Interview: Nancy Reagin, editor of Twilight & History

Today we are excited to bring you an exclusive Q&A with Nancy Reagin, the editor of Twilight & History, a very cool new book that explores historical lessons based on The Twilight Saga — things like courting rituals from Edward’s era, the Civil War that Jasper fought in, and the history of the Quileutes. Next month, we’ll have a chance for you to win copies of Twilight & History, along with some other cool educational Twilight books. But in the meantime, here is our interview with Nancy — so you can learn more about what her book has to offer:

What was the original concept/idea behind creating Twilight and History?

Well, the publisher asked me and I said yes, essentially, because it sounded like such a fun project to work on. I’d been a fan of Twilight for several years, because it was my son’s favorite series and he’d pulled me into reading and discussing it with him (which is why I dedicated the book to him!).

The publisher, Wiley & Sons, has a long-established and successful series in philosophy and popular culture, and they’d done some surveys that revealed that many fans were very interested in the history in and behind particular series, as much as they were interested in the philosophy. One of the editors involved with the philosophy series has known me for years, and he was aware that I was a very engaged and active fan, and that I loved Twilight and Harry Potter in particular, as well as being a history professor who publishes a lot of scholarly history. So, they approached me about editing a book on history and both of those series, and I agreed (with great delight, because it was so much fun to do).

How will Twilight and History enhance reading Stephenie Meyer’s original books for fans?

Twilight and History is (I hope) a really good reader’s companion for the series, and it offers fans of Twilight what you’d expect from any good reader’s companion volume: a new way into the series, and new information that enhances your enjoyment and appreciation of Twilight and its characters. It certainly doesn’t compete with Stephenie Meyer’s series (or any future works she produces for Twilight, which I certainly hope we’ll see!); instead, Twilight and History offers readers of the original series new and additional historical information about the backdrops and cultures that the characters come from.

If you love a story world and characters, you are always left wanting more: among many other things, you’d like to know more about their world, back histories, and background. And most really good fantasy series like Twilight and Harry Potter do use chunks of real history as building blocks for their imagined worlds. The authors weave real history into the background of their stories, and insert their characters into particular historical settings as a form of character development.

So, Twilight and History can tease out the pieces of real history from that imagined world, and discuss what the back history and cultures of some of the characters would have been, because Stephenie Meyers tells us when and where they were born and grew up. And our identity resides in our history; you can always understand someone better if you know his or her history.

I’m hoping that giving the reader more information about what it was like for Carlisle growing up in 17th century London, for example, or about what Alice would have suffered in an asylum during that period, or what someone in Jasper’s regiment during the Civil War would have gone through will give Twilight fans new information about the characters’ backgrounds and help readers to enjoy the series even more, because it will give them a richer appreciation of the characters and the Twilight world.

What are the benefits to connecting real-life history lessons to a fictional book series like Twilight?

There is a lot of research that shows that students learn more and retain more if they’re enjoying themselves while learning. One prominent history professor I know put it really simply once when he said to me: “someone who’s having just fun learns more.”

Using an accurate, well-researched reader’s companion like Twilight and History as a way to learn real-life history lessons makes you care about that history, if you’re a Twilight fan to begin with. It connects history lessons to something (or someone) who was interesting to you, to start with. It uses the characters as a way into real history. For example, the chapter on Carlisle uses that character as a way to explore a whole slew of historical events and changes: Puritanism, the English Civil War, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment! The chapter on the Volturi uses them in an entertaining way to convey a lot of information about the politics and social structures of Renaissance Italy.

How do you think Twilight, in particular, lends itself to this sort of project more than other books might?

There is a lot of real history in Twilight to begin with, because Stephenie Meyer’s vampires come from different historical cultures around the world! There are some other series that do use as much history as Twilight does (like Harry Potter), but not many!

What next step(s) would you recommend for readers who want to explore any of the specific topics from Twilight and History further?

Each of the chapters has a set of endnotes (some are very detailed!) that cite both secondary literature and primary sources for the culture and historical period that the chapter is exploring. Any reader could find a huge quantity of suggestions for additional reading on a given topic there.

What was your favorite part about editing Twilight and History?

Learning more about the back history of the Twilight characters, myself! I recruited authors for the various chapters who had particular expertise in the time or place that each chapter focused on, and the information they came up with was sometimes new even to me. The British historian who wrote the chapter on Carlisle, for example, had a section that unpacked and explained what the childhood of someone who (like Carlisle) grew up motherless in 17th century London would have been like, and it made me see him in a new light.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

The realization that history doesn’t need to be boring! And more seriously, I hope that they realize that learning about the history and background of a group of people (or even fictional characters) can help you to understand and appreciate them even more, so that readers have gained a new way into the story and its world.

Thanks once again to Nancy for giving us this great interview — and check out Twilight & History, now in stores!

For the comments: What Twilight-inspired history lesson are you most interested in learning more about?


3 Responses

  1. […] Check out the interview for yourself by clicking here!!! […]

  2. A unique idea for a book. Rosalie, especially, probably has a very historically interesting past.


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