A Secret Alchemy, A.S. Byatt, Ariana Franklin, Earthly Joys, Elizabeth Chadwick, Emma Darwin, English History Authors blog, Ghostwalk, Henry Treece, historical fiction, interviewing readers, Mistress of the Art of Death, Pamela Hartshorne, Philippa GRegory, Possession, reader insights, reader interviews, Rebecca Stott, The Children’s Crusade, The History Girls, The Marsh King’s Daughter, Time’s Echo, Writing Historical Novels blog
Sue from East Anglia is the 9th interview in this reader series. I, for one, am enjoying hearing from readers about their personal preferences and backgrounds. Definitely an eclectic mix of viewpoints!
Tell us a little about yourself. I am female, and 51 years of age. My education has included studying for two history degrees and a postgraduate course in library and information studies. Now living in East Anglia, in England, I am a historical researcher and librarian (I do wear the spectacles, but don’t have the bun of the stereotype!). Pastimes include walking in the countryside, visiting art galleries and museums, and making pasta.
Please tell us about your reading habits and preferences. I’ve never actually counted the number of books I read per year, maybe I ought to start… It is usual for me to have several books on the go at once, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and also a mix of print and e-book. Although initially skeptical, I do enjoy reading my Kindle (which is especially convenient when travelling).
How do you decide which books to buy? What influences your purchases? The cover of the book has to appeal to me and reading the publisher’s blurb will help with the decision when buying. Nowadays a tagline on an author’s website can also grab my attention, such as ‘two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him’ (Anna Belfrage), and ‘JF Penn – Thrillers on the edge’ . If I’ve read a book on the Kindle which I’ve particularly enjoyed, I will buy the print version.
What do you like about historical fiction? What don’t you like? I enjoy being immersed in another world – set in time and place, believable characters, and a strong story. I’m not keen on the ‘alternate history’ subgenre of historical fiction.
What types of historical fiction do you prefer? I thought I tended to gravitate towards the seventeenth century in historical fiction, though a quick analysis of a few favourite books shows a wider range (see below). From the examples below it also seems that I have predilection for novels set in the present and the past, which is quite a surprise. I prefer books which are set in a real place.
Do you have historical fiction books or authors you would recommend to other readers? Can you tell us why? A few favourite historical fiction books:
- The Children’s Crusade by Henry Treece, which I loved as a child (13th century)
- The Marsh King’s Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick (13th century)
- Possession by A.S. Byatt (Present/Victorian)
- Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory (17th century)
- Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (12th century)
- A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin (Present/15th century)
- Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott (Present/17th century)
- Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne (Present/16th century)
All the authors are great writers and storytellers.
In today’s world, there are so many opportunities to talk and learn about books – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book clubs – can you tell us about your experiences, where you go to talk or learn about books, why you enjoy discussions about books? I haven’t ventured into the world of social media as yet, nor onto Goodreads. Though as a Historical Novel Society member, I rely on the society website, newsletter and quarterly magazine to learn about new historical fiction. Individual author blogs and websites, and other blogs such as http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/, http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://writinghistoricalnovels.com/ now also feature in my reading habits.
What advice do you have for writers of historical fiction? Not really advice – but I relish knowing what inspired the author to write about a particular subject. I like to know which characters are based on real people and which are purely fictional. The inclusion of author’s notes, genealogies, maps, sources, timelines and even bibliographies are a definite bonus for me in a work of historical fiction. (I note that the majority of the books mentioned above do include author’s notes)
Is there anything else about reading historical fiction that you’d like to comment on? Historical fiction (from both traditional and indie publishers) seems to be in a healthy position at the moment, long may it continue.
I agree, Sue. Long may it continue! And many thanks for adding your perspective to the mix.