Katana Duet: Samurai’s Forbidden Love is categorized as historical fiction so how much of the story is TRUE?
1) So did the Matsumoto really exist?
No. The twins are 100% fiction however there were many, many samurai who did come to the United States for an education and some even settled permanently.
2) Is there such a place as Ise-han (Ise feud)?
No, however, there were domains in northern Japan which were decimated by the Imperial Army in 1868 which is often incorrectly portrayed as a bloodless revolution to restore the Emperor to political power.
3) How above the Lennartssons–were they for real?
No, however there were numerous families in Wisconsin and Michigan which had that lastname.
4) Is there such a place as the College/ University of Wisconsin?
Ofcourse! In fact the early bacteria in connection to dairy research in that very era was part of the inspiration for Katana Duet. I promise you that Katana Duet is not about milk and cheese though (^_^). The University of Wisconsin to this day is an impressive institution and rightfully called a “public” ivy league due to its incredible devotion to education since its early days in the 19th century to the present.
Rather than a Q & A format I will list all the true elements of the novel below.
~ Farmers with two homes. Konrad Lennartsson inherited a farm in the rural area and also a family home in Madison along late Mendota. This arrangement was not uncommon during the 19th century actually especially when so many families took great pride and sending their sons to the university even if it was for a year or two.
~ zwei-goat the two-headed goat really did exist and lived for a few years often as the conversational piece of parties.
~ Polly and Daisy also did exist and were at the center of the controversy regarding milk cows infected with tuberculosis.
~ The law where former slaves travelling past the area had to live by train tracks. Due to the law that former slaves were not allowed to live under the same roof as white people, travelers of color did have to stay in shacks along the train tracks until a wealthy African American couple opened their own inn in the city. The inn owners became well-known community leaders and Madison itself really was a center for remarkably progressive ideas during the 19th century.
~ Gingerbread? How does gingerbread figure into the story? You’ll have to read the story but I just put in that detail for fun because many German immigrants handed down heirloom gingerbread recipes.
~ What’s with the rabbit colonies? I’m most proud of the general details regarding the research undertaken by Konrad and Aki. Their methods were actually slightly ahead of their time, on the right track but slightly flawed that’s all. Rabbits were the favorite lab animal of that era and to this day. Although no footnotes were left in the text, in fact everything Konrad and Aki did were techniques used by foremost physicians who researched the white plague. There were more fascinating details to include but I left it out to keep the story a certain length.
I connected the element of the mysterious illness to Wisconsin due the sanitorium in that era which housed both the mentally ill and TB patients. Poorhouses in the state, often filled with immigrants, also cared for the ill. I was deeply impressed by the young nurses and handsome doctors who devoted their lives to their patients and upon becoming infected, married one another. In one case a young couple in the medical field died in their late thirties.
The story is set in Madison Wisconsin along Lake Mendota and the Isthmus. I purposefully used the location because I wanted to tie in a historical event which actually occurred later in the 19th century. To learn more about Madison during Aki and Akeno’s time there please visit the Wisconsin State Historical Society Website.
In the book House of Open Doors by Harold Holand, there is a fascinating case of the sacrifice of cows sick with consumption and the heroic work of doctors and nurses in studying and caring for TB patients. I combined that detail with the extraordinary account of Healing Tuberculosis in the woods : medicine and science at the end of the nineteenth century by David L. Ellison. The concept of a stage show “Katana Duet” grew from the intense popularity of circuses in that era. Wisconsin is also accepted to be the home of the major travelling road shows we have all seen or heard of.
Basically I combined many, many historical details, some years apart and shifted everything over to suit the needs of my characters.
Should I make a bit of money from Katana Duet I would like to acquire Loomis: The Man, The Sanitorium and the Search for the Cure as it complements Healing Tuberculosis… by Ellison.
All research for Katana Duet was conducted at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, Memorial Library and Ebling Medical Library at the UW-Madison campus.