Today, please welcome my friend and fellow historical fiction author Aimie K. Runyan, whose debut historical novel Promised to the Crown releases on April 26 from Kensington Books.
I’m delighted that Aimie agreed to stop by the blog and share the inspiration behind her debut release. And so, with no further ado, here’s Aimie:
If creative writing classes do nothing else, they train a writer to work on a deadline and to hunt for ideas everywhere. A lot of people may scoff at trying to learn writing in a formal classroom setting, but if it weren’t for a creative writing class I took on a lark when I was in graduate school, PROMISED TO THE CROWN might not exist.
I was in my last semester at Indiana University, and if truth be told, I was forging my way through a program I was ill-suited for. But that semester at least two of my courses finally lined up with my interest—a Canadian Civilization course I needed for my French program and a creative writing class I elected to take because I needed something to distract me from phonemics and syntax. One day, my Canadian Civ professor made a mention of the filles du roi; a group of 770 women who gave up all they knew in France in exchange for passage to the new world. They were expected to find husbands from among the legion of unwed settlers. The hope was that these marriages would lead to large families who would increase the population of the fledgling colony.
The professor devoted maybe 10 minutes of her lesson to these women, but as my brain was in story-finding mode, I found myself imagining what it would have been like to leave France in a time of relative plenty for a land they knew next to nothing about. This was long, long before the age of Lonely Planet travel guides and luxury cruise liners. The accounts these women heard about the New World were not enticing. They knew it was colder than Frosty’s nether parts and that the men had gone half savage. To spend three-and-a-half months on a rickety ship in the North Atlantic, where the prospect of life on a desolate homestead was all they could expect, a woman would have to be pretty desperate.
So was born my genesis character, Nicole. She changed names several times, and her personality morphed a bit, but the crux of her story has remained the same—she was the daughter of a farmer whose land had gone farrow, despite abundance on the farms around him. The family uses up her dowry to keep the family afloat, but she has no options to secure her own future. One stroke of bad luck, and she was without much hope of a life for herself. I wrote the story for my class, and met with more silence with critique. I took it as a good sign. The biggest comment was that they said the story read like the first chapter of a novel. I liked the idea.
But then I finished school and began teaching. Despite the demands of a new career and a new marriage, the story stayed with me and I knew I wanted to make it into a novel. I gave Nicole two friends from different backgrounds; Rose, the orphaned daughter of a wealthy merchant who is sent off to rot in a horrid charity hospital, and Elisabeth, the daughter of a baker who is nearly forced into a disastrous arranged marriage after her father dies. I played with the story off and on for almost a decade. I loved it, but always got hung up on where to take the story after the women got to Canada and began making matches.
When my daughter was born, I realized the reason I got hung up at that point was because they were about to become mothers. Before I had my daughter (and her big brother), I couldn’t relate to that part of their lives, but now I could. So when Wee Miss hit about four months and was sleeping enough to let my brain clear, I began writing at naptime. I was able to write more competently about the struggle of motherhood because their struggles were my own. Writing became my solace, and it wasn’t too much longer (with the help of a certain mentor who runs this blog) before I had an agent and a book deal.
You might say this is a book was born of my own motherhood.
Aimie K. Runyan, member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master’s thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.