When you read fiction, you want to share part of the story, to feel the emotions of the lead characters, to be asked the questions they are being asked. A dilemma faced by a character is shared with the reader, a crisis suddenly faced by the protagonist brings you also to a shuddering halt.
What is different about historical fiction? Historical fiction is what I write, and the answer is that there’s no difference.
When you buy an historical novel, whether it be Wolf Hall, Birdsong or Silence in the Desert, you are looking for the same as in a straight novel such as Gone Girl. You want to be captured by the characters, feel that empathy between you and the protagonist, whether it is love or hate, tragedy or joy.
If historical fiction isn’t fundamentally different, what extra does an historical novel offer? It reflects an added dimension. You are dropped into an era you will never experience in your own life. You find yourself in the Court of Henry V111 in 1520, or a British soldier in the trenches of Flanders, or a French legionnaire at Alamein. Their reality and fears become yours.
Also, you learn things you might not have known already. Who knew that a French Foreign Legion brigade fought in 1942 on the Allied side? Who knew that the great Paris fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli was inspired by Salvador Dali? That Josephine Baker was a secret service agent?
Historical dimension adds value to a novel, enhancing your own experience. All the interest and excitement, pleasure and anguish, of a novel set in contemporary times are preserved. Yet, the link to events of the past in an historical novel, does something else. The plots that lead you expectantly from chapter to chapter have a backdrop of events that actually happened and make you a witness to the scenes you read about. You are there.
What more could you want? Romance and drama running in parallel with real events often more dramatic than the imagination could conjure up. With the fictional characters rubbing shoulders with real protagonists embedded in history.
That’s what my writing is all about.
Sit Back, turn the lights down and Enjoy the RIDE OF DISCOVERY as much as I did.