Historical Fiction Early Readers

September 1st, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

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For authors, having early readers for our manuscripts-in-progress is a must. These are not people who simply like us, but who give constructive feedback–about the pace, the plot, the characters, the grammatical mistakes and more.

And for an historical fiction author, having a few early readers who are also experts in the history, is even more crucial.

For my Revolutionary period book it was an historian who explained battle line formations better than any book. It was an reenactor/historian who told me canes were called walking sticks.

Historians can also help ensure we’ve captured history faithfully. An historian well-regarded in Shawnee history, who did also suggest some changes, said he was pleased to see I’d portrayed the Shawnee as “reasonable, thinking human beings,” and not as the warring stereotypes our lopsided education system has mistakingly led us to believe.

But why go to all this trouble if it’s fiction? It depends on what type of fiction you’re writing. If you’re writing “near-historicals,” or fiction that gives a smidgen of history, but your primary focus is on romance, historian reviewers might be over the top.

But what I’m aiming for in my novels is what I’ve referred to as factual fiction. And, if the facts don’t resonate with historians, I not only have fewer advocates, I’m more likely to get a pile of hate mail when it’s published. How sad would that be?

I further champion historical novelists like Philippa Gregory, who recently put a clause in her film-adaptations contracts that stipulates screenwriters be faithful to the history she painstakingly researched for her novels. She made the change because, “the temptation of film makers to treat historical fact and fiction as if they were one and the same thing… is something I oppose.”

And so it is with publishing factual fiction, which is why early historian readers are a must. They’ll help allow future readers to wander faithfully back in time and (hopefully) learn the real history.

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