An Open Request

Dear readers – some of you will know of the reader surveys I conduct and I’m delighted to provide information and insights gleaned from the data you and others have contributed. You may also have seen some of the Inside Historical Fiction posts that include interviews with many authors giving their interpretation of what makes historical fiction tick.

9 QuestionsToday’s post is an open call to add your voice to the topic as readers and/or authors. Please consider the questions that follow. Answer any or all of them and send your responses to me either directly in a blog comment or via email to mktod [at] bell [dot] net.

  1. What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?
  2. In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?
  3. Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?
  4. Do you see any particular trends in historical fiction?
  5. If you are an author, what aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novel(s)?
  6. If you are an author, what research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?

I hope this prompts a lively discussion and interesting insights and perspectives! Feel free to pass the link along to others.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

29 thoughts on “An Open Request”

  1. 1. Any unforgettable or irresistible historical novel absolutely must have characters true to their era, in a setting unique to that era, and with a plot that is believable for the era. When you read a really great historical novel, the subconscious thought that runs just below the surface is the knowledge that this story, these people, are real, and you have effortlessly become a part of their world. In other words, an unforgettable historical novel will never be a collection of 21st century tropes in costume.

    2. The best historical fiction authors understand that recreating a specific historical period requires far more than researching a few dates and facts. They must understand the minutia of the social, cultural, linguistic, religious, and economic aspects of life, and convey those to the reader in a seamless, natural fashion.

    3. Historical novels should not be contemporary novels in fancy dress. Unfortunately, too many authors–and too many readers–don’t get this crucial distinction. Historical novels recreate the past. Period.

    4. I deplore some of the trends I see in historical fiction–most are the result of authors who haven’t a clue about writing the past, and readers whose attention spans rival a gnat’s–or a tweet–and who want action on every page. Four of the very worst historical novels I have ever read were published in the past three years by Penguin/Random House, and William Morrow, and violated every single canon of the genre: bad history, mangling of facts, horrible 21st century dialogue, anachronisms on every page, and often in every paragraph, no concept whatever of the mindsets and mores of the period, and generally sophomoric writing. These are all faults many of us as readers are used to seeing in the world of self-publishing–and they are still all too evident there–but to have them firmly in the mainstream is inexcusable. Based on my experience as a reader–and a historian–the past three years have seen far more historical novels more worthy of burning than reading.

    1. The first magic ingredient is a time or situation or event recognizable to the reader. Civil War buffs will gravitate to those stories before ones set in ancient Rome. Many readers just enjoy “being there.”

      The second ingredient is a protagonist they recognize, not so much a historical figure, but someone they might know from life or art. George MacDonald Fraser stole the bully Harry Flashman from Tom Brown’s Schooldays and grows him up as a cowardly rascal.

  2. I think it would be naive to assume that any hist.fict writer would try to recreate an era without first spending time in research. I have yet to come across any hist.fict novel (in my experience as a reader which is wide but not vast) that is under-researched. Often it is more likely to be the complete opposite.

    1. The special ingredient for me is to read a novel which ISN’T about an historical figure of renown. It is the crafted ‘man in the street’ who can give me a honest and very private view into life in whatever times the book might be about.
    2. To appeal to me, the hist.fict writer must avoid the vast info-dump. Many of the most successful writers (both mainstream and independent) don’t seem to be able to tease and blend fact and fiction. Ultimately one feels one is watching a docudrama – for me, that is boredom incarnate.
    3. Another special ingredient? Don’t use anachronistic dialogue – it’s almost enough to make me shut a book and proceed no further and it’s everywhere currently! I understand that some authors feel they can appeal to a far wider readership by using 21st century idiom, but I find it hard to envisage a character dressed in whatever the costume of the era might be, uttering colloquialisms from our own time and place.
    4. Trends? Tudor era. Roman era. Early Britain is now trending to add the spice of life to subject matter. Time-slip novels as well.
    5. Negative trends are dumbing down and anachronism. And I would say that as many mainstream writers and editors are as guilty of that as independents.

    I would also add that I have in fact closed more mainstream historical fiction novels lately than indie-published ones simply because the mainstream ones conform to such an over-edited and formulaic pattern that all the freshness and life is flattened out of them. The one thing I love about reading an independently published historical fiction novel is that they live and breathe off the page.

