When people ask me what kind of books i write, it's easy for me to say "historical fiction." And that answer is a popular one. I can almost count on someone in any crowd saying, "Ooooo, I LOVE historical fiction." A couple of weeks ago, someone on Facebook recommended that authors should always be ready to answer the question, "What do you do?" with a five-word sentence. Again, i find that answer easy: "I combine fact and fiction."
OK. But when it comes to writing historical fiction, the easy part is over. Fact and fiction are two very different animals, and when you've been trained to stick with facts (and footnote them, too!), the fiction part comes hard.
Over on "ScoopIt" today, I curated an article on this very topic. It popped onto my computer screen after a long, sleepless night during which I struggled with the facts of Reconstruction in South Carolina and the structure of a fictional book. I'll be re-reading this article a lot in the next weeks, and it occurred to me that there are probably others out there fighting the same sort of problem.
Colin Falconer's description of history as a "pain in the butt" is dead on. It's messy, it's disorganized, the bad guys often win, and nothing turns out the way it should. Trying to fit the follies of Reconstruction into a novel format -- with a leading character, his antagonist, a clear conflict, rising drama, a crisis at the 75% mark, and a satisfying resolution --is going to be a real challenge. So if I'm quiet for a while, that struggle may be part of the explanation.