Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Love with the Past: The Challenges of Historical Fiction

Judging by the list of Emmy nominations, Americans appear to be in love with the past. 2011   has been a ripe season for popular shows exuding nostalgia for the not-so-perfect Twentieth Century. The recent past is also the favorite setting of present bestselling historical fiction. Why is historical fiction  (and drama) still alive and well when is much more difficult to read  and to create than other genres?

Historical fiction is an umbrella term that shelters several subgenres such as historical mysteries, historical romances (what in my day were known as bodice-rippers), inspirational period pieces, and nostalgia yarns. It even encompasses the fantastic, whether it´s alternative history, historical fantasy, steampunk, time travel stories a la Outlander or paranormal romances. The genre’s possibilities are eternal.

True historical fiction applies to novels dealing with actual historical facts and real people as dramatic personae. Examples of historical fiction are Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, Robert Graves’ I Claudius, and, in terms of current television shows, Emmy winning nominee Boardwalk Empire that deals with a historical person, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and his part in the politics and rise of organized crime in Atlantic City.

Then there are those novels set in specific epochs, but telling the adventures of fictional characters such as the New York Times Bestsellers Rules of Civility and Sarah Gruen´s Water for Elephants both set in the Depression Era. Another series in the Emmy list is Downton Abbey, which takes place in the years preceding World War I, and it could be described as a period piece, or as it is known in film’s lingo, a “customer.”

Finally there is nostalgia or vintage, evocations of a recent past, one that is familiar to the reader or to his parents’ generation. The Fifties, Sixties and Seventies are the fashionable vintage area to explore, attested by the success of series like Mad Men and novels like Kathryn Socket´s The Help that takes place in the South, at the onset of The Civil Rights Movement.

Since the past is a rich field for harvesting fiction, it surprised me that thrillers and fantasy have eclipsed historical novels at the New York Time Bestsellers lists.  Taking into consideration that such lists are poor barometers to measure the genre´s popularity, I preferred to check Amazon and Barnes & Nobles’ category lists. 

Going over the top twentieth most popular items in historical fiction, I expected to find historical romance galore and plenty of medieval sagas a la Ken Follet. Surprisingly, the only material of that sort was precisely Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, which still enjoys an enviable enduring popularity.

The Middle-Ages might not be the favorite time period for contemporary novelists, but Twentieth Century is. More than half of those top sellers took place in a recent past and some dealt with the Second World War. About six years, ago when I began my first novel, I was strongly advised not to tackle that era. Expert  voices at sites dispensing advice to novice writers told me that writing about 30’s, 40’s, and particularly about the global conflict that took place in those days, was ill-advised and “unfashionable.”

Now, the three titles within the New York Times List are set in those despised decades. There is The Paris Wife (Paris in the 20’s), Civility Rules (1938 New York), and War and Honor which is an actual World War II novel. Other war novels doing well in category lists are Tatiana de Rosay’s Holocaust fable Sarah’s Key and Amazon Bestseller War Brides. I wonder what changed. Why is it trendy now to write about the first half of the Twentieth Century? Why is recent history much more fascinating than ancient eras? 

As a history buff I would like to see more historical fiction in display, but I can understand why not many would care to tackle the genre. Writing historical fiction demands careful but time-consuming research. Not only do authors have to learn dates, statistics, and proper names, they also have to delve with the daily life their character might experience. What they ate? What did they wear? Most novelists in the field become amateur social historians, and so do their readers. One of the critiques befalling historical novels is that they end up being “disguised textbooks.”

Often, I meet people who shun period pieces with excuses such as “I know so little about that period, I can’t follow the plot” or “I get confused with all the historical details.” Others, like yours truly, thrive in learning historical facts through an entertainment medium. In fact, one of the few reasons why I would throw away a book might be its historical inaccuracy.

Much more difficult that the research process is trying to create characters living in a time alien to us. How did they think? What moved them? What were their values and concerns? And that is where historical fiction and drama tend to fail. Most serious historical fiction authors will run into two ominous characters: Mr. Political Correctness and Madame Modern Sensibility. On encountering them, the author is forced to make a choice on how to portray the past and its inhabitants.

