Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Project: Historical Fiction or Non-Fiction?

For the longest time I've wanted to write a book. Until today I've come up with a million and one excuses as to why I couldn't start writing. Although I'm not sure what made me decide that today is the day, the time has come to bite the bullet  and commit to this project. It has been a long time in the making, at least in my mind anyway. While cleaning out his uncle, Reverand Charles Herr's,  apartment after he passed away 5 years ago, Joe and I came across a box filled with letters and post cards from his grandparents while his grandfather was stationed overseas during World War I. After spending hours reading them, I immediately knew I wanted to turn them into a book. Originally I thought I could write a historical fiction based on them, but after some thought (I mean I have had FIVE years to think about this!) I think it might be nice to simply do a non-fiction piece using the actual letters - placing them in chronological order, including pictures of the actual letters/postcards, as well as his family, to accompany it. It would give everyone a real life account of the war, and the actual lives affected by it.

I realize that this will be a HUGE undertaking, so I decided to start by typing them all out, then sorting them in chronological order. Baby steps. Once that is done, I need to decide if I want to keep it as a documentary accounting the life of Charles Herr and Josie Emmerling (they were not yet married at the time the letters were written), or do I want to create historical fiction based on them? Once that decision is made I will need to think about publishing - yes, I know I am getting a bit ahead of myself! My dear friend and fellow blogger, Lishie, has graciously put me in touch with a friend of hers who already self published a book for some guidance in that area (check out Lishie's blogs: and - thanks Lishie! :)

Here are two letters to give you an idea of what you will find in my book. The first is from Joe's Grandfather to his Grandmother, the second is from his Grandmother to his Grandfather - let me know what you think. And PLEASE weigh in: historical fiction or non-fiction???

*Disclaimer: I typed these letters as they were written - I did not edit them in any way - hence some punctuation and capitalization missing. I managed to figure most words out, but there are two instances where I couldn't make out the words (I noted it in the letters). Enjoy!

Joe's Grandfather, Private Charles Herr

Monday April 15th 1918

My dear Sweetheart
   Well dear how are you. I only hope you are in good health. I don't know what happened to you but I am hoping for the best. I haven't heard from you today again that's 4 days now. I am feeling pretty punk (? can't make out handwriting) today. I am going to tell you something and I want you to keep it to yourself and don't tell anybody and I don't want you to worry either but there's an epidemic broke out down here influenza and Malaria. Gee why they drop like flies around here we sent 22 men to the hospital in stretchers today there are 207 men out of the regt. so I hear. Gee why if it aint one thing in this damn place it's another. If felt pretty rotten all afternoon we rec. orders any man that feels sick to report. I did and had my temperature taken just a little while ago. I have 102. I don't know what's going to turn up but I hope and pray it won't be serious. Jesus Christ I feel like I am burning listen sweetheart, if you don't hear from me for a few days don't worry. I'll come out allright don't say anything to mama and keep this to yourself. Good Night dear.
     Your own Sweetheart Chas

Envelope addressed to Private Charles Herr

Wednesday Jan. 22nd '19

My dear Sweetheart
   How are you dearie? I hope you are in good health because I haven't received any mail over a week again the last letter was from Dec. 13th. I don't know what to think anymore. I'm sure you haven't forgotten me or?? No I don't believe you have. I only hope you are not sick. My dearie is sure is terrible to wait for something you want very much. One day after another I try to console myself with the thought that I may get a letter the next day. But I sure am trying very hard to keep up courage and I say a prayer every night so God may bless you and keep you in good health.
    Dearie I hope you received some of my letters by now because I want you to know that your little Schaty is still alive and anxiously waiting for you to come home. Say a young fellow I know came home a few weeks ago and I happened to meet him and he said he thinks it will be a few months before the 29th Div. comes home. But still you can never tell. If that is true you won't be home for your birthday. But what can we do? Make the best of it that's all. Some consolation. Somebody said to me the longer you have to wait the sweeter it will be. So I'm trying to think that way. Cheer up Josie, the day will come no matter how long you have to wait. That is if somebody doesn't steal your from me. That's right scold me for writing such a thing. Say how is the weather. My we are having some crazy weather our winter is at all is like spring very damp weather is sure is the right kind of weather for the Flue. We haven't had much real cold weather. I suppose when we are to have Spring weather we'll have winter is sure is funny.
   Say dearie it's too bad you can't be here that wonderful baby of Jennie and Joe's going to be Christened Sunday afternoon as I told you in one of my letters I'm going to be Godmother. Yes it's going to be a little Josephine. Gee Joe was hoping that you would be home by then. But [u]wats dee juse[/u]
   Well I suppose you wonder how we all are. I'll tell you dearie not as we should be. Pop is home since last Feb. with a cold and Schwiegeruand (can't read handwriting) hasn't been so well. But they are feeling pretty good again. I don't know if Pa will go to work tomorrow. And little me well, I, Oh! I'm all right dearie. Anxiously waiting for a letter telling me you'll be home soon. Good Night Sweetheart. May God bless you and keep you in good health. With love and kisses as ever your own little S.H Josie

Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing what you all thing of my new project! :)

- Jamie


  1. I would love read more! And I think there's more of a market for an historical fiction novel... Fill I the blanks :)

    Thank you for. The mention! Hope Lauriie can offer guidance!

  2. I'm intrigued already. I am all for the historical fiction angle. I love historical fiction, and I think there is a huge market for it. I also think it will give you much more leeway to create your story using your wonderful source materials. You can keep all of your materials incorporated but you can add in so much extra by letting yourself build fiction around the story.

    In my book club it would be easier for me to suggest a book that was historical fiction than non fiction. Our participants would be much more likely to go for that.