Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fighting for a War That Was So Awful, It Caused Grown-Ups to Believe in Fairies

I'm planning to remain somewhat secretive about the plot of In the Shadow of Blackbirds until the book sells, but I'll divulge the setting for the sake of this post: WWI America.

Don't know much about WWI?  You're not alone.  For some reason, that particular war gets buried in our collective history beneath most other major American conflicts.  As you may have read, the last surviving American WWI veteran, Frank Buckles, just passed away. He was troubled that Washington, D.C., has never erected a national memorial for WWI. A website dedicated to his cause, www.wwimemorial.org, states the following:

"...while the later conflicts of the 20th century—World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War—rightfully have national memorials on the National Mall, there is no such memorial to 'the Great War,' even though more Americans gave their lives in World War I than in Korea or Vietnam."

Elsie Wright with a "fairy."
How did I personally become interested in this forgotten war? When I was around twelve years old, I saw a Ripley's Believe It or Not episode about the Cottingley Fairies. In 1917 two English girls, 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her 10-year-old cousin, Frances Griffiths, claimed to have photographed fairies near their home. Grown-ups believed them—including photography experts and Sherlock Holmes's creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—and the girls became famous. The narrator of Ripley's, Jack Palance, explained that the reason adults believed the fairies were real was because WWI was so horrifying. I wondered exactly how atrocious the era had been if grown, educated people were convinced fairies genuinely frolicked in the English countryside.

I later learned about the boom in Spiritualism during the early 1900s, which also came about because of the horrors of WWI. Long story short, I dove deep inside the history and came up with In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a ghostly vision of WWI America, as seen through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old girl.

If you find yourself rooting for Frank Buckles's dream of honoring the thousands of Americans who lost their lives in the war that was so awful, it caused grown-ups to believe in fairies, head to www.wwimemorial.org. If you want to learn more about the Cottingley Fairy photographs, you can visit sites such as www.cottingley.net/fairies.shtml.

And, of course, if you want to keep up-to-date with my adventures of bringing In the Shadow of Blackbirds to a bookstore near you, follow along at this blog, Twitter, Facebook, or my mailing list.


Ara Burklund said...

Such fascinating stuff about history! I love all the details you dig up!!! : )

Cat Winters said...

Thanks. Luckily, I picked up some great trivia while growing up and stored it all in my memory.