Reactions to Historical Fiction

Brad Hooper- panel member

Adult Books Editor, Booklist

Historians are ask
How do you know that?
Ok you told me where you got it why do you believe it?

Must argue why they trust material

underlying is with Characters

back-story game

How do you handle a event or a social group that didn’t keep much historical details?

to be convincing to a reader you have to do the research

Spend time retracing roots of characters. (evening prayers are time markers) Readers will follow as well

Accounts of gypsies were not that accurate, but linguists transcribed what the actual gypsies said. German language was what linguist spoke, so transcripts are in German

Difference between Narrative fictions and historical is narrative-historical fiction

Historical fiction have a consistency of truth, and must teach readers the difference.

“As an author it is a great experience to switch genres”

Poke through archives and dig through time

Look for convincing details of the time

Kathryn Lasky-panel member

“Fortunately history is not made by headlines, blogs, and hot news. It takes time to … “Donald Rumsfield(yesterday in paper)

I think historical fiction is made of everyday people doing every day things

Author of first Dear America title

best resource was Morts relation not William Bradford
day by day journal written by pilgrims
Pilgrim Bloggers

can be found earliest accounts of Mayflower contract
it gives it a live that transcends centuries.

Never written ”history book”, but has done immense amounts of research

Why I write historical fiction:
“Reading history it is a way of living extra lives” –Tony Hindra author of Father Joe

Don’t write to teach, but wants to raise questions in the minds of reader( ethics, morality) Explore not be told

Beyond the burning time about Salem witch trials made her think. Appalled by commercialization of Salem. “it was like Disneyworld”, so she started doing some research. Read transcripts of trials. “what would it be like if my mother would have been arrested and tried as a which”

getting it right-sometimes you do have to depart, alter. you cannot disrupt the fabric of the period. You have to really understand the fabric of period

pet peeves-when people try to imposed a 20th century aire of political and environmental correctness.
If a women is locked in a tower she would not know about injustice. She may get mad and stomp her foot, but she will not go on about how women should be treated.

Killing a bunny in the 18th century should be realistic. They won’t have a funeral for the bunny.
Girl was raped, she was shunned and a reader wrote in saying that the author should have had a support group in novel (it was in the 18th century-they didn’t have support groups then)

Know editors will want to edit something out so she will put in something that she can use as a bargaining chip. Go over the top, so that she can keep some elements.
Scholastic wanted her to take out Bear baiting (Animal rights issue), but was fine with the beheading.

Reviewing historical novels
Brad Hooper- panel member
Adult Books Editor, Booklist

Tell upfront it is a historical novel. “It is set in renaissance Italy”
Don’t go into historical detail, assume people don’t know basic history ID people places events, except for painfully obvious.

Judge historical fiction as any fiction. hold same standard for light fiction as light historical fiction and same standard for serious historical fiction and serious fiction

How well is the history integrated into the story. Should be a smooth transition

Pay attention to characters. Characters need to be developed.

Pre-Cold Mountain and Post-Cold Mountain

Post Cold Mountain
very literary

Upcoming April 15th Focus on Historical novels about China are big, lot are beautifully done. More and more people are going to China, and China is more in the news today.

I don’t see a trend in: Middle East. (maybe a travel thing)

Interest in female renaissance painters

Female protagonists are on the rise

Many set in New York City (Dramatic place)

Civil War setting, but now most are just like Cold Mountain

Broadening out of Historical fiction. Don’t’ have to be about kings and queens or big events

can be ordinary people doing ordinary things just set one hundred years ago

15 min break
Then we are breaking into groups to talk about historical fiction
13 moderators will stay and talk about subgenre then rotate.

I’m going to save my sanity and not Blog this.

About Jami Schwarzwalder

Currently a teen librarian with the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA.She is passionate about technology, making, and learning. See what I'm up to at

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