Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What do you look for in historical fiction?

What do you look for in historical fiction? What to you makes reading or writing historical fiction different to reading or writing other fiction genres?
Do you like a detailed study of real-life historical figures? Or do you prefer a fictional character who somehow 'captures' a particular aspect of the time?
How important is the historical setting to you?
How do you feel about anachronisms, whether in customs, organisations, beliefs or behaviour?

If you have a favourite historical fiction writer, who is it, and why?
Do you have a favourite historical time period? Why that time?

Please come and share your likes, dislikes and observations in the comments section below. If you are a historical fiction writer, why not share details of your work, why you enjoy writing historical fiction, and details of your website and books?

If you are an avid historical fiction reader, please come  and share titles of those books you really enjoyed, names of authors whom you enjoy, plus those time periods which you like to read and why.

 Have fun!



Lindsay Townsend said...

Welcome to the comments section!
I'm Lindsay Townsend, the owner of this blog. I love reading historical fiction to rediscover the past and to have it recreated for me. Authors who do this are my favourites. I love all periods of history and would love to see more ancient world historical fiction.

I write historical fiction, too - historical romance, with adventure and high stakes, historical mystery with conspiracies and dark aims.

My website is here@

How about you? Please come and share.

Jen Black said...

Thanks for putting up Dark Pool's cover, Lindsay! It's my forgotten title and yet I put in such a lot of work on researching Dublin as I wrote the story!
The past has always seemed more interesting, vibrant and full of opposites to me. Life was either wonderful or desperately harsh, with little in between. I much prefer reading historicals - often Viking times - early medievals or late Dark Ages, depending on your POV. The sixteenth century has long been a favourite, and the Victorians are creeping up on me. I tend to write stories set in those times, too. Modern stories - yes I do read them - often seem bland by comparison.

Susana Ellis said...

I like all types of historical fiction. Except that I'm discovering that "historical fiction" means different things to different people.

I consider what I write "historical romance," particularly "Regency romance." Some people look askance at that sub-genre and call it "wallpaper historicals" because the historical aspect is merely the setting. However, I do try to keep my characters' actions in tune with the period and be as historically accurate as I can.

People are entitled to their opinions, of course, but since I have never aspired to write the type of historical fiction that Elizabeth Chadwick writes, for instance, it disturbs me somewhat that these people will put down the entire sub-genre of Regency romance because it's not "historical fiction."

But then, I suppose I shouldn't let it bother me, since Regency romance is a popular sub-genre and there are many successful authors. The best reward for me is having readers enjoy my stories. Anything else is gravy.

Sherry Antonetti said...

As a newcomer to both the world of reading and writing "Historical fiction," I love the universal emotional ressonance of the characters, that the feelings of today, can be found in the hearts of people who existed long before us, as crafted by the author.

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

I enjoy both reading and writing historical settings if they're as close to facts as possible. I don't mind when actual historical personages are added to a story, as long as the known personality of that person is in keeping with the storytelling. I love reading/adding details and mannerisms of time periods. The Victorian era is my favorite because it's on the precipice of so many huge changes in the world, but I enjoy all historical settings.

Great topic Lindsay.

Peter Alan Orchard said...

I have to admit to reading more historical background material for my own writing these days than I do historical fiction. I can always be tempted by an intriguing setting or storyline, though, particularly in my own ancient/medieval periods.

Outside the historicals, I read all sorts, from Trollope to Pratchett.

Check out my stuff on the Amazons or

Linda Banche said...

I prefer the past because the present is too close to us. My favorite era is the Regency. Regency attitudes are similar enough to the present that I don't have to understand an entirely different world view.

I also like historical accuracy. I object to stories that have modern people wearing different clothes. If I wanted a contemporary, I would read one. I don't want to find one disguised in the past.

I love Regency romances, but I also like something in addition to the romance, like adventure or mystery. I especially like stories about women who push the edge of what was acceptable for a lady at the time--and I don't mean just in sex. I want to read about women scientists, artists, business owners, not just ladies who are pretty and nice. And I especially want to see women who succeed and thrive in that male-dominated society. They do exist! And the hero has to be a man who likes a woman like this.

Author H K Carlton said...

I write in several different genres but historical romance is my first love; either reading or writing. I love anything British/Scottish, in any era. In my first historical I shied away from stamping it with an exact era or time period because the characters were fictional, I didn't want readers to have any pre-set ideas or expectation. But for my second historical romance that comes out in April I went crazy with historical research. And I loved every minute of it.I agree with Rose Anderson, as a reader, I don't mind if things are added to a character whether it be details to appearance or some bonus character traits when it lends to the story. It just gives the story more depth, and the history books don't report on that kind of thing anyway, who knows, it just might be true! :)

Thank you, Lindsay. Fun discussion.

