How much of this book is fictional?
I get this question often.
The short answer is: Very little is fictional.
Like most good historical fiction, a few fictional characters have been created to enable readers to view the historical past from the perspective of people living inside it.
All of the people in the story are real people, except for those listed on the table of fictional characters at the beginning of the book. When a historical character is introduced, his or her name is in italics. Almost all of these historical characters can be found in Wikipedia for further details.
In addition, all of the places are real places, carefully researched in older books and/or on the internet. You can generally find them on Google Earth (unless their name in the 1840s has been replaced with a newer name—which would be mentioned in the footnotes). Similarly, the sketches in the books are generally scenes from real places.
The times, the seasons, and even the phases of the moon are also accurate. I created a spreadsheet to list all of the points of travel, the distances between them and the typical speed of travel so that I could, thereby, calculate the dates for each place they visited. It is also possible to get typical monthly weather for most places, so that could be added as needed. Online calendars enable one to make accurate translations from Gregorian dates to the dates on the lunar calendar used in the East.
Adventist and those of similar Christian denominations know that William Miller was a particularly important historic figure in the field of American religious development. Prof. George Bush (pgs 25, 78 & 81, Vol I) was also real, as were my references to the book he wrote. (On my own, I would never have chosen to name a fictional character after a later president—it only adds to the confusion! But he’s historical, so the name could not be changed.)
For those who are familiar with Google Earth and its “street view” feature, I say that history is to historical fiction as Google Earth’s aerial view is to its street view. While history sees the whole picture from above, historical fiction takes you into the historic scenes themselves, to give the reader the sense of being there—a sort of front-row seat when watching history enfold.
And, as in street view, the fictional characters can view, but not change, the scenes. They move across the panorama of history like a transparency sliding over a painting—learning and observing but unable to change the underlying history. These are the rules for writing historic fiction.
Generally, fictional characters do not interact with historic characters. Or when they do, it cannot be in a manner that affects history in any way. (That would be “alternative history”—a branch of fantasy, which is an entirely different genre.) Although my main character has two meetings with William Miller (and a minor meeting with Margaret Fuller) no significant change in their perspective can occur.
Like the famous historical fictional movie “Titanic,” there is nothing that Rose and Jack can do to change the historic outcome. Yet, their presence as fictional characters in this historic situation brings to life, for all its viewers, to what might otherwise seem like a dry recounting of historical facts.
One final non-fictional aspect of my novel is the epilogue. This is entirely historical. It traces further historical steps along four aspects of the story line, as the world evolved beyond the critical year of 1844.
The book also has footnotes, endnotes and a bibliography. These are unusual for a novel, but needed because of its large historical component.
Available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Wise-Men-West-Search-Promised/dp/173245115X