Part 2 (or should that be Part II?) of the posts for the Historical Novel Society Conference is about the Opening Address from Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and the Cousin’s War Series set during the Wars of the Roses. Very interesting it was too.
Philippa Gregory spoke of history being a public art. The archive is not history but simply contains the material needed to make it. History is the narrative, the story that can be woven from the information gathered from the documents and the random facts that they contain. It is the job of the writer (just like the historian) to select the facts and use them to tell the tale they want. The only trouble with this is some important issues can be ignored or glossed over. One example is Henry VIII where the role of women in his life are almost completely ignored despite having six wives, being the father to two Queens and having a strong mother and grandmothers. Therefore, although some professional historians do not take historical fiction seriously, both they and the author do the same level of research and use the same sources. They just have different agendas. Also, the reading of non-fictitious history makes the reader use their imagination. Reading a biography of Elizabeth I will make you imagine her in real life – her speech, her mannerisms, her clothing – and this creating a character based on the information given.
For more information on Philippa Gregory, have a look at her website and read her books: http://www.philippagregory.com/
Next time we’ll have a look at fight scenes and how to strike some real Killer Blows (in fiction, that is, not real life.) https://jamesbicheno.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/killer-blows/