    1. I love the sentiments in the last paragraph. When I look back at my first writing I did in 2010 it is far more spontaneous than my current writing which reflects all the how to write advice I have tried hard to deflect since then.

  3. 1. The magic ingredient is using the art of storytelling to give the reader a front-row seat at some interesting historical event like the Dreyfus trials (“An Officer and a Spy”), the founding of the State of Israel (“Exodus”), the climbing of Mount Everest (“Paths of Glory”), or the Civil Rights Era (“The Help”). And to meet the characters who figured in those endeavors, and to experience vicariously the turmoil and triumph they experienced.
    2. They recreate those events and those figures (even fictional ones) including the suspense, terror, and danger they experienced so that the reader becomes a front-line observer.
    3. They give much more detail (explanatory narration) than a contemporary novel would give so the reader understands the plot and context.
    4. Scottish romances, Tudor, Gladiators, Titanic, Wives of Famous Painters, Famous Queens and Empresses, Famous 20th century Personalities, and Nautical are perennially popular.
    5. The goals, the frustrations, the fears, the politics, the joys, and the triumphs.
    6. Books and memoirs published during the era will tell you everything you need to know about cultural quirks, medical practices of the day, psychological know-how, the political situation, the important figures of the day, the cost of goods, the types of goods available, social customs and attitudes, the popular books people were reading, the type of soap they used, the types of clothing they wore, how they valued things, jokes they told, insults, attitudes, fears, and the extraordinary lengths people went to preserve their freedom.

  4. 1. The same things that make contemporary fiction hit home – a believable character that you care about and an interesting problem.
    2. The blend is key for me – I have to feel like I am there, so there needs to be enough true to period detail, but not so much that I am feeling smothered in the specifics and lose my suspension of disbelief. I appreciate an author who finds the right detail to set the scene and build their characters without overwhelming the reader and does it seamlessly so the research is not obvious.
    3. Language is so key: period accurate usage and vocabulary and also period accuracy in what is left unsaid. Things that we voice as a matter of course in our time would be left unsaid in other time periods, so knowing how to balance your storytelling between what must be said and what should be implied or drawn in another way is a key skill.

    Other thoughts – I am a poet, so my work is very different from yours, but it still boils down to exhaustive research and the perfect detail. Poetry forces you to flay your work down to the bone and still convey a body of emotion. It’s a process of distillation, which I think the best historical fiction is too – when you have done due diligence to the time period, you are able to pick what to highlight and what to leave behind, distilling the spirit of the time rather than trying to be complete and accurate to a fault.

  5. What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?

    Background: Characters, settings and scenarios that are of their time down right down to the bone. Not just a top layer, but every layer you peel back is authentic too.
    Story – gripping. The conventions of the best story telling need to work seamlessly with the setting.

    In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?

    They research in depth and multiple disciplines. They don’t just have the magic, they have the deep magic that goes way beyond knowing the basic facts. I take it as a given that they’re good at the craft of writing. As a reader it’s a rare treat for me to find someone who has the ‘deep magic.’

    Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?

    Not really. Contemporary novels have to get it right as well and that can involve serious research. (the best crime fiction for example has to know criminal law and police procedurals). Perhaps the historical novelist has to dig deeper for the available information but the end result should be the same – a novel where the detail is seamlessly woven into a fabulous story and is an organic part of the whole.

    Do you see any particular trends in historical fiction?

    On the American side, the US seems to be owning more of its own history. For the rest, there are many ongoing trends. Apparently no one is buying Victorian at the moment so that’s perhaps (perversely) going to be the next big thing!

    If you are an author, what aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novel(s)?

    Mindsets. As a reader I find that’s the item that many authors struggle to get right and it’s an aspect that takes one heck of a lot of background reading to get right. I look at what’s behind general details and facts for the ‘advanced settings’ (I suppose you’d call them on a computer) – and that’s when one starts hitting the real paydirt and finding stories beneath the stories.

    If you are an author, what research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?

    Primary sources, academic secondary sources, archaeological study, art and artefacts, site visits, museum visits, re-enactment, practical archaeology, academic lecture attendance, engagement and discussions with experts in my field, internet trawling for articles and reports – and also Pinterest boards!

