Historical fiction – tidbits from Annabel Lyon

The Sweet GirlIn September, Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean and its sequel, The Sweet Girl, explained the challenge of writing historical fiction. I thought I’d share a few tidbits that spoke to me.

Lyon took pictures on a research trip to Greece that made their way into her novels —

pictures of museum artifacts that only a mother could love: fifth century BC barbecue tongs, tweezers, an ancient child’s sippy cup complete with handle, strainer and spout … a dove-shell hair clip, thorny burnet … and an enormous and terrifying speculum in a case of ancient medical instruments.

She says —

There’s something irresistible about the Classical world … something about those primal tales of war and lust and family dysfunction draws us back again and again.

and later reminds us —

The past is a foreign country.

I took this to mean that writers of historical fiction have to work hard to understand and respect the norms, values and behaviours of the ‘country’ you inhabit.

Towards the end of her article, Annabel Lyon writes —

Things I love about historical fiction: the mundane, the everyday, the familiar; themes that resonate with the present; characters who sound like you could have an intelligent conversation with them.

Interesting advice to ponder.