Historical Fiction – a Look at Why Authors Choose to Write in this Genre

Historical Fiction and My Interest in Writing the Genre

historical fiction

Elizabeth Pye Author of Silk or Sugar

Have you ever wondered why authors write about the genres they do, such as historical fiction? They either have a purpose or interest driving them to write in their areas of expertise and/or research.

In my case, I have always been attracted to France since childhood. This seems unusual because I grew up in rural Virginia and was not surrounded with much of anything French. Regardless of my lack of exposure, I wanted to learn to speak and read French. My writing passion came later when I became obsessed with French history after my husband and I traveled in Europe. Now I write historical fiction and interweave places we visited and all things French into the settings of the series I’m currently writing. It’s my way of being there in that time and place.

Plotting the story-getting started

I’m beginning to plot the third book in my French Connection series. So far all of the work has been done in my head. Now I am at a point I can begin to rough out my ideas on paper. This approach is because I don’t work from a detailed outline when writing. But what I have done is determined that Anne and Adrien, from the Silk or Sugar novel, are the main characters. The story opens in 1804 France with Adrien still serving in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Republican Army. New Orleans comes into the story and will involve plantation life and bring forward characters found in Silk or Sugar. I always start out using the working title of the main character, in this case, Anne’s Story.

As I write the chapters, the story comes more and more into focus. It goes without saying, I research each chapter for the fine details to enrich each scene. That’s when my muse kicks in any time of the day or night and, I receive inspirations for new scenes for twists and turns in the novel. It’s as if the pieces of the puzzle come together before my mind’s eye. Now how do I explain that process? One bit of advice I must emphasize is that when the muse speaks, you better record it immediately. If you delay, it will be lost forever.

Why Do Authors Write Historical Fiction?

Ask ten historical fiction authors why they write in the genre, and you will receive ten different answers. Reasons may include replies such as:

  1. I’m curious about history and the people of the past.
  2. I love to imagine what life was like in past eras and places.
  3. Writing historical fiction is a way to make the connections from past eras to the present.
  4. Readers buy historical novels.

Author B. J. Hoff, formerly a church music director and music teacher, chose to write historical fiction because she loved reading, listening to, and making up stories from early on in life. When the preacher in Sunday School said, “Let me tell you a story,” he had her attention. B. J. enjoys creating communities in historical settings where “people can form relationships, raise families, and pursue their faith.”

What type of historical novels do readers like?

Walk into a bookstore, and you’ll find numerous genres to choose from. Writers are encouraged by their mentors to learn which of the genre categories the title of their books would be located in.

Historical fiction is a broad category. Since genres overlap, it is a good idea for authors to carefully study the appropriate category and sub-category sections in which readers will discover their published titles. The historical fiction genre may include any of these subgenres:

  • Historical Romance
  • Historical Mysteries
  • American Historical Fiction
  • Historical Novels
  • Fictional Biographies
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Children’s Historical Fiction
  • Young Adult Historical Fiction

How do authors determine if their books are considered historical novels?

Answers certainly vary according to each author. Historical Novels Review defines a “historical novel” as set fifty years or more in the past and written from research, not personal experience. A teenager would consider the 1950’s to be old.

Old takes on different meanings, depending on the age of the writer. The 1950’s may sound old to young people but not to older individuals. One thing can be agreed on, however. A novel can fall under the category of historical fiction if it is about events or people set in the past.

Anybody can make history; only a great man can write it.

Oscar Wilde

 

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