There are three unofficial schools that guide the historical fiction novelist in this quandary. One advises to depict yesteryear as much worse than today, an emphasis on our ancestors’ barbaric ways and primitive mentalities as if to make the reader think he is fortunate to lie in such progressive times like the third Millennium. Then there is nostalgic fondness: to describe days gone by as in Don Quixote’s Golden Age monologue, a lost magical world when everything was better and nicer than today. Finally, is the easiest and most common approach: show the past as a mirror of the present. People have always thought and acted as we do, they just dressed differently and were much more backwards (technologically speaking) than us.

As only a witness could testify of how a historical period really was, all three approaches are legitimate. That doesn’t stop us purists from clenching our teeth when reading hidden current agendas behind a harmless historical tale or glancing through stories that are so anachronistic in language and mentality that characters appear to be attending a costume party.

I have to say that I love research and find tremendous pleasure in reconstructing lost worlds, but is that reason enough to write a historical novel? So I ask those who dare to evoke the past in writing. Why do you do it? What made you select a particular period for your tale’s setting? What is the biggest challenge in writing historical fiction?


  1. Yikes! I had no idea I just wrote to a trend (Young adult novel set in Occupied Paris, 1943). Found you in my historical fiction campaign group. I"ll look forward to reading your posts.

  2. I've been attempting to write a historical fiction novel for the past four years. It is a challenge that I keep dropping and then returning to--because of the difficulty. For me the hardest part is just fully understanding a character and world so different from my own. And each chapter takes me hours to write--unlike a more contemporary piece which I can bang out in no time.

    I struggle all the time with how to portray the time period, the characters, etc. And how true do I stay to the past? What extent are changes allowed in order to keep the story relatable? I don't have any answers, but I keep struggling onward!

  3. I know the feeling Heidi. Just keep on struggling! May I ask what is your chosen time period?

  4. Hi, Angelina, what made you select that particular period? And how´s your research going?

  5. I have a huge interest in history and have always had this fanciful idea I'd like to write historical fiction. I say fanciful because I know how tough it would be. Not only do you have to create a compelling plot, believable characters and structure the story properly, you also have to get your facts straight. Not as straightforward as it sounds...

    For example, in the UK, we recently had a drama on TV called The Hour (not sure if it's available in the US) set in the 1950s. Although the costumes, setting, etc., created a very authentic atmosphere (it didn't feel like a costume party), it still attracted criticism, particularly about language. Some said the drama was historically inaccurate, as a number of the sayings used weren't in common use in that era. A few went further, producing lists of every single inaccuracy.

    And therein lies the biggest challenge of writing historical fiction (in my opinion). No matter how much research you do, can you ever be sure you're 100% correct? There always seems somebody who knows better.

  6. You gave some excellent examples of well written and researched historical fiction. I read Margaret George's books on Mary Queen of Scots and Henry the Eighth in high school, and I can honestly say that I learned and retained more history from those books than I learned in class. And the John Jakes series got me through American history class. It wasn't so much dates and statistics which I retained; it was more the events that shaped the book characters' lives. It's one thing to read about a rebellion or class system in a textbook, but a far different experience when you are re-living it in your head along with a beloved character. There isn't a book or movie produced that doesn't have at least one thing that is "wrong" or debatable in some aspect, but you could make the same statement about textbooks and even "eyewitness" newspaper accounts. I wish more school reading lists included these books as an option for young people!

  7. I also love historical fiction, in a big way. I like historical fantasy the most. But, really, all historical fiction feels like fantasy to me because it's just so different. That's a lame way to describe it but I'm at a loss.

    It's like when you read a Jane Austen book (which I love, all of them) I always think "I can't believe people talked that way." It's awesome.

