C.W. Gortner, Deanna Raybourn, Elizabeth Chadwick, favourite historical fiction authors, Helen Hollick, Hilary Mantel, historical fiction survey, Margaret George, Michelle Moran, Sharon Kay Penman, Susan Higginbotham, writing historical fiction
Those who are frequent readers will know of the interviews I’ve conducted with top historical fiction authors. Collectively these interviews generated lots of interest and discussion. But … what can we learn by looking across nine favourite authors?
One question I asked was what do you think attracts readers to your books. Let’s have a look.
Sharon Kay Penman: readers appreciate “that I am writing of people who actually lived and events that really happened” and “my efforts to be as historically accurate as humanly possible.”
C. W. Gortner: “readers have told me … I write about human beings, not cliches: that I show flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths” and “find the connections between us … that shared emotional experience”
Hilary Mantel: tries to bring the “best writing she can” to her readers … “finds the dramatic shape in real events” … and regards each novel as a “joint effort between writer and reader”
Susan Higginbotham: tells stories “through fresh viewpoints” and “treats the historical figures … with respect” and “tries to avoid black-or-white characters or cliched characters”
Helen Hollick: ” I think the passion I feel for my characters comes across in my writing”
Michelle Moran: “I hope it’s the historical accuracy and the ability to be transported back in time”
Elizabeth Chadwick: readers tell me “they love the feeling as if they are there in the moment … appreciate that the characters are of their time, believable and not anachronistic … they enjoy the vividness, the colour and also the emotional and historical integrity”.
Margaret George: “people do say they feel like they are really there”
Deanna Raybourn: “I try to tell a good story with characters my readers will care about. I am rabid on the subject of historical accuracy”
Common threads – historical accuracy, characters we can understand and care about, the drama of history, vividness of the time.
Connecting back to the survey – the top three reasons for reading historical fiction are (1) to bring the past to life appreciating how people lived and coped in very different times, (2) because it’s a great story, and (3) to understand and learn about historical periods without reading non-fiction. And the number one response to the question of what detracts from your enjoyment of historical fiction – historical inaccuracies.
No wonder these authors are favourites!