Why I Write Historical Fiction

This post first appeared in One Writer’s Voice on June 29, 2010. Still as applicable now as it was then. MKT

The first historical fiction I remember reading was one I borrowed from my mother’s bookshelf when I was twelve or thirteen. The jacket design promised romance, a handsome, heroic man, a beautiful, bold woman and the inevitable intrigue and dangers of eighteenth century Scotland. I could not put it down.

Ever since, historical fiction has been my preferred genre and I delight in finding new authors who explore a particular time in history. Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, Ken Follett, Anne Perry, Jean Auel, Rosemary Sutcliff, Taylor Caldwell, Sharon Kay Penman, Jean Plaidy, Daphne Du Maurier, Nigel Tranter, Sebastian Faulks – the list goes on and on.

These captivating stories, rooted in real events and characters, transport me to a time and place so different from my own. I could even convince myself that I was learning something! Some escape into whodunits, I escape into history.

In a way, then, it doesn’t surprise me that I was drawn into writing historical fiction when I began my first novel; drawn into, then entirely captivated to the point of obsession with the time and place of the early twentieth century. Often when I write, I lift my head with the sudden awareness of hunger and discover the entire house is dark, except for the light in my office. Once again, I have researched, pondered and written the day away.

What continues to intrigue me about this particular time in history is its tangible, tantalizing proximity – near enough for personal connection, distant enough for perspective, surprise and wonder.

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