  6. Obviously you have to have at least some characters with depth and weaknesses too. And at least one of those characters will be on some sort of journey or quest. With ‘A Certain Measure of Perfection’ ….
    https://certainmeasureofperfection.wordpress.com

    … it was a bit different for me. I don’t know whether you would call what I write ‘historical fiction’ or more ‘historical obsession’. I chose Roger Brierley and the Grindletonians because I stumbled upon them by accident whilst researching my family history – actually, somewhat further north than Grindleton. Brierley is not a name that stumbles off everyone’s tongue like many of the Quakers etc. So I really wanted to find out who he was. There was actually a mass of information about him but – with the exception of the excellent ‘Blown by the Spirit’ (David Como), there was actually very little written up. But it was all there in archives – Lancashire Record Office, the British Library, Lambeth Palace, the Borthwick Institute in York, the National Archives at Kew, West Yorkshire Archives Service and Chetham’s Library in Manchester.
    Before I knew it I not only had enough, I had so much! And I really wanted to recreate the history. So I restricted my imagination for a while on ‘A Certain Measure of Perfection’ and allowed Roger Brierley’s own history to anchor the chapter structure in my book. That was necessary, because at 1.5 times the length of ‘War & Peace’, it would have been easy as an author to lose the thread of time through the writing of the novel. It became a little more complicated when events were harder to pin to an exact date – I struggled to date Brierley’s Halifax sermon, for example.
    If a novel has a geographical setting, it needs to read as though the author knows it from childhood. To make certain I understood the geography of the place I spent some time there. But that was not enough because places change and historical fiction needs to recognise this. Places change an awful lot over 400 years!
    I had to be historically as accurate as possible. Therefore, I used enclosure maps from the end of the 1500s which I managed to locate at the National Archives at Kew.
    Once the historical framework was there: the Grindleton period, arrest, time in prison in York, later Burnley years etc., I linked this to what I wanted the themes of ‘A Certain Measure of Perfection’ to be (How much should you compromise? Are you better changing things from the inside or the outside? The inherent perfect and imperfect in all humanity etc….). Those themes are quasi-universal – the context of them changes over 400 years …but the questions are still being asked (and always will be).
    So, there was a lot of research. Probably more than was actually needed… Most readers won’t pick up on that. But it would not have satisfied me otherwise.
    However, I think the most important thing is actually the inclusion of small details which transmit the ‘feeling’ of an era or a community. What small detail will ‘give away’ the feel, the sense, the smell, the wording of being in a Puritan-minded community in Northern England in 1615…?

    1. Many thanks for your thoughts, Simon, well illustrated through your own experience with A Certain Measure of Perfection (great title). I particularly liked “If a novel has a geographical setting, it needs to read as though the author knows it from childhood.” Definitely makes me think differently. And a good reminder that the small details of history that make for the best stories.

  7. 1. What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?

    2. In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?

    3. Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?

    I like to read novels set in other times and places (whether conscious “historicals” or novels actually written near the time and place they portray) because they allow you to see how the universal aspects of the human experience play out in a very different setting. Growing up, I was a huge fan on Science Fiction and Fantasy, in great part because those novels take you to new worlds. (And I still read some SF/F.) But as time went by I started to see the seams in some of the novels I was reading, and often it was along the lines of, “This is a novel about the Wars of the Roses, but with dragons and zombies added in.” One of the ways that SF/F writers add realism to their worldbuilding is to mine the past and the world for real elements of culture, and then use those elements to build believable other-worlds. However, I often felt like it was the historical elements that were most interesting, an the fantastical elements where often simplifications or ways of inserting a more modern twist. That’s when I turned to reading a lot more historical fiction, and it defines what I look for in a historical novel: an author who really gets into another time and place as another world and shows how real people just like us had very different impressions and faced very different decisions based on the times and places where they lived.

    Drama is driven by conflict, and as humans in dramatic situations we end up having to make decisions. In that sense, the dramatic core of many stories is basically moral: Faced with this set of circumstances what should you do? And once a character makes that decision, good or bad, what kind of results will follow from it?

