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.

Reading the Past: the Appeal and Characteristic of Historical Fiction

Sarah L Johnson
Author published by Libraries Unlimited

Started with Fantasy and transitioned to Historical Fiction

Why people read historical fiction
What is it?
How do you define it?
Who reads it?
When does it take place?

Where can you find it?
How Much of it’s is history and how much is fiction

“The past is another Country…they do things differently there” –L.P. Hartley

They want to read about characters that do things different. Escape into past. Forget about day-to-day lives.
We need to be able to identify with them, without the familiarity, we cannot make that connection

Some authors take unfamiliar and make it familiar-leave feeling that human nature is the same no matter the time period

Some novelists express how different characters in the past are from us. Get feeling that is another world
“All novels are historical… but some are more historical than others”
George Orwell (sort of…)

Novels set at time the authors write them are not historical fiction.

Novels that are written about 50, 30 even 20 years in the past can be historical fiction, especially in children’s fiction.

Books dealing with the past are not historical novels

“Nouns always trump adjectives, and in the phrase ‘historical fiction,’ it is important to remember which is which.”- Thomas Mallon

Readers are not forgiving if the author changes events, or adds an event that did not happen

They are more forgiving if there is an author’s note in the end

Historical fiction can help to fill gaps in history.

Readers like to read many different accounts of the same event

Author needs to convince reader that the world is real

what readers want

Very picky, very annoying, not very forgiving if author gets something wrong

Convincingly accurate historical setting
Not all readers are familiar with the history

Entertaining plotline
Historical facts are not enough.

Compelling, realistic characters that reflect their time

Characters have to be appropriate for that time. They want to know what it was like to live in the time setting

To learn what it is like to live in another time period

Historical detail that is woven naturally into the story
not interested in information dumps

Successful with combine historical facts with realistic characters, and a moving plot.
Historical fiction is everywhere.
Historical fiction is part of all genres, so you have to look in all areas of fiction

you do not need a PHD to do RA in history. You can ask the reader about a particular period if you are unfamiliar with.

Very Broad Category. It tends to be invisible..
Invisible in collection, too broad to fit into its own section
Libraries and Bookstores do not have historical section.
Cannot rely on on-line catalog. Subject headings do not help

Librarians may need to spend more time connecting with patrons.
Spend time knowing benchmark books, create displays, and reach readers..

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Religious, Literary, appeals to Jews, Women, and Historians

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
It is a universal novel

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Anne Bolyen told by sister Mary.

First to come out in trade paperback
More popular novel of court women

All these novels have strong female characters
Readership is 70 to 75% women (informal guess)


The Basics

Traditional Historical Novels

Goals Realistically portray a historical period.
Biographical novels
Strong Protagonists
Author is storyteller

the Lady in the Tower-Jean Plaidy
Widow’s War

Multi-Period Epics

James A Michener

Let readers view a culture over an extended period of time
Provide comprehensive picture of a civilization area
Doorstops (1,000 pages)

Family relationships
Social history

Long or Series

John Jakes Civil War
Jessica Stirling Wives of War


Romantic Historical Fiction

Romantic Epics

Large scale stories with sweeping drama and star-crossed lovers.
Long and detailed
no guarantee romance will end happy

Romantic Historical
Smaller scale
equal emphasis on history and story
possible multiple love interests

Historical Romances
One central relationship
focus on romance, not on history
Characters react to history, not really part of it
Romance will end happily

Western Historical Novels
Authentically will portray the old west
more diverse subjects and view points


now more diverse main characters (women, African Americans, Native Americans)
Broader time period

Historical Adventure
Let readers travel and have adventures
Fast paced

Heroic protagonists(usually men)

Historical Thrillers
Engage and thrill with exciting suspenseful exhilarating storylines
fast paced

Literary Historical Novels
Use historical story as a way of expressing a universal or contemporary theme
often referred to as contemporary novels
Address serious issues

Character driven
Leisurely paced

Christian Historical Novels
From a Christian worldview

Portray religious lives in previous time
deal with Christian principles
No explicit sex or language

Francine Rivers
Liz Curtis Higgs

Historical Mysteries
Solving mystery in past
must be accurate in how they solve crime

Part III The Outer Limits
Time-Slip Novels

let readers pretend going back in time is possible.
Supernatural events.
Creatively written
Elements of romance, mystery, fantasy, thrillers, even science fiction

Alternate History
Cross between Science Fiction and Historical Fiction
What IF…
Examine alternative outcomes

run counter to historical fact.
Many based around wars or battles
thought provoking
must know what happened to know what would have happened so very historically based

Never Call Retreat

Historical Fantasy
Fantastical settings

On the edge of myth and history
Otherworldly atmosphere
Supernatural events important, but not a plot device

Multi Genre Titles
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Traditional, literary, swashbuckling adventure

Outlander Eiana Gabaldon

Romantic epic, time-slip, traditional

Possession A.S. Byatt
Literary, romantic, mystery

The Future of Fantasy PLA Pre-conference Part II
Many authors are mentioned, and I apologize if I misspelled any names.