  8. And yet Helen, "The Hour" is set in the Cold War years, not in the Dark Ages. There´s plenty of material to research the language of the times, there’s plenty of living people who can tell how they spoke back then. When they make these mistakes I just see it as laziness, or as that need to make the public think the past was just like now.
    Language is a sore point and it´s hard to get it right. I was watching this horrid series "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" and I had to applaud their attempt to create an archaic language, but it left you wandering: were Romans that foul-mouthed?
    Watching "Downton Abbey" the other day (and I have fallen in love with that series) I had the feeling that the language was much more modern than in “Upstairs, Downstairs,” “The Duchess of Duke Street” and other Edwardiana from the 70’s.

  9. Hi Li, Margaret George was your inspiration? Jean Plaidy (and her alter ego Philippa Carr) was the one that got me into a Mary Stuart craze. It´s why I love historical fictin so much. Whether we like it or not, most people learn their history either from customers or historical novels. That is why they have to be somewhat accurate. Of course there is such a thing as literary license, but period atmosphere is a must.

  10. Hi Cynthia Lee, indeed all historical fiction has that escapist aura, that sense of the exotic. I am thrilled to find another historical fantasy fan. Who are your favorite writers?

  11. As a writer of historical fiction, I thank you for writing this post. I honestly don't get why people don't see how popular historical entertainment has become. About every other movie is set in a different time period. One thing I really take issue with, and that you touched upon, is the political correctness of some authors. Almost anything historical didn't really have political correctness to it.

    When I choose a time period it's usually because there's something fascinating surrounding it (i.e. -- the Fugitive Slave Law, the Crash of 1929, and the building of the nuclear bomb). That's usually how I decide to create my characters and plot.

  12. Stopping by to say hi from the campaign. Will visit and comment again soon:)

  13. I'm 88 and for some reason, still have sufficient smarts to have nearly completed a 325k word novel about life in the 1930's. I don't have to research the milieu, slang, popular songs, prices (unbelievable, 1 qt. milk 10 cents) or the moral attitudes, but I have been meticulous about establishing dates of events, in one case, being sure that a tryst took place when the moon was dark. Certain benefits have accrued from the passage of time. All the people who could possibly see themselves in a character are dead, including my grandfather. I sat by his bed and watched him die in 1950. He is the only character who is portrayed fairly true to his life. It's ironic that young authors have everything except a head full of experiences. I have enough material for 10 novels, but mortality statistics being what they are------I understand Faust's problem. posting as Regis

  14. Violante,

    You're right, of course - the more recent past should be easier to get right. I think it can actually be more difficult in some respects though, as there are more people around who can remember the detail. The writers of Downton Abbey probably have a bit more leeway with language, due to the fact the series is set a lot further back in the century.

    Broadly, I agree, writers should do their research and try to get their facts right. However, for me personally, the odd mistake doesn't much matter, as long as it's a small one that doesn't pull me out of the story.

  15. Violante--I'm currently writing a story that takes place in the Roman Republic during Octavius' rise to power. I've also written about early Nordic times. I'm all about the ancient history. What is your chosen time period?

  16. Regis, you are the “witness” I was talking about in my post. You are more than qualified to write about that period of time. In fact you should get a job as an adviser to those who write about the 30’s.
    I would include everything you have just stated in your first query letter. Your first hand knowledge of the period is an effective argument on your behalf.

  17. I hear you Helen, and I don´t want to be casting stones when I have a glass ceiling. Of course, those dealing in historical fiction can’t get every fact straight, can and will make historical mistakes (or geographical), but I am talking about period pieces that are grotesquely modern. One example was the BBC series “Rome”. Sure the settings were splendid, wonderful customs, and the language felt ancient (barring the fact that Mark Anthony at some pint blurted something in Italian!) But I was tired of hearing contemporary peeves and politics behind the dialogues. How many times did they say that Julius Caesar was waging “an illegal war”? And I never read in any of her biographies that Cleopatra was a junkie! The character of Octavia, who according to contemporary historians was an exemplary Roman matron, was turned into a Malibu teenager. She was shown having a lesbian affair with her mother´s rival, going to bed with her brother, and smoking pot at a party! As I wrote in an article back then, she was Ancient Rome’s equivalent of Marissa in “The O.C.”

