Please welcome Gina L. Mulligan as our guest today. Gina is a veteran freelance journalist for numerous national magazines and the author of the award-winning novels, Remember the Ladies and From Across the Room. After her own diagnosis, Gina founded Girls Love Mail, a national charity that collects handwritten letters of encouragement for women with breast cancer. She was honored for her charitable work on the nationally syndicated television talk show The Steve Harvey Show, and was featured on People.com and TODAY.com.
I was working on an epistolary novel and had been researching letters for years. Then I became a cancer patient and received over 200 get-well letters and cards. This was when I realized the healing properties of letters and they became my passion. Along with finishing my epistolary novel, FROM ACROSS THE ROOM, I started a charity called Girls Love Mail that collects hand-written letters of encouragement for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Since our start in 2011, we’ve sent out over 70,000 letters.
Dear Reader: Does the Epistolary Novel Still Have a Place in Modern Literature?
If you lived in the late 1700s, you drank corn whiskey, spun your own cloth, and spent your evenings in the glow of candlelight reading an epistolary novel. If the term epistolary is unfamiliar, you’re not alone. An epistolary novel is a fictional story told through letters, and though it’s not common today, it was the most popular novel format throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. In fact, epistolary novelist Samuel Richardson was the Stephen King of his day. Then tastes changed and writers turned to Gothic romances and adopted more straightforward narratives. Since its heyday, the epistolary novel really hasn’t made a come-back. As an author who wrote an epistolary novel and runs a letter writing charity, I had to ask if there’s still a place for this beautiful, albeit challenging, format in modern fiction.
A Voyeuristic Peek
Though we now think of letter writing as a lost art, letters hold a certain fascination because they are a voyeuristic peek into private thoughts and actions. Letters have long been preserved as national historical records, and who hasn’t heard a story about discovering a bundle of long-lost love letters in the attic trunk? If real letters pique our interest, can they be used to create a compelling novel? Part of the answer is found in the format itself. Letters provide intimate insights, remove author intrusion, advance plot, and develop characters. [Read more…]