The thing that most attracts me to historical fiction is taking the factual record as far as it is known, using that as scaffolding, and then letting imagination build the structure that fills in those things we can never find out for sure.
I had been afraid of breast cancer, as I suspect most women are, from the time I hit adolescence. At that age, when our emerging sexuality is our central preoccupation, the idea of disfigurement of a breast is particularly horrifying.
My mother's family were full-on Irish Catholics - faith in an elaborate old fashioned, highly conservative and madly baroque style. I sort of fell out of the tribe over women's rights and social justice issues when I was just 13 years old.
For most people, chemotherapy is no longer the chamber of horrors we often conceive it to be. Yes, it is an ordeal for some people, but it wasn't for me, nor for most of the patients I got to know during my four months of periodic visits to the chemo suite.
How strange it is, Anna. Yesterday, I have filed in my mind as a good day, notwithstanding it was filled with mortal illness and the grieving of the recently bereft. Yet it is a good day, for the simple fact that no one died upon it. We are brought to a sorry state, that we measure what is good by such a shortened yardstick.
But that Franklin trip changed me profoundly. As I believe wilderness experience changes everyone. Because it puts us in our place. The human place, which our species inhabited for most of its evolutionary life. That place that shaped our psyches and made us who we are. The place where nature is big and we are small.