Have you ever wondered about the story behind the story you just read? There always is one. Every author writes from some kind of inspiration, every good one anyway.
Most novels these days have these sections where you can learn about the author's motivation, details about the historical content, admissions of places where the author fudged the historical facts. If you normally skip these, don't. You'll probably find out something you didn't know and find tidbits that will enrich your enjoyment of the novel.
I went to my shelf and pulled down a few old favorites to use as examples.
From Liz Curtis Higgs's Here Burns My Candle:
"Lord Mark Kerr--pronounced "care" with a wee roll to the r--played an interesting role in the '45. After Sir John Cope and his troops were humiliated at Gladsmuir, Sir John supposedly fled to Berwick, the northernmost town in England. Lord Mark greeted him with the wry observation that Sir John was the first general in Europe to bring news of his own defeat. Whether the tale is true or simply a Jacobite fable meant to discredit Sir John, the story has stuck to this day, thanks to one verse of the popular Jacobite song "Hey Johnnie Cope":
Says Lord Mark Car, "Ye are na blate;
To bring us the news o' your ain defeat;
I think you deserve the back o' the gate,
Get out o' my sight this morning.""
Inspiration for Life
My version of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has included in the back an article she had written for This Week magazine called, "Fall in Love with Life: A Piece by Betty Smith". The whole article is worth sharing, but for now I'll only include a bit:
"When I wept childish tears as they cut down the only tree in our tenement yard, I knew I would plant a tree everywhere I lived...I came to a clear conclusion, and it is a universal one: To live, to struggle, to be in love with life--in love with all life holds, joyful or sorrowful--is fulfillment. The fullness of life is open to all of us."
History Can Hopefully Repeat Itself
From Stephen Lawhead's Scarlet:
"We who live in 'Christian' countries that have become largely post-Christian may have some difficulty appreciating the depth of passion aroused by the changes introduced to the English church by the Normans. We have only to look at the present turmoil resulting from conflict between religious powers in certain parts of the world to appreciate just how violent these struggles can become...Yet, it is worth pointing out that in the medieval world, when disease and death were constant, grim companions and the grave an all-too-likely prognosis for everything from toothache to plague, the church with its promise of eternal salvation was the solitary hope and ultimate sanctuary for those who lived beneath its sheltering wings: virtually every man, woman, and child alive in the land."