Blending Truth and Reality With Fiction

When fiction authors set out to craft their books, they have many decisions to make. Character names and occupations must be considered. The era or period of the story has to be examined for relevance. Next, the genre of the tale, be it historical, romance, suspense, paranormal, or any combination has to be determined, and finally the the location must be chosen. Those aren’t the only options the author has to consider. There’s the audience, the level of heat, whether or not it’s part of a series, and many other factors most readers don’t realize are part of the earliest conception of a book. But, in my opinion, while each one of those issues is important, research is the most critical aspect of those first few pages. Unless you set a book on an undiscovered planet in a distant universe, sooner or later, you will have to deal with truth and reality.

In my latest novel, Listen to the Stones, I used the location as my primary focus. I visited the Standing Stones of Calanais on the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The stones fascinated me. Looking at them and listening to the guide, my imagination soared. The marbling in the stones, the designs that looked like pictograms, and the positioning of the stones as if some were guarding a pathway while others seemed to be discussing things had all kinds of ideas floating through my head.

When we went to the souvenir shop, I purchased a book on the stones and their excavation. Within its pages were theories on the stones’ provenance. The fact that they predated Stonehenge and that there were many such circles in the Hebrides and the Orkneys, as well as in the UK fascinated me as much as it must have Diana Gabaldon who used a similar stone circle for Outlander books. Several Outlander books and items of television memorabilia were available in that souvenir shop. Whereas she saw the stone circles as a portal to the past, a doorway for time travel, I see them as a magical place. One of the theories about the stones was that they were the people living on the island who were turned to stone when they refused to accept Christianity … a little like Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. That’s the idea I chose to explore. Then came the research to give credibility to my vision.

I spent countless hours examining every article I could find on the Standing Stones and everything relating to them. That’s where I came across information on magic, witchcraft, and Druidism, which led me to the dark side of Scottish history and Edinburgh. I discovered many things about the city. This is one of the sites I found particularly interesting. While I knew that witch persecutions had been plentiful, I had no idea that a city existed beneath the city that boasted Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. Unfortunately, the tour we had booked in Edinburgh as part of our cruise was canceled due to bad weather, but if I ever get the chance to return, you can bet I’ll be checking this out.

Another site that intrigued me was This site is dedicated to Greyfriars Kirkyard, considered to be the most haunted cemetery in the world and the place where JK Rowling found the names for the characters in her Harry Potter novels. I recalled seeing a Disney movie called Greyfriars’ Bobby years ago, so I knew about the faithful little dog, but everything else was a surprise.

Deciding how to incorporate all of these fascinating facts into the story to make it part of a cohesive whole was challenging. Choosing to make my main character the pure soul hidden for eons to protect her from a greedy, power-hungry wizard who was nothing more than a spoiled child who became an entitled adult, I let her take a trip on her way home and visit some of the places I’d seen as well as find a few I hadn’t.

Last but not least, since my novel is a contemporary paranormal, I needed to create the myths involved. I combined many Irish, Scottish, and English folktales, myths, and legends I’d read to create a race of elemental giants, who could control the elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Once again, my research provided the basis for my myth. The mysterious skeleton found in Glastonbury, which some people believe to be the legendary King Arthur, gave me that little bit of reality I needed for my imaginary race. After all, every fantasy has to start somewhere.

And there you have it. How I blend fiction with truth and reality. If you would like a sample of the way I do this, Check out Book 1 of the Timeless Love series, Beneath the Ashes.

Wishing you all the best. If you would like to keep seeing my posts and follow my books, perhaps pick up a copy of Listen to the Stones when it’s released later this spring, consider following my blog. or check out my website.

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About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

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