  18. Ooh, great topic! I think all of the Sisters have at least dabbled in historical, if not dedicated ourselves to it. I have one novel (mostly written) set in early 19th-century England, and another set in late 20th century New Mexico. Sadly, the latter novel might also be considered historical fiction. I say sadly because the 1980s was ME, and how depressing to think my life would now qualify as "historical" in any sense.

    I picked the 80s for obvious reasons, but I can't really remember what drew me to the 19th century. Because of some plot elements, I needed textile factories but no trains, and that narrowed the time frame considerably. I love what you said about research, Violante, and disguised textbooks: the amount of information I've learned about that period is beyond what I could ever pack into a book, and I've had to discipline myself not to use any elements that don't fit naturally into the story. When I came across the "turnspit dog," I desperately wanted to include that into the story, and hammered it into a random scene. I made myself take it out; it just didn't *need* to be there and the book was getting bloated. A turnspit dog, by the way, was a dog bred to work in a kitchen, running on a wheel that turned the meat spit in front of the fire. To keep him running, the cook would often put a hot coal in there: if he didn't run, his little paws would get burned.

    I also discovered that Henry Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor" is a fascinating and indispensable tome for anyone writing historical fiction of that period. I'd never have thought I'd be reading Engels for pleasure, but his "The Condition of the Working Class of England" is not only informative, but brilliantly written. I am not writing Regency romance about Jane Austen's endless dinner parties. I like dregs and coal dust and shivs and thieves.

  19. Heidi, those are difficult times to research, although Romans left plenty of written material about their times. But beware of endowing them with modern sensibilities.
    All my novels are set in Italy and other European countries in the 30’s and 40’s.

  20. Noo, noo, that turnspit dog story offends my old-fashioned sensibility. Victorians were monsters!
    I will add another excelent research tool (and yes, Sister Stephanie, it talks abouth thieves and chimney sweepers, and coal dusted coasters) Is Daniel Pool's What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew.

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  22. Sister Mary, Mary I am not saying that all samples of historical fiction bow to PC rules. In fact I said it is a choice.
    We are talking in the abstract, but let me get to some concrete facts that illustrate my point. You might create a historical piece that shows how politically incorrect our ancestors were, but hero and heroine are never that bad. They always adhere to what passes for normal and good in our contemporary Western world, even if it goes against the norms of their social milieu. On the other hand, they reject what we now consider as “barbaric” or “politically incorrect” behavior. Why do you think heroines in contemporary “historical romances” are always branded as “unladylike?”
    A history teacher in college told me that GWTW is repudiated today as “racist,” but if written in the XIX century South would have been considered scandalous and pernicious for its “forward ideas.”
    Finally, in the late XX century bodice-rippers, heroines were aged between 15 and 17, because authors knew that in days of old, girls were considered women in their early adolescence. Nowadays, historical romances elevates their heroines’ ages to the point of spinsterhood (according to their times’ standards)
    HBO changed the ages of female characters for its adaptation of “Game of Thrones.” In the book, Princess Daenerys marries at 13 (not at 17 as in the series), and Sansa Stark becomes engaged at age eleven, but in the series her engagement happens when she is thirteen.

  23. Suppressing the urge to digress is one of my main problems. Finding a good balance between fleshing out the story with interesting and appropriate details, and becoming a bore often means discarding a lot of fascinating (to me) stuff. Regis

  24. HIstorical fiction is my great love, though it feels rather disheartening when I take part in a blog contest and see I'm yet again in a very small minority of people working in that genre. Everything seems to be fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary these days!

    I've devoted myself to 20th century historical fiction my entire adult and teen writing life. I was more into 19th century historical fiction as a preteen, but grew out of it when I realized what "manifest destiny" and the pioneer movement really did to the Native Americans. I'm still very interested in the Civil War era, though I don't know if I'll ever go back and try to write a book back then. (And knowing how I am, it'd turn into a long family saga or series!)

