Why historians should write fiction

If anyone happens to be coming to my reading of ‘What the horses heard’ with discussion on Historical Fiction at Exeter Library on Thurs 19th at 5-7 (date and time correct here) or at Worcester Literary Festival next Weds pm (June 26th) you might like to read this brilliant piece in advance… only then you will know everything and might not want to come…. hmmmm

Novel approaches

ARTICLE

 Ian Mortimer

“Your book reads like a novel,” is a comment that popular historians often hear. When said by a general reader, it is a compliment: an acknowledgement of the fluency of the writing and a compelling story. If a historian uses those same words, however, it is an insult. It means ‘you cannot be trusted on your facts’. Hence the title of this piece is bound to infuriate every reader of this journal, for it implies that historians should tell lies. After all, that is what novelists do, isn’t it? Make it all up if they don’t know the facts?

I ought to explain at the outset that I am a novelist (James Forrester) as well as a historian (Ian Mortimer), and I write history for the mass market as well as scholarly articles. As a novelist, I tell lies. Whoppers. All historical novelists do. In my…

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About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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One Response to Why historians should write fiction

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Oh, what a cool article. I like his points about historical fiction and the ” realisation that history is not primarily about the past. It is about human nature.” Thanks.

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