It is said that every writer also needs to read in order to perfect her craft. As a teen and young adult, I never was without a book. I had no interest in a social life because reading and, moreover, writing were more important.
Writing always has been one of my life’s passions. I started writing before I reached double digits. I created newspapers, and wrote a “novel” at the age of nine or ten. It was an historical fiction piece about two sisters in an 1840s canal town. I have been writing historical fiction ever since.
If writing always has been one of my life’s passions, history always has been the other. I have a particular interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I am fascinated with the transition between the old and the modern, technological world. I have studied this timeframe to the extent that I now consider myself an amateur historian.
What Is Historical Fiction?
The following characteristics are found in historical fiction:
- It is set in the past, often during a major historical event.
- The story is set at least 50 years prior to when the novel was written.
- It can contain all fiction characters, real-life historical figures, or both.
- Setting, dialogue, technology, pop culture, etc., are accurate to the period and require the author to do significant research.
- Some artistic license is okay, but the plot must not veer too much from historical accuracy.
- It is often used as a vehicle for making commentary on current events, or for teaching about the human condition.
There are subgenres of historical fiction including historical fantasy, alternative history, historical mystery, fictionalized biographies, family sagas, historical romance, pirate fiction, and children’s historical fiction.
Some historical fiction novels also fall under the women’s literature category. Women’s literature is characterized as a story about a woman going through a life-changing event.
Popularity of Historical Fiction
Goodreads lists 100,000 historical fiction titles spanning all time frames.
The genre has been popular in the movie theatre for decades with films such as Gone With the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, Gladiator, Braveheart, 12 Years a Slave and JFK, to name a few.
Historical fiction also has found its way in recent years to television. Show such as Vikings, Hell on Wheels, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire and Merlin are all historical fiction.
These books, movies and television shows often inspire people to do their own research and learn about the time periods the stories take place.
Historical fiction is an excellent way to introduce people to a particular time and demonstrate that history is far from boring. Historical events affected ordinary people, making some rise to the occasion and do extraordinary things.
What is your favorite genre and why?