    Sometimes it is hard to show characters espousing attitudes I don't agree with as a modern person, but I know even the most liberal character couldn't have completely modern views on things such as race relations, gay people, or my fellow sinistrals 50+ years ago. I know when I went back to fix up the earliest sections of my Russian novel earlier this year, I had a lot of work to do in making the characters' views, speech, and actions much more in line with those of normal people in their late teens in the late 1910s. (A lot stuff got chopped as a result.) My excuse for depicting them as more like American teens of the early 1990s was that I was only 13 at the time and not the greatest historical fiction writer.

  25. To the Writing Well, welcome and thank you for stopping by!

  26. Regis your words merit another article. What is the purpose of our writing? Are we writing for ourselves, to satisfy an existential need? Or are we writing for a specific audience? I also go back and read old stuff of mine that I know it´s not publishable material, but it is still fascinating, as you called it, and fun to read.

  27. Carrie Anne, you took the words off my mouth!
    “Sometimes it is hard to show characters espousing attitudes I don't agree with as a modern person, but I know even the most liberal character couldn't have completely modern views on things such as race relations, gay people, or my fellow sinistrals 50+ years ago.”

  28. Violante
    I've thought about why I write. It could turn into a philosophical essay. The MC of my book does a certain amount of this, In italics!. A great idea for a blog. Everyone should think about what drives them to write. Regis

  29. And so why do you write? Have you thought about having a blog? You seem to have some interesting ideas that deserve to be expanded and shared with the writing community.

  30. Violante.
    The business of setting up a blog would further complicate my already too full agenda. Just the business of maintaining my corpus in fair condition takes more time than I would have believed, even ten years ago. Anyway, I'm not about to set myself up as an oracle. If I can contribute a useful and interesting bit to your forum, occasionally, I'll try to do so. The sisters are doing a wonderful job and deserve even more awards. Regis

  31. "What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew" LOVE that book! It's one of my go-tos. It's so well-organized. Much easier to find what you need than Mayhew and Engels. (Though they were contemporaries, so that's helpful.)

    As far as attitudes about race and homosexuality, I've been impressed with how some authors have managed to work these topics in without offending our modern sensibilities *or* the historic accuracy. Emma Donoghue did a brilliant job in "Slammerkin" with this. It's not the focus at all, but race is an element she handles beautifully in that book, set in England & Wales in 1748.

    Of course, if a writer chooses to tell her story from the POV of a disempowered person in history (which is a great way to go about things, imho), then one doesn't need to worry so much about being PC. You obviously sympathize with the protagonist in that case and see the racism/sexism/homophobia from the viewpoint of the recipient. If you opt to take the POV of a privileged person in the past, then it's tougher. A historically accurate MC would likely have horrible views about the "great unwashed." How do you deal with that? Probably need to keep the hoi polloi out of your book altogether, unless you intent to make your MC a bit unlikeable. Some writers can do that.

    1. Agree with you. POV of an oppressed person may differ from POV of opressors. It might seem anachronistic to the opressor from that time period, but if humans have always had the ability to pity each other, no humane view should really be able to be "anachronistic." Every nation used to have the death penalty, but for sure it must have made at least a couple people uncomfortable. They could be characters to write about. ;)

  32. Great topic and clips, Sister Violante! Can't wait to watch "The Help" and "Sarah's Key" (which I'm hoping would be better than the book).

    I absolutely love historical fiction in all its forms (books, films and telenovelas.) I can't say I've watched any of the current TV series in the US because I don't have a lot of patience for weekly shows (I always forget to watch them. For me, it has to be a daily thing or a movie.) But like you, it bothers me when there are social or technical anachronisms.