Charles De Lint


Non-Fantasy readers read his books

Books and Librarians
Recommends Firebirds Rising (abandon girl raised by librarians)

Fascinated with creative impulse.

Write what he likes to read.

The more I write I realize that telling a story isn’t enough

I want to learn something I never could before
Elements have to arise from the story elements themselves

If the world is supposed to be dark, why were we given light?

Support the artists

Writing characters requires paying attention, and research

Deal with real life. When a death and depression enters it changes you, and you can’t ignore that in a novel

Writers tend to gravitate toward characters they are interested in.

Cast in stories will look like friends

Strong reactions to characters means the writing is working

Fell let down when finishing novel, like moving to a new job.

Through letters he has the impression he is doing the right thing.

Question: What books to you read?
C:Historical Fiction, YA books, everything
Will Lamore

Q: Other Authors that need to be recognized
Favorite Books

Holly Black
Hindacoff studio
Godmother night
Andrew Bax

Editor Panel
David G. Hartwell

Ruth Katcher

Betsy Mitchell

Sharyn November

Fantasy was first a part of the children’s section
the genre boundary between YA and Adult is TOTALLY artificial

Upcoming Authors (Fantasy)

China Mieville
Charles Stross
The family Trade
Paul Park
Jeff Van der Mejr
Venis Underground
Jean Wolf
Ken Oppel

Margo Lanagan
Mette Harrison
The Princess and the Hound

Not Known Authors
Nina Carikay Hoffman
A Fist full of Sky

New Classics-
Terry Pratchett
China Mieville
Jean Wolf
Orson Scott Card
Dragon Waiting
Magic for Beginners- Small Bear Press
Garth Nix
Series of Unfortunate Event

Nancy Farmer
Diana Winn Jones
Megan Willen Turner
Phillip Pullman

Short Story collections are working again.

Realms of Fantasy
Mag. of Sci Fi & Fantasy

Mix it up, Don’t focus so much on labels. Reader’s don’t care whether a book is published under Children’s or Adult.

Diana Tixier Herald
Author Editor
Genreflecting Series

Bonnie Kunzel

Authors speaking
Elizabeth Haydon
Kenneth Oppel

Online Resources
Feminist Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Utopia

Fluent in Fantasy


International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts

Reader’s Robot Fantasy Page

Recommended Fantasy Author List

First Contact
Fluent Fantasy
Teen Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests

Genreflecting: A Gude to popular Reading Interest

History of Fantasy

Gilgamesh first fantasy
Iliad and Odyssey is where it started for most fantasy readers
1001 Arabian Nights- first printed in print
Gulliver’s Travels

Gothic Novels
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (influenced many fantasy writers)

The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Conan the Barbarian-

Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit

Swords against death by Fritz Leiber (short stories)
The Chronicles of Narnia
Ray Bradbury (dark fantasy)

Wealth of Short stories in

Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 1968
Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders Series) 1968 Science Fiction not Fantasy, but Fantasy readers love.

70’s was a time of big series
Katherine Kurtz (Deryni Series)
The Sword of Shannara (1977)
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Dark and grim) Non fantasy readers were reading

the 80s had many Arthurian legends
The Mists of Avalon by Bradbury

Current boom-Harry Potter

Fantasy readers don’t care if the book is published for children, Young Adult or Adult. They just want to read.

Elizabeth Hayden

Author of the Symphony of Ages: Rhapsody Trilogy
YA-The Floating Island Comparable to the Princess Bride part of The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme,

The future of fantasy
Librarians know more about what is going in the genre field than authors
“When you ever look at anything escapist you have to look at the state of the world” When the world is relatively calm things that are familiar are stagnate, and when the world is turbulent, things that are familiar are comfortable.

When Elizath Hayden was at a conference in New Orleans she met with an author who told her that women in Fantasy were typically cast as Warrior Princesses, and little mystery, romance and other non fantasy genre.

