Category Archives: Historical Fiction

The Sequel

The Sequel

I suppose we all think we know what a sequel is: a follow-up to a narrative concluding in a way the first one couldn’t. We usually feel it picks up threads of the original story, carrying them on to form a new realm we hadn’t imagined with the initial tale. New characters appear, adding their weight to the thickness of the plot, while old ones we befriended in the first story shift their stripes until we feel we hardly know them—changing back again, we hope, to redeem themselves in our eyes and the morality of the novel’s message.

I mean for the sequel to Certain Liberties to do all these things, and I believe it does. One of my editors also called it a historical saga, giving it more of an epic cast than I’d intended, but one I’d hardly turn down. One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because of its ambition to present a classic story-line in a way that parallels the flow of current events. We can’t help but be drawn in by characters living centuries ago who struggle against many of the same challenges we have, with the same fears, succeeding and failing in the same ways we recognize in ourselves today. But what draws people most deeply into the world of imagined protagonists is the pull of meeting people who can teach us about things that came before. We want to learn something from them. Following them through that maze of events is even more enticing because we know how it all turns out. And yet, if the characters are compelling enough, we care more deeply the longer we’re with them because their personal fates matter to us as much as, or even more than the historic events do. Continue Reading

What Is Talent?

What Is Talent?

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”― Émile Zola How frustrating it is to have a question answered with another question. But often the most provocative, insightful, and thoroughly engaging explorations come after just that kind of beginning. This one, what is talent, came from a young composer during… Continue Reading

The Magic of Historical Fiction

The Magic of Historical Fiction

I now see historical fiction as a far cry from guilty pleasure. It seems to me it’s an imperative for exposing the truth. Sarah Blake, author of one of my favorite reads The Guest Book, put it particularly well in a presentation for PBS Newshour, June 19th- ‘In my humble opinion’. She said:  “But what if, this time, we look at the truth in the mirror, and break now from then, making a truer now, one that doesn’t forget the past, but confronts, acknowledges, reconstructs and so, we can hope, repairs?” Continue Reading

Character Building

Character Building

Where do they come from, those fascinating, complex, enigmatic-yet-familiar characters who populate our favorite fiction? Writers are always asked that; by their readers, friends and even other writers. Like much of the art we love most, the answers are as varied as the characters themselves. There’s no right way to bring them to life, and… Continue Reading