    I recently read a book by Mario Vargas Llosa (Letters to a Young Novelist) where he says that people who devote their lives to fiction must be dissatisfied with reality. Only that would explain their total immersion in their fantasy worlds. He is convinced that the source of literary vocation is rebellion. "A rejection and criticism of life as it," he says.

    A nostalgic view of the past is consistent with that idea, I think. I admit that I belong to the nostalgic crew. I'm particularly fond of the early to mid-20th century. Although my current WIP takes place earlier (late 19th century). My inspiration came from the setting itself and from some events I read about. Although I've started a few contemporary projects, I always revert to writing about the past. I just find a lot of inspiration in old things (houses, trains, cemeteries, etc.)

  33. Regis, I know what you mean. I had to give up on my personal blog because I couldn’t juggle it with my real job. We are very happy to read your comments so don’t go away.

  34. Sister Lorena,
    I agree with Marito. Life cannot be “too” real in any form of fiction, but that doesn’t mean to falsify historical facts unless you are writing Alternative History.
    Nostalgia is a difficult terrain because it is the way the author remembers things or how he perceived the world according to his/her circumstances which might disagree with “The Official History”, but it is still valid. For example, going back to Vargas Llosa, in "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" he describes Lima in the 50’s, Peruvian radio politics, and his affair and eventual marriage to his aunt. Such vision might not be shared by others who lived in Lima at the time. Certainly Aunt Julia did not share his romantic and nostalgic memories. But nobody disputes his recreation of the mores of his society, or his description of massive entertainment. Something that drives me nuts about nostalgia st on recent past is when they get movies or music wrong. I hate when someone says in 1938 “I am going to the pictures to see GWTW or Rebecca” or when they play anachronistic music (remember in Pampa Ilusion?)that hasn’t been written yet.

  35. Sister Steph,
    Brr, I am going to use my answer to express a couple of things I left out of my post. I apologize if I am going beyond a comment on what you have just said.
    The reason why I prefer social history over novels is that it shows you that the past was not made of absolutes, it was complex and you can’t pigeonhole those who inhabited it according to their class, color, religion or whatever divided their world. Thus I never view the past (or the present) in terms of black and white, nor do I draw Manichean equations (rich=bad, poor=good, and so on).
    Most novels set in sexists, racists and oppressive societies; will have rebels or freedom fighters as protagonists. It is nice but on the long run the model becomes boring, stereotypical and historically inexact
    The majority of people in the Ancient World lived and conformed, and some still managed to lead fascinating and rich lives. Moreover, those who defied injustice, did not always revolt against every injustice. Abolitionists who fought to free slaves, lifted no fingers to protect Native Americans. Those who tried to improve the conditions in Indian Reservations didn’t mind their wives didn’t have a right to vote. I am an animal lover and care about the environment, I am also Jewish, but I cannot ignore that the first country that created “green” legislations was Nazi Germany.
    For centuries, men ruled. Does that mean every wife was unhappy and hated her husband? Obviously not. So I don´t understand the absence of any form of sexism or machismo in historical romance. Even the so called Alpha Male just borders on sexist behavior, it’s like a parody of what real men were in times of yore.
    Someone who read my novel was upset when Violante (the heroine, an impoverished rural aristocrat) complained she was so poor she had no money to fix her ancestral home’s roof. My reader said Violante was not poor, her maid was. I pointed out that if the maid had shoes, clothing, home and food was because Violante looked after her, and in order to pay her wages she had to forfeit the roof-fixing money. So the “Hoi polloi” does not necessarily have to wage class struggle, and sometimes the rich, the white, the hetero, the conservative and the thin and the beautiful could be as disempowered as those apparently less privileged.

  36. The 'why'is such a non-tangible thing. It just is. Perhaps there's a beauty to the past that is lacking in the present ... for me

  37. I know, Pauline. It´s what I was going to say to Sister Lorena about nostalgia. We miss what we lost; we miss what we never had.
    I miss the 80’s, people were much nicer then. I hate the 60’s with a passion, but I miss the early 60’s, prior to the hippies, and all those so called “revolutions”, and then I have this nostalgia for a world that belongs to me genetically, but I never knew. The world where my grandparents and their parents lived in the interwar years, all over the Mediterranean and Levant, and I try to recreate it in my writing.

