I’ve been attending the Historical Novel Society Conference in the Chicago area, and have been overwhelmed by the excitement of being around so many people who love, understand, honor, and practice the art of writing. A number of clients of the Jane Rotrosen Agency were here, including Susan Holloway Scott and Karen Harper, as well as Sheramy Bundrick, a new client of my former agent, Barbara Braun. Also here were Margaret George, whose novel on Helen of Troy was inspirational to me in writing Penelope’s Daughter, and Lauren Willig, whom I was able to thank for writing my favorite blurb for The Four Seasons. I also connected up with Catherine Delors, whose fantastic book, Mistress of the Revolution, has been my latest Kindle read.
I spoke as part of two panels, both on various aspects of working with real life characters, and was pleased to see that my views about balancing fact and fiction were widely shared. It’s important not to take on the burden of the scholar, because we are story tellers first and foremeost. However, readers trust us to be well-informed and not to mislead them about important facts of history and the personalities of different eras. I was pleased that my sentiments that we should not defame the dead because they can’t defend themselves was well enough received to find its way into the evening keynote speaker’s remarks.
I never for a minute forget how fortunate I am to have found my way to the speakers’ side of the table. Many, many people write well and work equally hard and have not had my good fortune. Echoing Margaret George’s reminder in her keynote address, not to get so lost in the past that we forget to live in the present, I found a lot of joy at this conference at the opportunity historical fiction provides to live squarely in both.