December’s post asking readers of the blog to respond to questions I’ve labelled ‘inside historical fiction’ elicited a range of comments and insights. Today I’ve gathered together a number that struck a chord for me.
Maggie Scott: “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.”
Prue Batten: “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.”
Sophie Schiller: “The magic ingredient is using the art of storytelling to give the reader a front-row seat at some interesting historical event.”
Jessi Peterson: “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.”
Elizabeth Chadwick: on the topic of what aspects about the past she specifically tries to highlight in her novels – “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.”
Simon J. Kyte: “If a novel has a geographical setting, it needs to read as though the author knows it from childhood.”
Brendan Hodge: “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.”
I’ll share a few more next week.
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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, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.