I set my novel Evasions, a prequel to The Oxford Chronicles series, in England and Scotland during the early years of WWII and the Battle of Britain. After creating my fictional characters and having their basic story line in mind, I discovered in my travels and research that many times fact intersected with fiction. Some may call such intersections “coincidences,” but I believe they are “providences.” Whenever I stumbled upon these providences, a dear friend and fellow traveler would say that I had “stepped into the stream of history.”For example, I thought that my American nurse Annie Little would possibly work at the Churchill Hospital in Headington because of its proximity to C.S. Lewis’s home the Kilns, but I wasn't sure when it had even been built. On a trip to Oxford, I met a friend for lunch at the hospital, where she worked as a pharmacist. In the course of our conversation, she told me that it had actually been built by the Americans in WWII to care for wounded soldiers, something she “happened” to know because of an historical photographic display in the hospital’s former lobby.
Part of my story revolves around the refugees who lived at the Kilns during the war years, in particular, my character Annie, pregnant with her son David, who is the hero of my previously written novels Inklings, Intentions and Expectations. As I researched, I came across a letter C.S. Lewis had written a little girl, in which he stated that they had a number of evacuees staying at the Kilns and one was a six-week-old baby boy! In another instance, I learned that the Reverend Peter Bide—who had married Jack and Joy Lewis, the role I had given to my fictional Eric Mackenzie—had served in WWII and after the war decided to become an Anglican clergyman. He had a wife and children, and Lewis helped him finance his return to his studies at Oxford and then seminary—just as I had envisioned for Eric.
After I had decided that my Scottish Eric MacKenzie would begin the story as a caddie at St. Andrews, I was given a book about the caddies of the Royal and Ancient golf course called A Wee Nip at the 19th Hole. The author, Richard Mackenzie, was the caddie manager at St. Andrew’s; and when I visited the golf course, stopping by the caddie shack, he “happened” to be there. Not only was Richard very kind and willing to help with some wonderful stories about the MacKenzies, which I wove into my novel, but he is also a devoted Christian.
These providential leadings made my story more grounded in reality, and also served as markers along the way of God’s guidance and encouragement. Plus “stepping into the stream of history” can be amazing fun!