    I think that dealing with these kind of dilemmas in a historical setting creates a lot more honesty and human interest because it causes you as a reader to thinking about problems as real people in the past thought about them, rather than with an outside-looking-in consciousness. For instance, there was a sort of social media ethical debate going around a little while back about “should you kill baby Hitler?” Do you kill a baby who is, so far, innocent, because you know that person will grow up to do horrible deeds? I think that’s a false ethical dilemma, because it’s a situation that real human people never face. You don’t decide how to act towards other people from the position of having absolute knowledge of what they will later do and what will happen, you do so out of a position of ignorance. If someone actually knew Hitler as a child, they wouldn’t know him as “Hitler” in the sense that we do looking back, they would only know his actions up to that point. And similarly, as people react to their historical surroundings, they do so without knowledge of how things work out.

    For instance, there’s a great moment in one of Alan Furst’s novels (I think it was The Polish Officer, but it’s been a number of years) where characters hear that France has declared war on Germany in 1939, and their reaction is relief. All right, France is in the war now. They’ll never give in to Germany. It’s going to be okay. To a world that remembered France’s four year stand against Germany in 1914-1918, that makes total sense, but to us from our vantage point, it seems completely alien. It’s necessary to get the reader into a world in which France is the great bulwark against Germany if you’re going to be able to have the reader understand the kind of despair that people felt when France folded so quickly during the German invasion of 1940.

    In addition to putting the reader into a period sense of history, in which we temporarily give up our knowledge of what’s happened since, good historical fiction also puts the reader into the moral and cultural world of these characters: What’s possible and impossible and why. One of the things that I found frustrating reading Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants a while back is that all the characters you were supposed to like just happened to have modern ideas about women’s rights and religion and workers rights and so on. I think it’s a lot more interesting to make the reader grapple with a basically likable character who is still acting fully within the constraints of the time period. I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time during the fuss about the lately uncovered prior novel Lee wrote about the same characters, and it struck me that Atticus Finch in the original novel is a good example of this kind of writing. He has instincts that we like, towards fairness regardless of race, etc. but he has those instincts very much within the setting of his time. He doesn’t envision a South that throws off Jim Crow; he operates within that world but tries to do so honestly towards all.

    5. If you are an author, what aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novel(s)?

    6. If you are an author, what research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?

    As an author, you write what you want to read, so the above covers a lot of what I’ve tried to focus on while writing The Great War. At the opening, I wanted to give a strong sense of how the war interrupted lives that already had drama going on in them, so we have Walter’s struggles with unionization at the factory, Henri and Philomene dealing with their marriage and with small town politics, Natalie arriving in Russia and both finding out about her origins and starting work as a governess, Jozef dealing with the duel, etc. The war isn’t the only drama in these characters lives, but it does fundamentally redirect all their lives, ending some dramas while starting new ones.

    I also set a kind of rule for myself that if there’s something which is often dealt with from a very clear, backwards looking perspective, I wanted to make my characters deal with it from inside the constraints of the time. So, for instance, executions for desertion or cowardice among the British and French forces in WW1 are an absolute trope at this point. And so I decided that my characters would have to deal with a situation like that, but within a world in which that kind of extreme action seemed like it might be the only way to hold the army together.

    For research I not only read a lot of history books about all aspects of the period, but also as many first hand accounts (letters, memoirs, etc.) as possible from the period. I’ve read a number of novels set in the period as well, but I’ve tried to stick almost exclusively to novels written either during the war or shortly thereafter (before World War 2) because what I want from a truly period novel is to get a sense of how people thought about those events then, now how they thought about them through the lens of later events.

    1. Drawing parallels and distinctions with SF/F really adds to the discussion, Brendan. And this comment strikes a chord for me: “an author who really gets into another time and place as another world and shows how real people just like us had very different impressions and faced very different decisions based on the times and places where they lived.” Thanks for taking the time to add so many thoughts and reminders of what historical fiction authors should strive to do. Please stop by again!

  8. OK, as a lover and blogger of history as well as a writer and reader of historical fiction, I’ll give this a shot :-D.

    What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?
    It’s being transposed to another world that no longer exists and not necessarily in a nostalgic way. It’s also a nice reminder of how things have changed (sometimes for the better, sometimes not) over the years. An undergraduate literary professor of mine once said that history tells us what happened and literature tells us what should have happened. So I think the best historical fiction shows us not just what happened in the past but how things should have happened.

