Historical Fiction Convention, February 2022
The first Historical Fiction Convention organised by History Quill was a four day virtual and international event covering publishing, marketing, writing craft and research. In my slot on the final day Stepping through the Magic Door: defining analysing authenticity in historical fiction (ambitious or what?) I gave my take on this vital but curiously amorphous concept.
I’ve struggled to work out for myself why some historical novels draw me in immediately while others leave me at a distance, and I suppose it was this special magic I was trying to define, starting with dictionary definitons (as you do!) and moving on to examine some novel openings which I have found particularly compelling. (I chose The Physic Garden by Catherine Czerkawska, Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, Blasted Things, by Lesley Glaister and Turn of the Tide by Margaret Skea). Having looked at elements of vocabulary, dialogue and period detail, my conclusion was that a convincing and engaging voice is the most vital consituent in delivering the feel of a historical period.
I mentioned only briefly a talk I heard by Jon McGregor last year on his most recent novel Lean Fall Stand which in sparked off my investigation with his reference to the fictional landscape of the Antarctic. His is a contemporary novel but isn’t a fictional landscape what every novelist tries to create?
A reader will never know exactly the time and place we are describing and so it’s up to us to make it real. This chimes with my gut instinct as a newcomer to historical fiction, that writing it isn’t so very different from writing contemporary (or any) fiction. Although it may make more rigorous demands in terms of research, that research should never take over the story. As my first writing teacher said, it doesn’t matter if your novel is set in the present day, Ancient Rome or on the planet Zog, the precepts of good writing still apply.
A few weeks later, a comment popped up on Twitter from Janna G Noelle suggesting that historical fiction isn’t really a genre, only a setting. I think I might drink to that!
History Quill are to be congratulated on a brilliant series of events. As a delegate on Day 2 (Marketing), I acquired some great new tools and ideas to deploy as and when I am ready.
‘Hidden Gems’ at Blandford Forum, March 26th
So that was February! March is upon us and our Hidden Gems team is back in action at the Blandford Forum Literary Festival on Saturday March 26th. If you’re in the area and would like to hear the fascinating facts we unearth while doing our novel research, day or afternoon tickets (we’re 4pm) are available now.
Stroud Short Stories, deadline March 27th for May 8th event
And finally, March wouldn’t be March without Stroud Short Stories on the horizon. Check the blog for submission instructions and read the advice from judge John Holland. It’s an open theme this time and as usualthe word limit is 1500. As a bonus, all stories chosen wil be published in the next Stroud Short Stories anthology. We’ve had a steady flow of stories coming in and look forward to plenty more.