Changing from contemporary fiction to historical fiction didn’t happen to me overnight and wasn’t a simple flip of the switch. It was the result of a long & conscious deliberation with myself.
And I must admit I still, occasionally, have my doubts about HF. All the research, the essential tropes, the critical eyes from readers. The writing is so much slower and has to be so precise and time conscious. But despite it all, I stand by my choice and take the extra work in my stride. So far.
I firmly believe in the power of the past to tackle the challenges of the future. And if I – as a fiction author – could contribute to only one inch of growth in awareness by shedding some light on the lessons of the past, my mission is accomplished.
Every new century is obsessed with looking forwards instead of backwards. It’s the same thought cycle that happens in other time frames as well. Think of taking stock of the past year in December and new year’s resolutions in January. Our thoughts in the morning are different to those in the evening, our hopes for the day and what we actually accomplished. Just saying: beginnings and endings are different.
So it’s no surprise for me that at the beginning of the 21st century we’re much more inclined to worry about major topics such as climate change and geopolitical shifts that are taking place right now and what they (may) mean for the future. Tackling Covid is also part of that future package.
Yet it’s a no-brainer that all today’s problems have their origin in the past and if we want to solve them truly and for good, we’d better go back to their roots. I might find myself swimming upstream here, against the current, but hey think of me as just waving a hand above water, as a sign to remember.
What Historical Fiction is to me
One of the definitions – I’m sure there are plenty- is:
Historical fiction transports readers to another time and place, either real or imagined. Writing historical fiction requires a balance of research and creativity, and while it often includes real people and events, the genre offers a fiction writer many opportunities to tell a wholly unique story.
The line that has been drawn to make a book fall within the HF category is that it should take place at least 50 years in the past. So it is an evolving genre with the demarcation line now being drawn at the end of the 1960s.
I’ve chosen the era from 1850 to 1960 as my focal point, too vast a period for many other HF authors I assume but I find that the most interesting part of our history: the evolution from a man-made to a machine-made world.
So you won’t find me in a clay hut in the Middle Ages or taking notes at a decadent orgy in Ancient Rome. I prefer the times when life had become a little bit more complex and women could collectively put their shoulders to the wheel. I go for themes like liberation, the pursuit of happiness, growth in awareness. The Four freedoms articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 resonate with me: Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, Freedom from fear.
Merry Christmas y’all!