My historicals are here:

Anita Davison said...

Hello Lindsay, thanks for the invite.

I like to read 'Early Modern English History' which covers the reigns of the Tudors and the Stuarts. I like to write 17th Century Biographical, the English Civil war, the Monmouth Rebellion and the Glorious Revolution. I also have a couple of novels which are Victorian Romance and am dabbling in Cozy Mystery too.

My novels are all detailed on my blog here:

Diane O'Key said...

Historicals are my first love. While I like contemporaries--love some--depending on the author, too many repeat the same conflicts; too many are "light," in my opinion, just "fluffy". My favorite period is medieval, and I write 11th Century. Work in historical characters when I can, but it's the fictional characters and conflicts, the English setting that drive me. Love Norse/Viking heroes and Gaelic heroines... sizzle, humor, sensuous elements. My CHERISH THE KNIGHT deets can be found on my website, Wonderful to read other authors' comments--fun and insightful :-) Thanks so much, Lindsay, for offering us this opportunity to share. Diane

Marilyn said...

I love historical novels, both reading them and writing them. I have two historical novels in print and eBook formats. The first is The Women of Camp Sobingo, which features four women who meet aboard a transport ship on its way to Korea after WWII to join their husbands with the Occupation Forces there. They form strong bonds that will see them through the 18 months of confinement in a military compound outside Seoul known as Camp Sobingo. At a reunion 25 later, secrets and sorrows are at last revealed.
(It kind of hurt my feelings to discover that WWII – which I remember – is considered “historical.” But there I am, remembering my mother’s experiences in that compound, living much of the life described there.)
My second historical is set in Victorian England (1860s) and tells of a young woman, Vanessa, who is betrayed by her callous stepfather who hands her mother’s house to his own daughter, thus making her virtually homeless. She is encouraged, however, to attend a stenographer’s school where she learns her craft well enough to gain a position as stenographer to the world famous explorer, Harrison Courtland. A mystery is solved and Vanni discovers not only the mystery of “the old rocks” on his property, but also her own heart’s desire.
So, I’m thinking I must have strong women as the lead character, no matter what the era, who break tradition in one way or another, and emerge triumphant over adversity.
The men would be heroes in another novel, but in these situations, I focus on the women. I also must have an exotic setting, whether real places or imagined. Take Korea, for example. Not many people knew of its existence, until they were ordered there after WWII. My mother knew my father had been sent to The Far East, and we assumed Japan. Yet when she received a letter telling her he was in Korea, or Chosen, she wailed, “Where is that?” I remember helping her cry.
And although our heroine Vanessa lives in Cornwall, we are treated to a back story where the former Mrs. Courtland, assumed killed in a fall over a Himalayan river, is actually alive and well in an undiscovered kingdom of Rimar.
And there must be some kind of intrigue; some kind of mystery to solve in unorthodox ways, surprising the reader somewhere near the ending of the story. Or, in the case of The Unexplored Heart, the mysterious kingdom where Lisanne Courtland finds herself forms its own, separate book inside the novel.

My books are available in print and all eBook formats. I am writing sequels to both these novels: The Women of Camp Sobingo will follow Trudy Cavanaugh through the years after their reunion. It will be That Cavanaugh Woman.
And as soon as I typed “The End” to The Unexplored Heart, one of the minor characters marched into my office and settled her corpulent body in my guest chair and said, “Huh. You just think you’re finished. I want my own book.” Esther Wooster stared at me until I agreed to write a book about her. Soon, my publisher will release the sequel, After Camelot: Esther’s Quest.

Here’s your info on how to purchase all my books, plus a bonus: I’m also offering the first four chapters of ALL my books as a free read. See the links below.

Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author, Editor, Speaker
And now, free reads: First four chapters of all my books:
"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -- Ray Bradbury

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I really like historical fiction that takes me to another time through its writing and setting. I detest anachronisms as they take me out of the story. I particularly enjoy exploring the role of women in the past but prefer them to have minds of their own. I also prefer some mystery, intrigue or adventure along with romance! I've enjoyed a few of yours, Lindsay and still have more to read!

So far (for adults), I have one sweet Regency novel and one Victorian novella published: and website

Celtic Chick said...

Hi Lindsay,

I prefer historical fantasy, but will read historical fiction if the story grabs me. A couple of my favorite historical fantasy authors are Morgan Llywelyn and Juliet Marillier. My own stories fall into historical fantasy with settings in ancient on up to Dark Age Scotland. My website is

Thanks for letting us share,

Jane Toombs said...