Three predictions
1. Things that are familiar (established series, authors,) will be popular, and comfortable, and new innovative things will be a bright spotlight and be truly innovative
2. Continuation of the blurring of lines will continue.

3. Throughout all of history it is the Young Adult and Children’s stories that lead the way.

Created a interactive curriculum about The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme,
for educators and librarians that she is giving away for free linked to this presentation on PLA website.

Andre Norton
Mentor to female fantasy writers

Root award winner

Will there always be series?
I hope not-People crave series, they want to know what happened

Harry Potter has been a world wide event
It was the reason we now have a Children’s Best Seller list
Only book people will wait outside at midnight to have a party and read.

Readers Advisory Resources

Locus Magazine-publishes lists

Hugo Award (World Science Fiction Convention)-incorporate Fantasy
Titles nomitated by Attendees of the Convention
Nebula (Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America Fantasy Science Fiction and Horror)-Books, short Stories, Young Adult new this year
Selected by published authors

VOYA great resource (they review paperback fantasy original) April has Years best Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, Annotated lists, and includes Adult titles as well because the teens devour it.
New York Review of Science Fiction. Not many Fantasy titles.

John Moore twisted Fairytale

Kenneth Oppel

Author: Silverwing (grounded on science fact) most interesting part of story is based on history fact
Airborn (inspired by stories of individuals who first flew on airplanes) Pints Honor

When he was 14 he was deeply engaged by Dungeons and Dragons
Father read the Hobbit out load.

“As much story as a game”

Games didn’t last long enough.

So he became the Dungeon Master. Started with map, to funnel the characters. Best part was designing. Laid out the monsters, rooms, and events, but players would just come in and mess it up.

So he started writing stories. His first three stories were rejected by Dragon magazine.

What appealed to him was reaching a world where he could reach by no other means. He loved stories grounded in some way to our world.

Always have an escape. Grounded stories make it seem possible that these worlds are just hidden and if you pay close attention you may find it as well.

His own work has tried to combine fantasy and the world.

Like with DnD he writes with many rules. He is a blueprinter, and planner.

Fantasy is now being set in history. He personally likes these stories. Inspiring and more interesting, and more visual. The possibility of more exciting discoveries seems more likely.

What he loves is the daydreaming stage. the possibilities then are limitless.

Future of fantasy: show us old things in a new light?
Thanks for mentioning Lloyd Alexander

Definably more books with Matt. Currently working on prequel to Silverwing

Most libraries have Science Fiction to categorize Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction.

Librarian: We are re-instructing patrons to mean Speculative Fiction. that way it is still SF

Librarian: I color code it

Librarian: I put the books in the Teen section. We are currently having a sticker war. Some librarians don’t want smaller genres to have stickers because they think it discourages Reader’s Advisory

Librarian: Found interest in Fantasy through gaming. Will video gaming cause more interest in Science fiction?
Oppel: I don’t think so. I

Not working with Screen Writer because he doesn’t want to splice it up.

Fantasy Sub Genres

A huge diversity of Fantasy

Epic Fantasy Long series that go through many generations
you continue to go on and on. As a reader keep…Sorry my Computer Died. Most of the things discussed are on the handout Fantasy Sub-Genres

On my way back from dinner, I stopped by the Boston Public Library. The building was very beautiful, and the Young Adult section, had its own floor, located on the mezzanine between the children and the adult floor. The mezzanine only contains half the floor space of the other levels, but is home to only the foreign language collection and the Young Adult Section, tucked away in its own room. Upon entering the room, you realize it is not very modern or flashy, but when you look closer at the shelves and on the walls, you see the marks of teens. The shelves are lined with YA books in every genre a librarian could want. The tables and chairs look exactly like the uncomfortable but durable chairs that are in many libraries, but on the tables, there are art models and supplies for teens to use. In one corner, a shelf has a few games, but use has pretty much worn out the collection of Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, and Checkers. On the walls teen artwork, postcards, and photographs cover the dull paint. When I arrived, a Yu-gi-uh gaming group had just left. Their group was not an organized library program, but I think it speaks volumes that these teens choose to use the library for their meeting place, and the librarians supported and encouraged their non-traditional library use.

At first glance, the Young adult room looks slightly dreary, but when looking past the surface you can see a lively young adult area. I wonder if this room’s first impression affects the young adults. I started asking the librarian questions, and that is how I learned about all of the wonderful things going on in the room. I admire what the librarians are working to accomplish for the teens, but wonder if our Young Adult Sections should need an interpreter.

