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How Historians Research Can Add to Richness of Story, Experience
Q&A with Addie Slaughter, The Girl Who Met Geronimo�s Susan L. Krueger and Reba Wells Grandrud
Posted Aug 29, 2011 00:00
When retired teacher Susan Krueger decided to write a book - nothing interested her more to dedicate her time writing about than Arizona history. She decided to pursue a story on one of Arizona's most well-known families, a story that would become the historical fiction, first-person narrative, and Five Star Publications' book Addie Slaughter: The Girl Who Met Geronimo.
While writers of pure fiction have complete control over their stories as the elements are pulled straight from their imaginations, historical fiction writers are held to a standard of telling a story that is rooted by events, circumstances, or characters in something that actually happened. And, in order to pursue the successful telling of heroine Addie's story, Susan enlisted the support, research, and eventual co-authorship of well-known Arizona Culture Keeper Dr. Reba Wells Grandrud, the John H. Slaughter Ranch historian.
Read on to get a better idea of just how inspiring of a story can result from the creative partnership between writer and researcher in the writing of historical fiction as Susan and Reba talk about how they worked together and how the story that transpired.
1) Q: Susan, to begin with - what inspired you to write Addie Slaughter: The Girl Who Met Geronimo?
Susan: It was a trip to the Slaughter Ranch in Cochise County. Reba Grandrud, who was historian during the restoration of the Slaughter Ranch, made arrangements for our writers' group to stay on the property. While we were there, she presented her talk on the Slaughter family. I realized students would relate to the children who lived on the ranch, specifically, Addie.
2) Q: Susan, what sort of research did you do to help you write it?
Susan: Reba and my collaboration made all her painstaking research available to me, including the stories that Addie had told her own daughter about growing up in Tombstone and on the ranch.
3) Q: Reba, can you talk about why this project interested you? Your historical study and knowledge of the Slaughter family is very extensive, isn't it?
Reba: I have researched and written about the John H. Slaughter family since I was asked to serve as project historian in 1983 for the restoration of the Slaughter ranch home in rural Cochise County, Arizona. John and Viola Slaughter were "legends in their own time," vital personalities whose far-flung ranch with ever- flowing springs was strategically situated on major travel corridors of that period. After the restoration project was completed, I continued to research and write about the Slaughters, their friends and family, and their importance in the history of the Arizona Territory and early statehood. I was privileged to know Addie Slaughter's daughter, Adeline, as well as others who were close friends or neighbors of John and Viola Slaughter. So, yes, I have learned a great deal in the almost three decades that I have been interested in the family, the time, and the place.
4) Q. Did all of the research precede the actual sitting down and writing of the story?
Reba: As indicated above, my research and writing about the Slaughters and their San Bernardino Ranch began in 1983 and continues to the present; one of my popular lectures for the Roads Scholar Speakers Bureau of the Arizona Humanities Council is "Cora Viola Slaughter, Southern Arizona Ranch Woman," and I am working on a long-overdue book.
The idea for writing Addie, a children's book, came from Susan after I arranged a weekend stay at the Slaughter Ranch for our writing group. I provided materials, photographs, and reviewed the manuscript for historical accuracy. Addie's daughter, Adeline (mentioned in paragraph above) gave me original copies that she had written down of what she called stories her mother had told her. Adeline's mother, Addie, died in 1941. Adeline, also, gave me original photographs of her mother, in addition, to a number of known Slaughter photo albums in several museum collections and in my possession.
5) Q: What was the most difficult part of writing it?
Susan: Because I had so much good information about Addie's life, I didn't find it difficult to write. I did try hard to make it sound as though Addie was telling her story in her own words.
6) What was your favorite part of the writing it?
Susan: I love family history. I get great pleasure in the knowledge that Addie's stories that were preserved by her daughter have been made available to today's children.
7) Q: How long did you work on this project together?
Reba: I believe from it was about two or three years or so from the time we enjoyed the ranch outing until the book was published. Susan is a disciplined writer so finished the manuscript rather quickly.
8) Q: Do you have any new or future projects in the works - either individually or together?
Reba: Yes, we are thinking of collaborating on several other children's books, drawing on historical figures in Arizona's history.
9) Q: Reba, beyond your work with Susan, have you ever collaborated with any other historical fiction writers for their novels? If so - who?
Reba: No, I have not worked with anyone else in the manner in which Susan and I collaborated. In our writers' group, I do often provide historical accuracy to one of our members who has completed a trilogy of historical fiction.
10) Q: Reba, how would writers anywhere in the world, or especially in the United States who are interested in partnering with a historian for their books' research find someone like you?
Reba: Such writers would do well to attend historical lectures, and visit local or state historical societies, and ask about people who are doing research in the specific area in which the writer is interested.
For more information about the book, and its authors, please visit www.addieslaughterbook.com.
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