    In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?
    Historical atmosphere. That is, the reader feels the era in which the writer is writing, not just in the historical accurately details but also in the language and style of the characters. For my own fiction, I strive to write in a way so that a reader can read my book alongside a book that was actually published and/or written during the period I’m writing and not feel as if there is a difference.

    Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?
    I think they are in the sense that details are very important. I’ve written both contemporary and historical fiction and I find that I am much more conscious of what I am writing when I write historical fiction. That’s not just the language and word choice either. It’s also character and story. I am more aware of what a character would or would not do based on the era I’m writing in and what would have been going in in the era that I’m writing. For example, I write a lot of fiction set in the late 19th/early 20th century, when women were expected to behave in certain ways and had different goals than contemporary women do today.

    Do you see any particular trends in historical fiction?
    I can’t really answer this one. The only thing I can say is that there seems to be a lot of historical romance series at the top of the Amazon charts nowadays.

    If you are an author, what aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novel(s)?
    I am a writer and the number one aspect of the past that I try to highlight in my books is the way that women could transcend the boundaries that were set for them. I’m a feminist writer so this is important to me. Since I write a lot of fiction during the Gilded Age/Progressive Era, I also try to highlight the massive changes that were going on during these eras and how the Victorian era was moving towards the modern era and how the changes happening during that time influenced the way things are today.

    If you are an author, what research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?
    Oh, my, what don’t I do :-)? I try to use a variety of resources, including resources published at the time (like newspapers, conduct books, pictures, etc.) and those that are analyzing what happened in the past. I think having both sources that were “in the moment” as well as those that have a perspective on the past give a good variety of sources.

    Tam

    1. So pleased to have your input, Tam May. And I’m very grateful that you took the time to provide some input on contemporary versus historical fiction, given that you’ve written both! And a very interesting quote to add to the mix: “history tells us what happened and literature tells us what should have happened”. I’m not sure whether all writers would agree, however, the notion should prompt us to consider the possibilities.

  9. 1. That sense of reality – that you’re transported to a place in time that once existed – that you’re actually there for the moments you’re reading the book

    2. Evoke a sense of place and time that’s so authentic you can almost touch it and smell it

    3. Not sure. Each tells a story which should captivate the reader but with historical novels there’s that added dimension of being somewhere that is beyond reach. Although all settings are somehow beyond reach, as one person’s experience is quite different from another’s, even if in the same place and time

    4. All history repeats itself if you live long enough! The challenge for us as human beings is to make sure we learn from the past so the negative aspects don’t repeat

    5. Connection to the era, place, historical events, so the reader feels transported there, is there

    6. Secondary sources like books and articles, some original material if I have time (although it’s very easy to get caught up in the research, it’s so enjoyable), maps, and visiting the location. Place is very important for me and I like to soak up the atmosphere, then and in the present day

    1. Many thanks for you comment, Ellie. The notion of involving all senses stands out for me: “a sense of place and time that’s so authentic you can almost touch it and smell it.” Best wishes and I hope you’ll stop by again, Mary

  10. 1. What I find “magic” about historical fiction is that it takes you to a different, strange and unfamiliar world, but unlike science fiction, you know it’s real. So accuracy is really important: historical fiction is all the more exciting since what you read about and find hard to imagine is actually true. In addition to the usual satisfaction of reading a novel and feeling empathy with the characters, reading a historical novel adds the extra satisfaction of quenching your thirst of knowledge and curiosity for a certain time period. When I pick a historical novel, I want to enjoy myself and live another life but I also want to find out at the same time “How was it really like to live back then?”

    2. Historical fiction fails when it tries too much to please today’s public. For example, making a medieval queen a feminist militant fighting for her rights in a male dominated world may appeal to a certain female audience, but it risks ending up as a contemporary tale in historical costumes. Likewise, I hate it when historical TV series use modern music in the soundtrack (like in the trailer of the recent “Versailles” French series on Canal+). For me it breaches the implicit contract between the public and the author – that historical fiction should be believable.

    What makes historical fiction unforgettable to me is when a book forces me to change my mind-set completely in terms of moral values, notions on the role of religion, the worth of human life, relation between the sexes, hygiene… the result being that when I watch a work of art or visit a historical site, I no longer see things through the lens of my personal values, but I seek to understand what it must have meant for people at the time, and why something that may seem piddling today like a relic actually had a major significance for people back then.

