customs. What mythological stories did you grow up with? What characters helped shape what qualities you think are heroic? We’d love to hear what impressions the books made on you.
The Three Hares: The Terracotta Horse, from Seven Seas, a collection part of Neem Tree Press. Published October 6th 2022. Paperback
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.