Friday, September 28, 2012

Guest Blog post by Patricia Harman author of The Midwife of Hope River

Today's special feature is by a debut fiction author who is not new to writing, although all the "before" products have been non-fiction. 
It's always intrigued me about the difference between fact and fiction and Patricia's guest blog post is about just that. So sit back sip your coffee or tea and enjoy a story.

Memoirist to Novelist

       Book touring for my new novel, The Midwife of Hope River, (William Morrow) across the South and in the Midwest, I’m often asked what it was like to change from writing memoirs to writing my first novel.
       There are some unique challenges in writing a memoir, especially when you are a nurse-midwife or other health care provider.  You have to be so very careful to protect patient privacy.  In both my memoirs, The Blue Cotton Gown and Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey (Beacon Press), all my patients were deeply disguised.  They were also asked to read their own chapters to be sure they were ok. 
        “You are more important to me than my book,” I told them as we sat in the exam room.  “If you want me to change anything I wrote about you or if you don’t want to be in the book at all, I’ll take you out.”  Fortunately, not one patient said no.
       “If my story will help someone to not feel alone, I want it to be in there,” is what one woman said and I was touched.
        In writing the memoirs, I also had to weigh concerns that friends, family members or colleagues might disagree with my account of our mutual experiences.  This was a challenge at first, until my husband gave me encouragement to speak the truth as I saw it.  “It’s your story,” he told me.  “If they want to tell their story, they can write their own memoir.” 
         Writing a historical novel is quite different.  For one thing, you don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings!  You don’t have to carefully disguise every character.  You are making them up!   For another, there is meticulous research to do, but that was fun and could mainly be done online or by reading books at home.  I also used photographs to get the feel of the period. 
       They say, “Write what you know,” and I began my book, The Midwife of Hope River, by thinking about that.  As a midwife, I knew about delivering babies.  I have performed home and hospital births for over 30 years.  I lived off the land much like a pioneer on rural communes for over a decade.  I was a political radical back in the 1970s when we protested the war in Vietnam.  I’ve even been in jail for peace protests. 
       Thus Patience Murphy was born, 36-year-old midwife living during the Great Depression on a broken down farm, not by choice, but necessity.  She’s a widow twice over, an ex-radical from Pittsburgh and also wanted by the law in two states!  (Now, for sure, you have to read the book!) 
       The story, told in the first person, opens on the day Wall Street crashed.  The midwife is sitting at the bedside of Katherine MacIntosh, the wife of a wealthy mine owner, writing in her new leather bound journal.  Maybe that’s why writing a novel about a midwife, as if it was her account, wasn’t that hard.  The Midwife of Hope River is a memoir, Patience Murphy’s memoir.   
      Once I started writing, Patience and the others of the Hope River Valley, Bitsy, her young black assistant, Mrs. Kelly, her benefactor and Daniel Hester, the local vet, took on a life of their own and the story unfolded like a movie behind my eyes. 
      The characters have now all become real to me and apparently to readers too.  More than once I’ve received the comment, “While reading The Midwife of Hope River, I forgot I was reading fiction, I began to feel that the people of the Hope River were real.”  In my mind they are.

Here is a trailer for the book  

Here are Patricia's other works

Buy the book here visit the author's website here

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