Yesterday was the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and I only noticed the date to send birthday wishes to a couple of Facebook friends. Before the hate mail starts, let me plead that my father is no longer around to remind me of the unspeakable chaos he saw as a young second lieutenant just out of OCS that Sunday in 1941, when the U.S.'s west coast anticipated imminent invasion. Without his call, I spent my first cup of coffee flipping through an article in Solander, the magazine of The Historical Novel Society looking at an article on settings for historical fiction. WWII is still big. Don't I know it, in spite of my December 7 lapse. Almost every year the foreign authors book group I belong to in Dallas picks at least one read with a Second World War connection.
What I didn't see in the article was a discussion of why particular settings are so fertile for fiction. Isn't it because, whether the era is a world war or the equally over-used Tudor England, they were periods of change? Because the single overriding requirement for fiction is tension. And change is tension.
While my family discussed the negligible value of the Filipino invasion money I discovered in cleaning out my dad's house -- money the Japanese empire printed during its occupation of the Philippine Islands -- my son-in-law told me that the most valuable invasion money is that Japan printed in anticipation of its occupation of Hawaii, an anticipation thwarted on Dec. 7, 1941. So -- still looking for a setting for your historical novel? Whether it's a time that's been written about often or seldom, choose one when everything changed. When the unexpected happened. When empires were born. Or when they died.
(Like historical fiction? Check out http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/ )