Most of my hostorical romances and historical novels were written a few years back. So long ago that I have the rights back on most of them and am currently scanning The Creoles to have Books We Love, Ltd. put it up as an ebook. They do great covers and they edit. I will never be a techie, so I definitely do not want to try to do any of this myself. The Creoles was written long enough ago that I'm enjoying reading it as I scan because I don't remember it that well. Also it makes me recall how much I enjoyed doing the research that a writer must do to be able to create whatever time the book is set in. And it's far sexier than I recall. Jane

Carola Dunn said...

Alice Duncan and Dolores Gordon Smith are two mystery writers I enjoy, with series set in "my" period, the 1920s. (Daisy Dalrymple's era). And Sheri Cobb South writes a good Regency mystery series. As I know both periods fairly well, I'm picky!

Carola Dunn said...

Should have added my website: where you can learn more about my Regencies and my mystery series, both Daisy and the Cornish mysteries.

Jina Bacarr said...

Thanks for the op to talk about our historicals, Lindsay!

I've always loved history and enjoy visiting museums. I also love all things Titanic.

Check out my Titanic page on my website:

and my Titanic blog:

Maggi Andersen said...

Hi Lindsay and thanks for this opportunity! I write romance set during the Georgian era through to the 20th Century where changing social mores and historical events offer much for an author. Georgette Heyer brought the Regency alive for me, Victoria Holt the Victorian era and Mary Stewart fostered my love of romantic suspense. I'm writing a spy series from 1816-1820. The first, A Baron in Her Bed has just been released in the US.

Deborah Swift said...

Hi Lindsay, Thanks for featuring THE LADY'S SLIPPER.

I love historical fiction where the action is prompted by the era, and fiction that is thought provoking and reflects universal themes.

I like Rose Tremain, Tracey Chevalier and Geraldine Brooks. I also like CJ Sansom and multi-period novels like Kate Morton.

I love it when the writer uses a different way to tell a story such as non-chronological. I admired The Time Traveller's Wife for this. I like strong female protagonists, and stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.Oh, and I'm partial to a bit of romance (who isn't!)

my blogs are at
Please do drop by, and please ask me if you'd like to guest on my blogs.

Paul McDermott said...

I write in a variety of genre and I've experimented with a historical setting in some of my yarns.
I was always a 'duffer' in history throughout school but I've enjoyed the research I've put in when attempting a historical setting.
10th Century fantasy, mediaeval whodunnit, WW2 thriller are settings I've used.
I've discovered that using historical 'anchors' is a neat way of giving the fictional element of my writing a more credible (convincing?) 'feel' to it and still leaves me room to manoevre with a certain amount of "poetic licence".

Noelene said...

Lindsay, great blog and topic discussion. I both read and write historical fiction, and always for entertainment as well as learning about another era.
An author who stands our for me is Jennifer Donnelly with her Rose saga series, The Tea Rose/The Winter Rose/The Wild Rose. Thoroughly steeped in history and fast paced.
I don't read about royalty or famous people, much preferring the everyday life of people in the medieval era, Victoria era and forward.
For my own novels, I deeply research facts. My historical romance, Barratt's Run is set in 1860s pastoral era of Victoria, Australia, and is ebook only from Amazon here My saga, Peacocks On The Lawn is an Australian colonial era pastoral novel available in both paperback and ebook here Both have extracts.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lindsay,
Thanks for the invite. I love researching and writing historicals. My favourite era is the 1st World War, and I have four novels from this era published.
It was such a tragic and tumultous time in our history. I love writing about the courageous soldiers and the brave women who waited, sometimes in vain for their men to return.
I also have published novels set during the 1860/70's in Australia. Australian colonial history is another period that I enjoy writing about.



Charlie Cochrane said...

I like my historicals done with a deft touch. (Think Mary Renault and you have the idea). I don't want paragraphs of stuff just to illustrate how well the author has doen their research nor do I want glaring anachronisms (the Regency lady hearing Big Ben sound).

I like dialogue that has an authentic cadence, although it doesn't have to be full of thees and thous. And I want a plot that feels viable for the era.

Don't want a lot, do I?

My historicals can be found here:

LizB said...

I love history, which is why I love historical fiction of all kinds. I don't read as much now as I did, having been weaned on Heyer, Margaret Irwin, Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, and so on.

As I write both historical romance and historical crime set in the late 18th Century, I read in both genres. Occasionally I still like a big wide-ranging historical, though I'm more inclined to biographies of historical characters.

I enjoy elements of mystery and drama as well as romance, a bit of gothic goes down well.

