Monthly Archives: October 2016

Creating Fact from Fiction – More Adventures in Field Research

Two years ago, in November 2013, I wrote an epilogue to my research trip in France and Belgium, entitled “The Challenges of Field Research” in which I lamented the things that can thwart the best-laid schemes of mice and moles digging for information. I am a great believer in field research, particularly when it comes to checking out the basic lay of the land where the novel is set, which, unlike most things, doesn’t change that much over the centuries. This kind of research can save an author from many embarrassing mistakes such as sending one’s hero on a trek that is supposed to last only three days, but in the 12th century would have taken at least three weeks (due to forests, rivers, mountains etc., not to mention the fact that the journey had to be made on foot!). Of course, a good topographical map can save the day, but not always. And there is no faster way to lose one’s credibility as an author than misrepresenting the land or seascape, or describing a topographical detail that doesn’t and probably never did exist – occasionally a “local” may actually read your book! And so, mindful of the value of such research, a few weeks ago I headed for Sardinia.

la-cathedrale-1
La Cathedrale, Sardinia

I was originally scheduled to be in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and Antalya, Turkey, both of which play a far greater role than Sardinia in my second novel, Holy the Sword, set in the time of the Second, Third & Fourth Crusades, 1146-1204. However, as of the summer of 2016, discretion seemed to be the better part of valor as far as visiting Istanbul was concerned, and so I abandoned my plans for Turkey in favor of Sardinia. Apart from the fact that I had never visited that island before, there was a fairly good reason in terms of the novel.

My hero Rohan de Brancion, a young crusader on the way to the Holy Land in 1148, is caught up Continue reading Creating Fact from Fiction – More Adventures in Field Research

Is Historical Fiction an Oxymoron?

In a recent post, I referenced an excellent article by Michael Caines published in the Times Literary Supplement last month on this subject, apropos of the HNS Conference in Oxford this September. Taking the assertion that historical fiction is a “deeply bogus” genre, the author goes on to argue that while history tells us “what was,” fiction tells us “what might have been.” And yet as the popularity of historical fiction today suggests, the public continues to enjoy venturing into this hybrid genre, bogus or not. I would also add that the majority of successful historical novels today are deeply researched “for historical accuracy,” even the most imaginative page-turners among them – my own personal favorites in that category being C.J Sansom’s Shardlake, a brilliant series about a lawyer/detective in Tudor England and anything that rolls off the pen of Bernard Cornwell.

By contrast, the historical novels I first fell in love with (back in the time which some today would consider “history”) historical accuracy was barely Continue reading Is Historical Fiction an Oxymoron?