Stories of Serendipity: Writing Historical Fiction Series Featuring Writer Denise DiFulco
Stephanie Renee dos Santos
Welcome to week seven of the stories of serendipity series, where authors share their tales of serendipity and synchronicity while writing, researching and publishing historical fiction, and their speculations about such occurrences.
This Sunday I’m pleased to introduce writer Denise DiFulco and her “when stars or I should say an ancestral heart aligns” story of serendipity while researching her upcoming novel…
“Early in the research for my novel, tentatively titled Passage, my family and I planned to take a trip to Washington, D.C. I decided it would be a good idea to stop by the U.S. Holocaust Museum while I was there since the museum’s library contained several rare books that were on my reading list.
When I arrived, I spoke with a docent to get my bearings. I told her why I was there and that the inspiration for my book was my grandfather, born in Hamburg, Germany, of whom I knew little to nothing. Her eyes widened, and she replied, “Well you should talk to Beate. She’s here today from Hamburg.”
Beate Meyer, as it turns out, is the Senior Researcher at the Institute of the History of German Jews in Hamburg. She was at the museum for just a couple of days, which happened to coincide with my trip. Though she was busy with her own work, she sat with me for a half hour and allowed me to browse her personal lists of Jewish Hamburg residents on her laptop. While I couldn’t find any of my grandfather’s relations immediately on that list, I left there with her email address and an invitation to write to her seeking more information.
When she returned to Germany, Beate searched the Hamburg Jewish archives and found matches for my great-grandfather and great-great grandfather. Those records provided me with some new birth and death dates along with information about their families, salaries and occupations. The details were limited, but invaluable. They since have opened many new paths of discovery for me, and gave me a whole new basis for understanding my protagonist—my grandfather—and for developing his possible motivations.
Some might say my meeting Beate was mere coincidence, but I don’t think so. Having no other source for this information, since anyone who could share it has long since passed, I can only believe that this story wants to be told. It is willing itself to be told. Other crumbs have been dropped for me along the path I’m taking. By whom or by what I can’t explain. What I do know for certain is that it’s up to me to follow the trail.”
For more about Denise’s work:
See you here next Sunday, October 20th, for author Jack Hughes’ serendipitous story– when guarded secrets are discovered!