Historical romance author, Sue London, is joining us with the third book in her regency romance series, The Haberdashers, Fates for Apate. Enjoy!
Top Ten Things About Historical Fiction
Now that we know David Letterman is retiring, we can’t get enough of countdown Top Ten lists, right? So here are Sue London’s top ten things about historical fiction.
10. Historical fiction is the most entertaining way to learn history. HOWEVER, be sure you know how seriously the author takes it. Approaches vary from almost no research to a few historical tidbits (like me) to absolutely accurate. Pro tip: If there are blimps in your version of the Three Musketeers they aren’t taking it very seriously.
9. The more things change the more they stay the same. History does indeed repeat itself, with recurring themes of both virtues and vices. As an author you can capitalize on that, so that modern readers can connect with history in a very personal and profound way.
8. People are people. We like to think that we are “modern” and those of yore weren’t, but everyone has always lived right on the brink of the future. Much as we can’t be sure what the world will be like in a hundred or two hundred years, our ancestors didn’t know exactly what our lives would be like. But much as we wonder at our tablet computers and cell phones, a hundred years ago they wondered at cars and planes, two hundred years ago they wondered at new steam locomotives and manufacturing technologies. Things change, but people… we don’t change quite as much as you might think.
7. People may not change, but social mores do. Even if our base drives and personalities don’t change that much over time, the social forces at work on us do change. The etiquette of 2014, 1914, and 1814 for the same town (let’s pick, I don’t know, LONDON) are all different. For me this is where it gets interesting. If I know that women like me must have existed then the next logical question I ask myself is, “What were we doing?” I’m no Lady Stanhope, but I’m not a shrinking violet either. With the meeting of the seed and soil we often yield different results. The Haberdashers is just a tiny part of that exploration.
6. History was written by the victors. In my opinion there is such a thing as evil, but more often than not enemies are more demonized after the fact rather than truly being evil. Explore history with an eye to the idea that everyone is the hero in their own story. (Although sometimes they are the crazy, murderous antihero and you won’t find me wanting to hear about them so much…)
5. Fictional accounts are fun. Having read more than my fair share about the Wars of the Roses, I can assure you that anything by Sharon Kay Penman is far more fun than things written by straight up historians. Although Paul Murray Kendall gets a shout out from me for doing a great job. Meanwhile, do you know what some of the best historical documents are? Accounting records. There are very few of us who would even find that mildly interesting. (Sue shyly raises her hand because she would read them. Sue is a nerd.)
4. Our ancestors are crazier than we like to think. Remember that 'people are people' thing? Yeah. Reality TV didn’t spring out of Zeus’s head fully formed. Sometimes we take history far too seriously, because every cracked person you can think of now had to come from somewhere. There was a Honey Boo Boo of 1814. Wrap your head around that for a minute.
3. Some of my best friends are dead. If you write anything that has Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain in it, you need to tell me. Pronto.
2. Writing historical fiction is an honor that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Unless you can make it funnier. Always make things funnier.
And Sue’s #1 thing about historical fiction is… if you don’t like how history turned out, you can always rewrite it. Provided you can withstand the barrage of mail from people who know how it really went.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! But seriously, anything with Oscar Wilde in it? Call me.
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