Friday, 23 May 2014

Why I Write Historical Fiction

Lately I've been getting asked the same question a lot.  I don't mind, really; it's a fairly obvious question when I tell people what I do, but I find it really hard to answer.  Or answer succinctly.  When I say that I'm a writer, and that I write historical fiction, the response seems to be to wonder why someone "so young" (their words, not mine) wants to write about history.  And the really short answer is, I don't know.  Artists of any kind out there will know what I mean when I say that when an idea takes hold, you don't sit down and analyse why; you take hold of it and you run like hell.  

But seeing as they've asked.  

I started composing this response the other day in my head.  It was swirling around in my mind as I woke and started to prepare myself for work.  Later, I stopped and jotted down a few notes.   It seems to be a combination of factors in my case, including but not limited to: 

* Years of studying Australian history (and being quite good at it sometimes)

* A few books that I read when I was younger, which really stuck with me, such as Amy Amaryllis by Sally Odgers and Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French.  For those of you familiar with my thesis, you'll note that I based the title of my creative component, Just Around the Corner on this second one, although this is where the similarity ends. 

* I've always been told that I should write the kind of books I love to read.  There are a few fairly perfect books out there that I wish I had written, but in a way it's nice to be involved in my own work.  It really gives me an appreciation for the amount of work that must have gone into these works that I love.  

* And then there's this idea that I hear Jo Baker talking about at the Perth Writer's Festival this year, about writing myself into the narrative.  My characters are not me, but they do include facets of me. 

There are probably other reasons as well, but these are the ones that spring most to mind.  I can't say that family history comes into it at the moment, but I've been thinking more and more about mining my own family's past for ideas.  A lot of my writer friends are writing about their shared memories, and about things that happened to their loved ones.  They do this with compassion and generosity of spirit, and with beauty, and I have a lot of respect for things, but I am more of a mind to make things up.  I certainly don't wish I was born in another era.  Give me modern conveniences any day; I don't wish I was a POW and I don't wish I was a girl in the 1930s/ 1940s, because I think I would get myself into a lot of trouble.  I wouldn't have been able to study, most likely!  

This post may have been a bit scatterbrained, and for that I apologise.  But there it is.  Your answer, if you were wondering.  My age doesn't really come into it.  

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting!

    I love writing historical fiction too, and I totally agree about not wanting to transplant myself into past worlds (I love the idea of Victorian England, but my socioeconomic status means I'd end up at best a servant and more likely a prostitute so, uh, no thanks), but writing about them is way to explore them without having to experience them.

    (And I really don't understand why age should have any bearing on an interest in history or historical writing.)

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