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What Keeps Bringing Author Candace Millard Back to the Turn of the Century

By Motley Fool Staff – Oct 25, 2016 at 8:20AM

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The late 19th and early 20th century period is perfect for narrative nonfiction, she says.

In this special episode of the Rule Breakers podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner talks with Candace Millard, whose latest gripping dive into history is Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. In this segment, they talk about why she keeps going back to one particular period of history for her subjects, and what attracts her about that era.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Oct. 1, 2016.

David Gardner: All right, Candice. Picking up -- well, not right where we left off, but not far from it. Part of the allure of your work, for me, is that you're going back about a hundred years, or so, in each of these three books. Now, is that a coincidence? Is it your instinct? Are you trying to specialize in some way?

Candice Millard: I'm fascinated by that period in time, and I didn't set out thinking this is the time I want to write about. It's just I happened to find stories within that time. But I will admit I love it. There's something very evocative about the late 19th, early 20th century, and I feel like you can really see it, but you can also hear it, smell it, taste it. It's just sort of cinematic, itself.

But more than that, what draws me to that time is there's just a wealth of primary source material, which is what you need in any non-fiction...but I think especially in narrative non-fiction, where you're trying to make a story come alive and trying to bring the reader with you back in time. And so if you have letters, if you have diaries, journals, newspaper accounts, then you can have dialogue, and then you can have all those great, little details that do bring a story alive so you can know sort of...

For instance, Churchill, when he was in this camp, I found out there were some eucalyptus trees on it, so you know what it's going to smell like. And I found out, OK, they had to bathe in these little canvas tubs. And I found out what they were... They were eating this disgusting meat that they actually... That was dried meat that they actually then brought back out, the leftovers, in World War I. So all those things -- it helps you sort of experience it -- to the extent that you can. in the way that they actually did it, they were living it. 

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