I think it is important to talk about what could be improved even in the Young Adult Spaces we all admire. We can work to advocate the equal treatment of teens with the adult and children services, as well as strive to provide a teen area that is ideal for teens without having to construct a new building. I think the only way we can make an innovative teen section is if we can take educated risks.

I have arrived in Boston, and already meet two lovely librarians that were on my flight. I have my computer, but my hotel’s Internet is a little spotty. I will try to post every evening, but if I am unable I will at least post a review when I return back home.

For anyone at PLA I hope to see you here, and if you are interested in video games and libraries, a few librarians will be meeting Thursday at 8:30 in the Sherdon lobby if you want to come, otherwise you can spend your time on the community discussion forums at

Sorry for the informality.

Jami Schwarzwalder

Posted by Beth Yoke:

Volunteer Opportunities: ALA has been in contact with libraries in the New Orleans area, as well as Habitat for Humanity and other organizations to determine the types of volunteer activities that will be available on Fri. June 23 and Tues. June 27. ALA will conduct a site visit in March to finalize activities, and will notify people in early April of the various volunteer options. Volunteers will be able to select their top choices for projects, and ALA will do its best to accommodate requests. The plans are currently to have full day projects to offer as much help to each site as possible. To participate, you can register through the regular ALA Annual registration form by entering event code AL1 (Friday) or AL2 (Tuesday) under the ‘Events Add On’ Section. There is a $10 fee to register for these two events, but proceeds go to the Katrina Relief Fund. If you have any questions please contact ALA at

Diversions Tour: ALA’s Office for Diversity will devote its normally scheduled “Diversions Tour,” held on the Monday of every Annual Conference, to touring the most afflicted New Orleans neighborhoods and later, performing a hands-on service project at NOPL’s Alvar Branch. You may sign up for this ticketed event when registering for Annual Conference. In exchange for a purchased ticket, participants will receive a T-shirt, lunch, and an opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of a vital library and library collection. Any proceeds from ticket sales support the Spectrum Scholarship as well as a monetary donation to the New Orleans Public Library. NOPL’s Alvar Branch Library serves a traditionally African American and a burgeoning GLBT community. It was severely affected by Katrina and requires extensive renovation (see: ). We will be working with Geraldine Harris, Assistant City Librarian of NOPL, to determine the exact nature of the project we will perform, be it painting and sheet-rocking or landscaping services. Questions about the Diversions Tour can be directed to

Scholarship Bash: At ALA’s Midwinter Meeting last month the ALA Executive Board voted that all net proceeds from the 2006 Scholarship Bash over $60,000 be designated as a one-time addition to the Hurricane Relief Fund. Here are the details that are available: ALA/ProQuest Scholarship and Library Relief Event Saturday, June 24, 2006, 8:00 – 11:00 pm Convention Center Auditorium Tickets: $35 The Scholarship Bash is held to provide scholarships for graduate students in library and information studies. ALA hasn’t yet announced the entertainment for this event, but you can check back on because it will be posted there when it’s finalized. Questions about the Bash can be directed to Amy McGuigan at

Donate Books Now: The New Orleans Public Library needs help in rebuilding the African American, Vietnamese and GLBT collections at Alvar. She is especially seeking new or “like new” books that have been Stonewall, Coretta Scott King, BCALA Literary or other appropriate award winners, as well as canonical and popular titles in these collection areas. Send book donations to: New Orleans Public Library 219 Loyola, New Orleans, LA 70112, Attention Rica Trigs. Geraldine states: DO NOT SEND anything by US mail unless it is first-class. NOPL does not receive anything that is not first class. We can receive packages via FedEx, UPS, and DHL.

YALSA’s Preconference in New Orleans is entitled Read with Your Ears, and is focusing on Audiobooks for Teens. Throughout the day, there will be panels of both reviewers and producers of Young adult audiobooks. There will also be a presentation about tying Audiobooks into the curriculum. Enjoy a relaxing lunch with guest speaker Tamora Pierce, and return for more, including a wrap-up discussing trends, marketing, and more.

Stay tuned to the YALSA blog for information on a VERY exciting contest for pre-conference attendees.
Register Now for the Preconference!

Posted by Jamie Watson

I have posted some candid snapshots from the All Committee Meeting and from the Awards Press Conference to my Flickr account. Go see YALSA and its members in action.

Posted by Teri Lesesne