I loved Janet Fox's new novel Forgiven (reviewed here), so I am excited to start off the blog tour with this guest post from Janet.
One of my favorite aspects of writing historical fiction is the research. I try to find a variety of sources – contemporary, original, fiction, nonfiction – and dive in to immerse myself in the period. When I dove into the research behind Kula’s story I thought I’d find a rich and sparkling San Francisco, a city of glamour and art, of Nob Hill and the opera (almost all destroyed by the 1906 earthquake, but that’s another story.) I had no idea that I’d discover a dark underworld of child exploitation, and how deeply that underworld would affect me.
I made my first discovery of this aspect of life in San Francisco at the turn of the last century when I read Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune, a novel set in the 1800s. One of her main characters is a doctor who treats, and tries to save, the young “sing-song girls” (so called because of the way they enticed their customers from their tiny windows by chanting) locked in their dank cribs. Then I picked up the non-fiction classic The Barbary Coast (Herbert Asbury). Asbury does not shrink from depicting the raw and brief life suffered by these child prisoners, sold or kidnapped into slavery in China and transported across the Pacific in the holds of ships, in which they received their first dose of abuse. Asbury quotes primary sources – newspapers, court documents – with raw facts about the girls. After that I unearthed photographs and newspaper articles about these children (the range of ages was 1 to 18 years) when I searched the online San Francisco archives.
These girls haunted me, they haunted my dreams, and I knew I had to include something of their tragedy in Forgiven. They haunted Kula, too, and made her realize that she was more a child of privilege than she’d ever imagined in comparison to the sing-song girls.
What continues to haunt me is that the kind of exploitation they suffered still goes on, all over the world. This reality has made me want to play a part, however small, in ridding the world of an undeniable evil.
An evil that I uncovered while I was doing research for Forgiven – which I think shows the power of searching the past.
Janet Fox will donate a portion of the proceeds from FORGIVEN to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. To learn more about what you can do to help agencies that actively fight the exploitation and trafficking of children, visit the following websites:
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Stop Child Trafficking