    So, to get it right, historical fiction writers must not only be meticulous in their research and find ways to convey the “spirit” of a period, but they must also refrain from indulging too much modern readers’ preferences.

    1. A great contribution, Soraya. Many thanks for taking the time. I particularly like this insight you offered: What makes historical fiction unforgettable to me is when a book forces me to change my mind-set completely in terms of moral values, notions on the role of religion, the worth of human life, relation between the sexes, hygiene…

      Looking forward to your next comment! Warm wishes, Mary

  11. 1. What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?

    A proper description of the setting, based on strong research, compelling characters and an inciting narrative trip. Learning lots of things when you close the book and wanting to research more about that time – be it a folk dance (or a court dance) on youtube, a mentioned poet’s writings or a historical event on wikipedia.

    I don’t believe in keeping the speaking and vocabulary of those times, despite the fact that some readers and writers swear by it. (I don’t believe in blatant anachronisms either, though. But there has to be a middle way). If we are writing today, we can’t keep the language of Shakespeare and have people understand our writing, even if it happens in the Tudors’ era.

    What if it happens in Antiquity? They were speaking Latin or Ancient Greek, or Egyptian (which was not the Arabic now Egyptians are speaking), and our novel was written in French/ English/ Italian – whatever the writer’s mother tongue. So you’d better give us the athmosphere, instead of the way of speaking/ vocabulary of those times, in order to be read with interest. Yes, some specific words are to be given and explained – if in Ancient Rome, you can’t avoid mentioning the thermae, vespasianes, praetori. But you aren’t writing in Latin, neither in the phrase structures of that time. And if you add translating a book from the writer’s mother tongue to the reader’s (English-written books are translated in all countries, from Japan to Russia and Argentina), then the problem of the vocabulary adds to my point.

    I was asked if, writing about Americans and Italians, but in Romanian, some expressions I used do exist in those languages. I replied that in those languages there is slang with a similar meaning, even if different in wording, and that for the Romanian readers, we have to relate to Romanian slang, because this gives the idea that the words were colloquial and not the most official ones. And that if we translate word by word, instead of the ultimate meaning, the results are strange and contrived, far from what we wanted to show.

    2. In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?

    Researching and filtering the information through the eyes of both the writer and the characters. Immersing the reader into the century and the setting of their choice. Not giving too many opportunities for … suspension of disbelief/ rule of cool, even if these are so fashionable now.

    3. Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?

    They describe different times, when people had different mindsets, and they have to be reflected as such. Not as many feminists and social rights fighters (accepted by most people around, instead of being shunned as dangerous, rare oddities) as the most recent novels show. They have to be understood in the light of their times, not in ours. Just be thankful that after the time travel through the book, to exciting adventures and different centuries’ mindsets, you return to your current, hot tap water and washing machine…

    4. Do you see any particular trends in historical fiction?

    American Civil War, Tudors and Victorian era in English language writings. Renaissance and World Wars in French language writings. Actually the two World Wars are very in fashion in any language. An opening which I salute to the Far East’s history (mainly Japan and China but also others).

    I also see the trend of seeing history with modern eyes, instead of with the eyes then. And then it becomes something it was not – just a nice contemporary story in pretty costumes, with modern decisions and modern mindsets, and this new political correctness which… in my opinion, isn’t fairer than what was before, just more confusing, and alienating the contemporary reader from the historical mindset and motivations.

    5. What aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novels?

    I am writing the story of those who are too commoner to be mentioned in chronicles, but who are forging their silent path among historical events and participating persons who are mentioned in the chronicles. I am trying to immerse the readers in the setting, and critics had said that I write “cinematographically”. I am focusing on traditions (for birth, wedding, death, sworn brothers, etc), mindsets, folklore and public festivals, religious beliefs and superstitions, as well as on the main historical events of the time as viewed through the characters’ lens and biases.

    6. What research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?

    I am from a small European country and I write historical fiction happening in several countries/ eras. I have used for research all kind of books, old maps, old descriptions (journals, letters, etc) and manuals, youtube movies, google maps, forums… Any possibility of research available, I use it! Many people hadn’t thought, when I told them, that youtube can be good for seeing places where I have never been, local festivals/ traditions, music, dances, sea battles from movies, duels, bullfights, various documentaries.

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