It’s always more fun to see the real faces of the characters we’ve read about or watched in a movie. I always wait to the end of a movie to see the actual people portrayed. And it’s especially thrilling in historical fiction.
When I first met Mary, the protagonist of my novel, she was an old lady. I was in my teens and had little interest in spending much time with her. But how I wish I had. Years after she died, I found early pictures of her and of David, my great-grandfather. It’s hard to picture very old people as young, vibrant, sexual beings. And yet…look into the faces and it isn’t that hard at all.
I see Mary. Her beautiful hair, which I was told was reddish like my own. I could put my two hands about her waist and they would reach. And David, you can grasp he was funny and handsome and hardworking. And dearly loved his wife.
As I researched my book about Mary and her family, I had an idea of her nearly-blind mother. But I had no idea she was pretty. It didn’t occur to me. But she is. And although she could not see her children, she loved them and protected them as best she could.
These photos, these faces and stories, link us to our past. And that is why I write.