Friday, August 3, 2018

Why Historical Fiction? by Victoria Chatham

I freely admit to not having started off as a history buff. I found it the most boring subject when I was at school and never could remember dates, or the succession of kings or who ruled what country in Europe. It didn’t matter to me at all as the subject had no relevance to my life at the time.

It wasn’t until the early 80s when I read Sharon Kay Penman’s novel The Sunne in Splendour that I had a shift in interest. In this book, Richard III and the Wars of the Roses came to life for me in a very profound way. From reading anything that caught my interest from Danielle Steele to Louis L’Amour and anything and everything in between, I started raiding my local library’s history section. I read Anya Seton, Jean Plaidy, Umberto Eco, loved Wilbur Smith and later Ken Follett. I read all the Mazo de la Roche Jalna series pretty well back to back. Those books documented a slice of life and social history as did R.F. Delderfield’s A Horseman Riding By series or H.E. Bates’ Darling Buds of May which was made into a successful TV series.

I returned several times to the books of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, reading them from a totally different aspect. Austen was a must-read at school and, at that age, I had no idea what a treasure trove of minutiae they were. The same applies to Heyer. The first of her
books I ever read was Frederica (which I consider her best) but then I collected and read all her Regency romances without ever considering that they were, in fact, history books. A stylized history, maybe, but history nonetheless. Second readings of many of her titles gave me a whole new appreciation of the Regency era (1811 – 1820) beyond ladies' dresses and gentlemen’s sporting preferences.  

I started digging around in non-fiction history books, checking for myself anything I queried whether it was a style of dress or manner of speech and found I loved the research. At that time in my life I had no more thought of writing a book, historical or otherwise. But, in those odd and forgotten facts I came across snippets of past lives that really fascinated me. How other people lived, loved, and the events that surrounded them came to life in an amazing way. It was those people I wanted to write about and now I do.

Victoria Chatham


  1. I felt the same way about history when I was young, but somewhere along the line my perspective also changed. Lovely writing, Victoria!

  2. I didn't want to learn dates in school, but I loved historical movies such as Cleopatra and Mutiny on the Bounty; that made history come alive for me. Enjoyed your post.

    1. Cleopatra was a great movie but I never did see Mutiny on the Bounty. I think the original starred Gregory Peck and latterly Russell Crowe.

  3. Great post. You've mentioned Heyer's Frederica to me several times, I really must read it. :)