Why I love historical fiction

No harm’s done to history by making it something someone would want to read.   –David McCullough

I’m starting the countdown to the Historical Novel Society conference in London later this month. It will be my second HNS conference, and I am beyond excited to be in the presence of some of my favorite authors.

The other day someone asked me why I was going all the way to London to attend a writer’s conference. After looking at them like this for a minute (because, seriously, like I wouldn’t use any excuse to go to London!) I gathered my thoughts. I guess because it is a wonderful opportunity to be around writers and readers who love historical fiction.

Since I can remember, I’ve had a love of history. I was blessed to spend a good deal of my childhood with my grandparents and soaked up their stories about life in the South during the early part of the 20th century. My grandmother told me stories of her Creole childhood in New Orleans where she was to be seen and not heard, ate oysters like candy and didn’t learn to speak English until boarding school. My grandfather brought to life his time serving in World War I in France, subsisting only on turnips while narrowly escaping mustard gas attacks.  I still remember the thrill of hearing of the times he served as an altar boy for Mass at a hospital for Confederate soldiers. The link with the past lived and breathed and talked to me.

And as a child, the books I always found myself lost in completely were historical fiction.  And so when I began to write I never questioned that I’d write about history through the lens of fiction.

Of course there is a place for contemporary fiction–a place to wrestle with the dilemmas of life in this “modern” world. And sometimes that is what I want to read. But for the most part, I want to escape and dive in to another world entirely.  And though the language, dress and social conventions may be a world away from life in 2012, I do find great comfort that for all our differences, what makes us human has not changed.



About elizabethcarden

A wife, mom and writer of historical fiction (but sadly, not of thank you notes).
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