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.

At my high school, after the first week of new quarter, members of the current graduating class in good standing could opt out of silent study hall and spend the rest of the quarter in the Senior Privilege area. “Senior Priv” was something for the freshman, sophomores and juniors to look forward to, and for the seniors to lord over the heads of the lower classes. It was nothing more than linoleum tiled room, directly under the library, outfitted with vending machines, breakfast service before noon, tables to encourage socializing — and games. Uno was the favorite activity in 1992, and pouring over Where’s Waldo? books in search of the man in the red & white striped shirt was a close second.

Today on the YALSA-BK list, someone asked about games popular with teens in libraries today – traditional board games, puzzles, and card games – that the library might purchase and have on hand. It sounds like a few librarians even jump in and play along.

The subject is a bit off topic for that particular listserv, so I recommended that we move the conversation to the new ALA Online Communities. Its like bulletin boards with discussion forums, calendar, and file space, and the new YALSA Gaming Discussion Group has a community all it’s own.

To access ALA Online Communities:

1. Go to

2. Login with your username (ALA #) and password). Don’t have a password? For password help, go to:

If you know your membership # go to

(If you are REALLY in a pinch, try calling 1-800-545-2433 during regular business hours.)

3. After you’ve logged in, to locate the YALSA Gaming Discussion Group:
Click “Divisions” from the left menu
Click “YALSA” from the left menu
Click “Teen Gaming Discussion Group” from the left menu

Click “Discussion Forums” from the top menu

After you’ve logged in, click “Documents”
Open the ALA Participants File:

The original query about games has not been reposted yet but I did start to compile a list of responses – look under the Board Games forum and add your response: What card, puzzle and board games do YOU recommend for in-house collections?

~posted by Beth Gallaway

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

Yesterday, Charlie Gibson interviewed Marcus Zusack about his new book, THE BOOK THIEF. During the interview Gibson lavished praise on the book, never mentioning the fact that it was a books for YAs OR that Zusack had just received a Printz Honor for his last book. While I am grateful for the media coverage, I wish there were some way to let those who “handle” the talent know about YA and its awards. I am certain that had Zusack won a Newbery or Newbery Honor, it would have been mentioned. How can we get out the word?

Posted by Teri S. Lesesne

Hi! I’m Beth Gallaway, a new addition to the YALSA blogging team. I’ve been charged with blogging “about ALA from a YALSA perspective.” I’ve been a YALSA member since 1998, have served on a variety of committees, am an SUS trainer, blogged the last 3 conferences for PLA, and in case you didn’t know it, I’m into video games, currently conquering Guitar Hero.

So, today, March 16, marked the beginning of ALA’s online voting. On the ballots are changes to bylaws, as well as names for selecting our next slate of councilors, board members, and folks to serve on a variety of committees.

My login (ALA membership #) and a unique password were emailed to me with instructions. I went to and logged in easily.

I belong to both ALSC and YALSA, so I had 2 division ballots in addition to the main ALA ballot. On each ballot, candidate names had a button next to them, labeled “bio,” Clicking the button made a new window open, showing individual credentials: resume, publications, committee work, accomplishments, and often, a personal statement. Even the bylaw changes had bios that included the original language, the proposed change, and the board’s current stance on the issue. So, even if you feel you haven’t done your homework, you can become an informed voter on the spot.

It took me about 15 minutes to complete all three ballots. If you missed the names of Youth Division members running for ALA council at large, Beth Yoke sent them out on YALSA-L a few weeks ago. The following list is not an endorsement and provided for informational purposes; I leave it up to all of you to consider the implications of having the interests of ALSC and YALSA brought to the Big ALA table–or not.

Cassandra Barnett
Elizabeth (Beth) E. Bingham
Carolyn Brodie
Luann Cogliser
Heidi Dolamore
Eva Efron
Ann Dutton Ewbank

Nancy Fredericks
Carolyn P. Giambra
Dora T. Ho
Dennis J. LeLoup
Virginia (Ginny) Moore
Ria Newhouse
M.A. (Peg) Oettinger
Brenda Pruitt-Annisette
Ellen Riordan

Frances Roscello
Barbara Silverman
Clara Sitter
Margie Thomas
Nancy P. Zimmerman

As far as the issues go, increasing dues are perhaps the biggest one. Amy Alessio outlines the benefits of a YALSA dues increase in her post on March 14. The modest $10 that YALSA is asking for means giving up seeing one movie. Or two of those fancy coffee drinks. Or not buying one gaming magazine. 🙂 And the benefits will bring us an extra $50K, now that we’ve hit 5000 members! (Congrats by the way to Marybeth Gallant, a library teacher in Ashland MA, her library is a member of the region I work for as a library trainer/consultant for youth services).

Increases in ALA dues are on the ballot this year too, with a proposed increase of $10 a year each year for three years. American Librarians Online conducted a poll in January, querying members about the proposed increase and 87% of the 510 respondents voted NO even though it has been 10 years since the last dues increase, and the cost of doing business increases each year.

I know many of our salaries have stagnated in the past few years, and perhaps the amount wouldn’t hurt so much if there were payment plans (like the amount deducted periodically from our paychecks) or if all libraries were willing to pay for staff professional memberships, but we are fortunate that dues are low compared to other professional organizations, and that we get so much bang for our bucks. How much use do you get out of ALA publications? Booklists? Website? Grants? Support? Professional Development? What’s it really worth?

For more information about ALA dues increases, check out the following:
ALA Q& A: Dues Increase:

Executive Director Explains Need for Dues Increase:

2006 AL Direct Straw Poll Results

Online voting continues through April 24, 2006. If you have trouble, help is only a call or email away: User Support: call 800-974-8099 or e-mail 2006electionhelp AT alavote DOT org – note that support is monitored only from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday – Friday (excluding April 14, 2005).

~posted by Beth Gallaway