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What next? More history or another novel?

My business card identifies me as "Historian and Novelist." I've published four nonfiction books in my field of U.S. history and four novels, three set in 18th-century New Mexico and the fourth (and most recent) set in San Francisco in the 1950s. Now I'm at a crossroads. Do I return to nonfiction or try to write another novel? My nonfiction books have had much larger sales and seem to have a lot of staying power. I still hear now and then from people who've just read A Scattered People, a book published in 1985. But the novels have been fun to write, and I'm much more likely to be surprised by phrases, scenes, and plots that come to mind as I write them. At age eighty I question whether I have the time and energy to do the eight or more years of intensive research required for a book-length historical study. The thing that keeps me from fussing too much about that fact is that each of my novels has had a strong historical setting for which I've enjoyed bringing my skills in historical research to bear. So, it sounds as though I'm strongly drawn to writing another novel. Now all I need is a time, place, and plot and a first line to set the whole thing in motion.

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