Illuminating History’s Shadows Through Fiction
Illuminating History’s Shadows Through Fiction

History Calling

September 28, 2023

History Calling


After years of working on Red Clay, Running Waters I began to realize that History is a lot like the game of Telephone we once played as kids.

What starts as one message becomes another as it flows down peoples understanding, interpretation, and the rivers of time. From its origins, the events and stories we learn as gospel in History have often gotten garbled from one generation to the next – by perspective, interpretation, new insights – till the story that comes out the other end seems like what might have been (or done/happened) but actually, it’s not.

Anyone who does Historical Research, especially those who write Historical Fiction, can tell you that History can get pretty messy and confusing. Facts are not always the facts they appear to be, dates can be all over the map, and the story you thought you knew turns out not to be so. Rabbit holes of original sources only send the writer deeper into twisting caverns of what might have been . . . or other stories they might want to write.

The Telephone of History told me what the Ridge’s story was. On the surface the ‘message’ about their place in history pointed clearly to their status as pariah. But at the end of the hundreds of resources, conversations, and ponderous considerations in my writing, the message I came away with warred with the story I was told. Wanting to unknot the tangled strands of History’s Telephone around John Ridge, his family, his actions, and his historical reputation drove me to see what happened from another point of view, opening wide a heartrending saga of dashed hopes and selfless love.

Inside was a story of universal humanity, courage, endurance, and hopes, and a painful lesson from our American past, animated by beings who once lived at the heart of the Indian Removal Crisis and forced Removal. It is a story of great beauty and inspiration, one we can all learn from. It is a story of extreme tragedy rooted in concepts of Supremacy and Rights.

It is most certainly a story for our time.

From the start, the drive to weave together the threads of the Ridge’s legacy showed me the parallels between our current social strife’s and those the Ridge’s lived through. From the start I was sceptical of the commonly held point of view of what occurred. From the start I was fortunate enough to have the recorded words of those who lived these events, and some acquaintance with some of their descendants, to help me live it in their shoes and write about them.

As I count down the days until December when Red Clay, Running Waters comes into people’s hands, I try to anticipate what readers and reviewers will say, and how the Ridge’s role in History might be seen after reading the book.

Observing contemporary rhetoric, I admit, I’m braced for ‘the worst’. Of course, hopefully, some of ‘the best’ will come my way as well. Regardless, the Big Lessons have been significant across this experience, a few of which are:

    • Learning about a culture and time period I knew little about.
    • Facing some hard truths about humanity.
    • Finding the courage, perseverance, and passion to make the dream of writing John and Sarah’s story a reality.
    • Living in the hope that this story can help us learn from the past, so that history does not repeat itself…

No matter what happens with the book’s reception, the Ridges are now part of my family, and I am so happy they have come to stay. I hope you will welcome them into your home too. They are worthy of knowing.

I hope when you read the story of John and Sarah’s liver, it will be your gain too, and the reception on the other end of History’s Telephone delivers a clear message across time.

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