No doubt you were anxiously waiting for the 2015 favourite historical fiction authors list. First, an apology. Since publishing 2015’s favourite fiction list, I’ve been heads down finishing Time & Regret and only surfaced a few weeks ago. Fortunately, compiling the numbers was not as arduous this time.
A few observations:
the top 5 remain the top 5 three years in a row. Kudos to Diana Gabaldon, Sharon Kay Penman, Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick and Bernard Cornwell.
Men and women differ in their top choices. Tabulating male responses exclusively, the top 8 are: Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O’Brian, Conn Iggulden, Sharon Kay Penman, Ken Follett, C.J. Sansom, Hilary Mantel and James Michener.
Country choices also vary. For example, the top 5 choices in the UK are: Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, Sharon Kay Penman, and Hilary Mantel. Interesting to see Sharon Kay Penman remain in the top groups across gender and country.
Authors tend to receive a higher portion of their support from their own country participants. For example, 75% of Diana Gabaldon’s popularity rests in the US.
Not surprisingly, deceased authors receive more mentions from older participants.
Every author in these two groups received more than 20 mentions.
I hope to cross-tabulate favourite authors against a few other factors and to look at age breakdowns in more detail. I will also publish a list of authors with 10 to 20 mentions.
One further statistic of interest: over 900 authors were mentioned as favourites. Wow.
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, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.
It’s been awhile since I posted any reader interviews and . . . here’s a reader from the west coast of North America sharing her thoughts about historical fiction. She’s a voracious reader as you will see.
Tell us a little about yourself. I am 62, live in the West Coast of US but grew up back east. Both sides of my family came from little towns and I spent every summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holiday there.
My whole life direction changed when I got married after college. I had planned to be a teacher but I ended up working for my husband. I love reading, needlework, volunteer work, gardening and genealogy.
Please tell us about your reading habits and preferences.
I have always been a voracious reader as were my mom and dad. I read almost a book a day but have tried to slow that down because I actually run out of books. When a weekend or holiday comes up, I “stockpile” a bunch of books so I won’t run out. I would estimate I read around 300/310 books per year. I only read one book at a time, and since we now have to watch our money, I get all of my books from 2 neighboring library systems. Due to money issues I do not have an e-reader or mobile device to be able to read my books but I have given thought to investigating them.
For a long time, my two best friends were also avid readers and we would quietly drop books off at each other’s houses like abandoned babies waiting for a new home. Sadly one has moved away and the other has passed away so now I have no one with whom to share books. I adore long books and dislike short stories and for that matter poetry and science fiction. I also enjoy biographies, and self-help books. Lately due to some family medical situations I have been reading books on nutrition, health, and psychological disorders. My very favorite fiction though has always been historical fiction.
How do you decide which books to buy? What influences your purchases? Author, where geographically the novel takes place, time period.
What do you like about historical fiction? What don’t you like? I love learning about other places, in other times. I love getting lost in a book and being able to forget my troubles or my pain.
My family has always done genealogy and when I started tracing lines, I had a blast. I researched the female lines and discovered numerous Revolutionary War soldiers and one Mayflower ancestor. I think researching genealogy, wondering about what ordinary people did or had to do to live is the biggest reason for my enjoyment of historical fiction. I find those questions so fascinating.
For example, I read Paris by Edward Rutherfurd a few months ago. In the middle of my exclusively Protestant English and few Scottish family lines, I have one French line. Turns out they too were Protestant because they were French Huguenots. This was the first novel since Tracey Chevalier’s Virgin Blue that I had read that told of French history and why and how the Huguenots were treated. It was a fascinating learning experience.
I don’t like historical fiction that is incorrect or just unbelievable.
What types of historical fiction do you prefer? I enjoy fiction about the various time periods in the United States and Great Britain the most. I am enjoying novels about India and Australia and have enjoyed books about Japan. I just finished The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley and it was just wonderful. I don’t seem to like books about the Middle East or South America or Africa so far.
The last few years I seemed to find everything about the Tudors fascinating (Hilary Mantel, Nancy Bilyeau), years ago medieval times (Sharon Kay Penman) then I went through a WWII period. Once I find one book about a time or an area, then I search for others.
Do you have historical fiction books or authors you would recommend to other readers? Can you tell us why? All of these authors write well-written, intriguing, original stories. I love books most when I can’t predict what will happen and would not even think of skimming. The best books have something in them for me to learn.
Favorite historical authors (I am a boomer so I am fascinated by anything before I was born) these are not in any order:
Nancy Bilyeau – The Chalice, The Crown
Lucinda Riley – The Midnight Rose, The Orchid House
Sharon Kay Penman – Sunne in Splendour, etc.
James Bassett – In Harm’s Way
James Clavell – Shogun, Tai Pan, King Rat
Tatiana de Rosnay – Sarah’s Key
C.S. Harris – Sebastian St. Cyr novels
William C Harris Jr. – Delirium of the Brave
William Martin – Back Bay, Cape Cod, The Lincoln Letter,
Edward Rutherford – New York, London, etc.
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall
Colleen McCullough -The Thorn Birds
John Galsworthy – The Forsyte Saga
James Michener – Hawaii, Centennial
Leon Uris – QB VII
Herman Wouk – The Winds of War, War and Remembrance
Deborah Swift – The Lady’s Slipper
Fiona Mountain – Lady of the Butterfies
David Liss – The Whiskey Rebels
Current general fiction writers I love
JA Jance -Joana Brady, JP Beaumont series
Diane Chamberlain, “The Midwife’s Confession”
Kellie Coates Gilbert, “Mother of Pearl”
Kevin A. Milne, “The One Good Thing”
Romantic fiction writers I really enjoy
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 used to share books and had great discussions when my mother and cousin were alive. But they passed away. Then my two dear friends are no longer around, so I have no one who shares my specific reading interests. I have tried a few book clubs but found that the general level of interest was for an Oprah type of book. Very few of them appeal to me.
To find new books, I have looked on Goodreads and have had success picking from compiled lists of certain historical era books.
What advice do you have for writers of historical fiction? I love historical books because I want to learn about the era and also the location. Young women in particular had little actual freedom in the past or worked so hard. For an author, keep it real. Don’t have a character doing something that would not have been practical for them to do in that time period. Geographical and historical descriptions make stories come alive. I often have a world atlas close by so I can track where a character travels.
Is there anything else about reading historical fiction that you’d like to comment on? There are many more average or poor working people in the world than society or wealthy traveled ones. Books with normal characters are more intriguing.
That’s an amazing list of favourite authors! Enough suggestions to keep most of us reading happily for a year or two 🙂 Many thanks for sharing your thoughts about historical fiction.
This week I want to follow up as I did last year with the male perspective. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to discover that men have different favourites. Quite different, in fact. With a healthy does of military adventure and war, many set in medieval or Roman times.
Subtracting the men’s numbers from the overall tally gives us the women’s favourites. In both cases I’ve listed the top twenty – all authors tied for twentieth are included.
Completing the picture: 319 men offered at least one favourite author. A total of 301 different authors were chosen as favourites.