Anachronisms are really difficult, I think, because you actually can't write romance without being anachronistic to an extent! You only have to read contemporary material to find that out. But I tend to get edgy with blatant violations of the mores and morals of the time, heroines behaving in a way that would have got them ostracised. But if you write in the actual language of the period it is hard to read, and I think fluency is better with a flavour of the period. But the premise of romance doesn't have much to do with the way marriages occurred in the Georgian era, especially in the aristocracy, and there were far fewer dukes and earls around than abound in our historical romances!

But it's fun and I love it, and most fiction crosses boundaries with reality, so what the hell?

Details of my books can be found at - my ebook list on Amazon is growing too.

Gerri Bowen said...

Thanks for the invitation, Lindsay.

Historical romance books are my favorite, but I'll read anything. Any era is fine with me. If there is humor in the story, so much the better. The erotic parts, if any, I skip over, as I doubt I'll read anything new. I like the sense of the time period I'm reading, but don't let it get in the way of the story.

Authors I always enjoy reading are, Laura Kinsale, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly, Judith Ivory, Mary Jo Putney...I could go on but my brain has frozen.

I write Historical paranormal romance-humorous and light. My work can be found:

Vickie Britton said...

In our Ardis Cole and Arla Vaughn series, my sister Loretta Jackson and I write books that are set in the present, but are about a mystery concerning the past. We do a lot with the Maya and Inca cultures, as well as many others. We do extensive research and work around history with the fiction part and try not to change the real facts.

We also write westerns and gothics. We'd love to get more historical novel readers. Since we also write contemporary mysteries, if you are specifically looking for novel set in the past, be sure to check the blurb...

Fraoch said...

I began reading sweet historical romance some 45 years ago but then I discovered historical fiction of Anya Seton and Anna Marie Selenko. Later Dorothy Dunnett and Barbara Erskine but there seemed to be a lull in what I call meatier Historicals so I moved to historical romance which I still read but it really needs to be based in historical events with the e history being a secondary character the exception being regencies , at least for me I wan them to be steeped in the culture of the regency period than history per se.

I now read Bernard Crowell, Stephen lawhead, Chadwick, Sharon Penman, all of Erskines books, Robyn Young, Diana Gabaldon jack whyte Kate Mosse. And many others I like books set before 1500s that deal with the crusades and the intertwining of the history of scotlnd wales and England as well as France.

Am currently researching a Scottish princess for either a historical work of fiction or for my masters thesis.i would love to find more full bodied historical fiction even romance.

Erin OQuinn said...

Hi, Lindsay!

Up until six months ago, I would have told you that my favorite historical era is actually not historical at all, in a way . . . It 's the fifth century AD Ireland of St. Patrick, back when he was the one catalyst who started the written word and thus in a sense "started" the history of Ireland.

I wrote six romaces based on St. Patrick's Ireland: the trilogy STORM MAKER/THE WAKENING FIRE/CAPTIVE HEART . . . The stand-alone M/F FIRE & SILK . . . and two MM historicals WARRIOR, RIDE HARD and WARRIOR, STAND TALL.

Starting about six months ago, I fell in love with a couple of guys who lived in a fantasy Ireland city similar to Dublin in 1923. They star in a romance which is comedic and also a mystery called HEART TO HART. They haven't stolen my heart away from the era of St. Patrick, but I am now writing a sequel to their first mystery. So for a while to come, I hope to entertaion history buffs with a kind of fantasy Holmes-Watson end-of-steampunk era historical romance.

Thanks for asking! Sincerely, Erin O'Quinn

Donis Casey said...

Historical fiction is my first love, but Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series made me a lover of historical mysteries as well. Aside from Peters and her actual-ego Edith Pargeter, I love historical novelists Pauline Gedge and Stephen Pressfield and mystery authors Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor. I am drawn to a compelling main character and a portrait of a world I can lose myself in. This is what I strive for in the historical mystery series I write, the Alafair Tucker mysteries set in pre-World War I Oklahoma. My web address (and 1st chapter of each of my six books) is Many thanks for doing this.

Marilyn Seguin said...

I like historical fiction in which the setting (time and place) is as important as the character and plot development. The historical context must be integral to the story. I particularly like stories in which children and young people play an important role (think Laura Ingalls Wilder). In fact, most of my historical books feature children, teenagers and young adults as protagonists. You can read about these books at They are available through the publisher and via Amazon. For those of you who write historical fiction, you might be interested in my eBook Writing Historical Fiction: Digital Age Advice, which explains how to research, write, publish and promote your historical fiction using digital tools. I offer free digital tips weekly at Marilyn Weymouth Seguin

Sarah Richmond said...

I love doing the research. Out here in California, there are Gold Rush historical sites that are fun to explore. My favorite is Placerville, once known as Hangtown. Everyone who lived there has a story.