|Jessica Knauss gets her medieval on|
Why I Write
I distinctly remember taking a pencil and paper and trying form letters before I had even been taught to read, so the urge to write has always been with me. The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” never made sense to me, because I was already a writer. There was no reason to wait until I was “grown up.” It helped that my home environment encouraged reading and I found plenty of authors to influence me. I met Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Willo Davis Roberts at a conference when I was in the third grade and I knew I would be doing readings and signings just like them.
Why I Write Historical Fiction
The Middle Ages have hovered over my shoulder my whole life, but it wasn’t until after I was halfway through a master’s degree that I fully realized that this was the time the fairy tales are talking about! Princes and princesses! As I delved deeper into factual medieval culture, I was captivated by the bright colors, the crazy musical instruments, the spirit of discovery, and the wonderful writing done in languages that were just developing. I continued to study the Middle Ages in an academic context, and had the opportunity to feel the excitement of touching history when I examined manuscripts from the era, but scholarly seriousness never permitted the joy that was roiling inside me to burst out.
My advisor said, “You like to tell stories, don’t you?”
I replied, “Yes,” but my true reaction was, “That’s what literature is all about!” I would love to get back into the classroom knowing what I know now about stories and transmitting enthusiasm and how they aid in learning.
After I earned my PhD, I thought I’d try my hand at NaNoWrimo, and that’s where it finally began to come together. I could write novels about the Middle Ages! My readers would be a willing audience, and I could draw a realistic picture of a rich, exotic world that would make them feel they had traveled in time.
Writing Seven Noble Knights
While I was taking courses for my PhD, I read the fragments of an epic poem preserved in a thirteenth-century history book and was captivated. I never wrote anything scholarly about it because it seemed too precious for analysis. I did my first NaNoWriMo after graduating, and before strep throat claimed me for the month, I completed 25,000 words based on that amazing epic. But that draft was just no good. My education hadn’t taught me how to make a reader feel as if she were talking, riding, fighting, loving, and suffering along with the characters. At the beginning of 2011, I made a choice to rewrite the entire thing. In November 2012, I finally finished The Seven Noble Knights of Lara. Maybe four or five sentences from the first attempt have survived. Most have been expanded or replaced with researched historical context and, more importantly, excitement, emotion, and fast-paced action.
Seven Noble Knights (new shorter title) has been edited and rewritten and edited again, and is currently seeking representation. Wish me luck! Or feel free to contact me if you're an agent or publisher.