Friday, June 11, 2010

Bits and pieces

In the Times, Sarah Dunant writes an excellent essay on why historical fiction is the genre of the moment. In addition to celebrating historical novels and demonstrating how they reflect the times in which they're written, her piece serves as a preview for the first Walter Scott Prize. Dunant is one of the nominees, and the winner will be announced on Saturday, June 19th. Given that Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall didn't take home the Orange Prize this year (it went instead to another historical novel, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna), could we have a surprise here as well? I hope to be tuning in on Twitter when the winner is made known. Being online when Wolf Hall was announced as the Booker Prize winner last fall, seeing everyone's excited reactions instantaneously, was a memorable experience.

Novelist Stella Duffy has a post in the Guardian about why she decided to fictionalize the life of Theodora, 6th-century Empress of Byzantium, in her new novel. In the comment trail, a number of readers are having a lively (read: kind of cranky, but there are some good points made) discussion about the use of historical characters in fiction and the importance of historical accuracy vs. artistic merit.

Registration for the Historical Novel Society's 7th UK conference is open. It will take place at the Mechanics' Institute in Manchester on October 17th, 2010 -- an all-day event, with many authors and literary agents on the program. Fees are £65, or £55 for HNS members who register early. The Manchester Lit Festival is having a historical fiction-related program at the same site the day before. Details at the link above.

Historical novelist Mary Sharratt is looking for help from authors and readers. She writes:

"I will be writing a feature article for Historical Novels Review about the whole trend of HF authors who feel pressured to write about 'marquee names.'
What do you think of this advice? Is it positive or negative for the genre?
Authors who write about 'big names'--do you do it because you want to or do you feel pressure?
I would love to hear from authors who've bucked this trend and successfully published fiction about more obscure historical figures or wholly invented characters. I'd also love to hear from HF readers and what they think of all this? Do you prefer reading about someone famous and well known or do you prefer discovering lesser known figures? You can email me at contact at marysharratt dot com."

This is a topic of interest in the HF blogosphere, and you may remember Writing the Renaissance's poll last year about reader preferences. If you have something to say on this important topic, please email Mary directly with your thoughts!

Novelist Lauren Butler is hosting a Summer Reading Giveaway and has five promotional copies of Relief, her historical novel set in early 20th-c Venice, to give away. Interested parties should send an email to with their name and mailing address. Five winners will be chosen at random after June 30.

Earlier this week, NPR announced their historical novels of choice for the ultimate summer getaway.

Lastly, Aik from The Bookaholics is holding two giveaways for signed copies of Susanna Kearsley's Sophia's Secret, so you have two chances if you'd like to win. Enter here and here. Deadline is June 18th, open worldwide.


  1. Thanks for the heads up - I am going to go check out Dunant's article now!

  2. Very interesting. I've just read Mary Sharratt's latest, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, and for many reasons I would consider it the "anti-WOLF HALL". Not for negative reasons, but because it shows the effects of the English Reformation on the populace, especially those at the bottom of the food chain. I also got a sense of how the Civil War would come to pass, given the polarization not between the Anglican and Catholic churches but rather between the "third party" Puritans and the Catholics.

    As far as "marquee names", if I see ONE MORE novel written about a "young lady at court" who just happens to be privy to all of the important moments of the Tudor years - well, the curtains and alcoves in those castles must have been extremely crowded.