Historical novels, what’s the difference?


As an author, I know I will receive negative reviews from people who do not like what I put out there. It’s part of the business to develop a thick skin. What bothers me is when people criticize something that makes no sense. Bemoaning historical facts in an historical fiction novel is fine, but to a point. Let’s explore, shall we?

Historical fiction is defined loosely as:
“…a work of writing that reconstructs the past. Often inspired by history, writers of this genre will incorporate past events or people into their fictitious stories. In order to do this successfully, the story’s details need to feel authentic…” (“feel authentic,” did you catch that? Not BE authentic, but FEEL authentic…I digress…)

So, as a reminder to all, let’s define “fiction:”
“literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people.”

What we are looking at is a genre that takes an historical time period and creates an imaginary story surrounding those details. When publishing “The Soldier’s Secret,” I went to great lengths to make sure my history was correct. I know as a reader and lover of history, it is crucial to get these details right. I went to such lengths as spending HOURS reading about battles, artillery, clothing, mannarisms, food…you name it, I read about it. I consulted a historian about the finer details as well.

Something that was pointed out was the possible lack of validity between a book on artillery between the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. As a personal note, I never said books given to my main character were even from this time period, but oh well, I’ll answer as if it were what I was implying… Many gunsmiths at the time would not have been privy to the new technology being developed, especially in small towns. It is possible that an apprentice would have read such books to gain an understanding of the mechanics of how a cannon or rifle fires. As a rifle instructor (I did say I was a woman of many talents), I can assure you that the basic mechanisms for igniting a charge have not changed much, but just been compacted (that’s a post for another time).

Historical non-fiction is defined as: “prose writing that is informative or factual rather than fictional.” If I wanted to write a history textbook, I would. If I wanted to tell the factual story of King Henry VIII’s wife, Anne Boleyn, I would be amiss as an non-fiction author to say she survived and went on to live a ripe old age. HOWEVER, there are historical fiction novels that may suppose she was not actually beheaded, but rescued at the last minute and a lookalike was put in her place. Highly unlikely, but it would make for an interesting story, if there were historical proof to this.

You may think I’m being childish by answering back, but when someone questions the validity of my work, I get angry (can you blame me?). I’ve had negative reviews before and took them in stride. There were no historical facts to contend with so I cannot begrudge a person their opinion.

Phew, I did say this page would be host to my ramblings? Saying that, why not see for yourself? 🙂

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