I decided to dedicate each of my books to the person the book is about. Without people like Tuccia, Marie Laveau, and Joan of Arc, I wouldn't have a career. (Or the potential for a career, anyway.)
Someone pointed out to me that it's odd to dedicate a book to a person who's dead. It's not like that person is ever going to read it.
I answered, "What are you talking about? Of course they're reading it." When I pass on, I'll want to read everything people write about me. Goodness knows I'll have the time for it.
Having an eternal perspective makes me look at historical fiction differently. Because I believe all these people are still alive as spirits, I believe I'm going to meet them someday.
My "characters" might approach me and say, "You know, I really don't appreciate what you wrote about me." Or, "You got it all wrong!" Or, hopefully, "I'm so glad you took the time to tell my story."
When I heard Margaret George speak at the Historical Novel Society Conference, she said she writes her books as if the main character were peering over her shoulder. I believe our characters really do peer over our shoulders. They're eager to see how they'll be remembered.
What if you don't believe in a hereafter? If people cease to exist after they die, your responsibility toward the dead is even greater. The stories we tell are then the only thing left of them. They will never have the chance to defend themselves or tell their side of the story. That's really sad to think about.
Having an eternal perspective also makes me feel pressured to be accurate. I don't know if this is a Mormon thing or a Christian thing, but I believe when I die I can see everything that's happened in the past.
In fact, a friend of mine said whenever her dad doesn't know who to punish for a misdeed, he says, "I can't wait until I go to heaven and find out who did this!"
One day, I'm going to go over my characters' lives like watching video tapes and I'm going to see everything I got wrong. My guess is I'm going to feel like an idiot. Not only will I see all the inaccuracies, but I'll get all these ideas for things I could have added to the book if only I had done my research.
After all, I believe a person's real life is more interesting than we could ever make it seem in a book. Most writers don't seem to feel that way. Perhaps I'll write an article expanding on that idea some other time.