Allison Amend, author of ‘Enchanted Islands,’ visits Bookworm of Edwards
If you go …
What: Author event with Allison Amend and her book “Enchanted Islands.”
When: 6 p.m. Monday, July 18.
Where: The Bookworm of Edwards, 295 Main St., Riverwalk at Edwards.
More information: Call 970-926-7323, or visit www.bookwormofedwards.com.
EDWARDS — “History often forgets the small players, but it’s those people I want to celebrate in my fiction.”
Allison Amend, author of “Stations West” and “Nearly Perfect Copy,” never intended to be a historical fiction writer. However, the small players she has found in history continue to beg to be written. Her readers are certainly glad they do.
Today at 6 p.m., The Bookworm of Edwards will host Amend in a discussion of her newest novel, “Enchanted Islands.” This novel finds its backdrop in the Galapagos Islands in the 1930s, inspired by the missing pieces in the historical documents of Frances Conway. Friendship is at the core of Amend’s novel but is viewed over an extended and constantly changing time period, with nods to both World Wars.
“I’ve been interested in writing about the Galapagos Islands since I trip I took there as a teenager,” Amend said. “While researching a series of murders and disappearances that took place in the 1930s on one island, Floreana, I came across the real Frances Conway’s memoirs. I immediately fell in love with her voice — funny, self-deprecating, full of wonder and delight. I wanted to spend more time with her.
“But her memoirs were also notable for what they left out. She said nothing about her life before arriving in the Galapagos, nor did she reveal the reasons she and her husband embarked on such a voyage. Where history leaves gaps, fiction steps in. I wanted to honor her spirit of adventure.”
Following Her Imagination
Amend is no stranger to the meticulous research process necessitated by a work of historical fiction. Her first novel, “Stations West,” is a testament to her time visiting Vail during her childhood. Falling in love with the landscape and the history of the mountains, Amend dove into her first extensive research project.
“After ‘Stations West,’ I swore I would never write another historical novel again,” Amend said. “It was simply too much research. But although my next novel, ‘A Nearly Perfect Copy,’ was set in contemporary New York City and Paris, it required extensive research on art forgery. I am now resigned to the fact that I like researching.
“When this story grabbed my imagination, I followed where it led, exploring spy tradecraft in South America during World War II and traveling with my characters to Duluth, Minnesota, at the end of the 19th century. I even found the characters stopping in San Francisco between the wars. I took a trip to Floreana to experience Frances’ environment. I wanted to feel, smell and see what inspired Frances to write her memoirs. I had, of course, been hoping to visit from the time I decided to set the novel there, and the islands were just as magical as I remembered.”
In the midst of the paradise of the Islands, war rages around Amend’s two characters, Frances and Rosalie. These childhood companions come from distinctly different backgrounds, and both find unique paths in life. It is when they reconnect in adulthood that we see the true depths of their friendship.
“My favorite scenes to write were Frances and Rosalie as adults,” Amend said. “Their friendship, which is so much like my own strong female friendships, is both fulfilling and fraught. They bicker like an old married couple, but you can see the love there and the fierce loyalty. Frances’ life spanned perhaps the most change-filled years in history, and she successfully navigates them as an independent woman who chooses her own family in her friend Rosalie and adapts to her surroundings.”
The small players found in history led lives that have shaped the present world. It is authors like Amend who bring their stories back from the past, breathing life into a forgotten, but vital, history.