  38. If I were ever to write a historical fiction, I wouldn't bother with all the detailed and accurate description. I would just say something like "And Bob walked down the historically accurate streets of 17th century London."

  39. And that would make things much easier, indeed. Imagine if wedidn't have to bother with setting, atmosphere and descriptions for all novels, not only Historicals? Then we could have the short manuscripts all agents demand.

  40. Wonderful post. Nice to cyber meet you all from a fellow campaigner. I love reading and writing about the past maybe because I 'live' in the past (ha). It feels like I'm remembering another time, another life.

  41. Welcome Fiona Claire!Ahh, I know the feeling, the past is such a cozy place to be.

  42. Violante, what a wonderful discussion. I write more often in the medieval period because I studied it for so many years that I feel like Fiona, who said above that she lives in the past. I guess I do, too, although I have written stories set in the 1930's and '40's as well.

    Most of the authors I know are writing paranormal; when I asked one why, she said because it sold. Hmm, I may have to write a blog post about that.

    I love this blog, and all the sisters!


  43. What a great find "Divine Secrets..." is. Just what I was looking for. The post and comment threads about historical novels was serendipity. I based my historical mystery, "Seashells in the Desert" in Arizona in 1895 because, as my book dedication said, I have great respect for the brave women who sacrificed so much to open the West for others. This was my ode to them. History provides us with a refreshing batch of characters - whether they be from the Wild West or Ancient Greece. It's education and entertainment in one fun package.

  44. "I hate when someone says in 1938 'I am going to the pictures to see GWTW or Rebecca'"

    This is why historical fiction takes so long to write! You have to research every little thing to know if it was in existence and try to figure out if such-and-such expression was already in use!

    "Nostalgia is a difficult terrain because it is the way the author remembers things or how he perceived the world according to his/her circumstances which might disagree with “The Official History”, but it is still valid."

    I guess everything is a matter of perspective. This is what makes us humans so interesting. Present the same circumstance and some people will think it's wonderful and others will think it's terrible. This is why POV and voice are so important in writing. Unfortunately, sometimes the writer/director's POV is too obvious and biased, and the audience feels manipulated.

    Welcome to all our new readers/historical fiction writers! It's wonderful to have you with us!

  45. Belle Dame Elizabeth, we are honored to have you here. I know the bestselling paranormals are bodice-rippes with the hero being a ghost or a vampire, ect. But I see potential in historical paranormal that goes beyond that stereotype.
    Hope your "Lost Weekend" stage is past!

  46. "It's education and entertainment in one fun package. " You've said it Susan, and welcome to the Sisterhood.

  47. Sister Lorena,
    I know research is grueling. I spent my weekend in tears struggling to find info in the Net about the French Foreign Legion in the XX century. You would think there would be plenty on the subject. There is but not what I am looking for. I found no data on family life (were they celibate? I assume officers had wives tucked in somewhere) about doctors and veterinarians (who looked after the camels?) and I am curious to know if the officer class was composed by French or foreigners were also eligible for commission. But nothing. And i wouldn't dream to mak up things even under the cover of "literary license."

    Then I go to YouTube to look for the trailer of “La Rafle”, a film that follows that French revisionist approach I told you about. The film is set in 1942, but the soundtrack played Charles Tenet “Tombe Du Ciel” which he recorded in the post-war years. I banged my head against the desk. It´s not purism, it´s 1942! My parents were alive. The producers’ parents were alive. There are about 300 places in the Internet that contain Trenet’s (the most famous singer of his time) discographies. YouTube has a channel (Camille88) devoted to French music of the period. This is not esoteric knowledge; the data is there for the taking. One afternoon research, that´s all it takes, but producers are lazy and assume viewers are idiots. Small wonder IMDB has a section called “anachronisms” and “goofs” for period pieces.


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