What is a Historical Novelist?

I have been many things in my lengthy career since I graduated from Marietta College in 1995. Goodness! I just dated myself! I am turning fifty in February!

I have worked a wide range of jobs in my lengthy work history. I have sold tires. I had been a software trainer. I had worked Information Technology. I have been an English teacher. I have been a salesman. I even had a job as a debt collector. Oh, I hated that job!

Now, when I come into contact with people I haven’t seen in a while, or I meet somebody new, I am asked the same questions as I shake their hand, or I am talking to them over the phone.:

“So, where did you end up landing?”

“What do you do for work?”

They expect that I have a position that they associate me with from the past, or they assume is a typical professional job.

“I am writer.” I responded.

I am then asked, “What kind of writer are you?” Not only do I respond that I am a novelist, but I am a ‘Historical Novelist’. I then I have to explain to them how that is different or not different from a novelist.


Stories written in this genre are beyond the solitary usage of flash backs. Flash backs can be necessary because they can be used to advance the plot. And that is precisely what the setting of a historical novel does. It acts as a backdrop in which the characters exist. The reader must be able to identify with the characters with their own feelings.

I am coming at from a theater background. I must have performed in close to twenty plays. It did not matter when the or where the play took place. It was the performers’ task to ‘become’ those characters and whisk the audience away from their seats. They identify with the characters. It breaks the fourth wall.

A performance of one of Shakespear’s plays is a prime example. The story takes place during a unique time period. They introduce the audience to a group of characters, and they kind of get an idea of plot. If an untrained reader were to read a play in the original text with no footnotes, their eyes would bug out! It’s a bloody poem!

Actors train today to combine the lines of the play together into more understandable sentences. The audience can now listen to the fancy language and adjust their point of reference to better understand the language and then build that relationship with the characters. The plot can now move forward.

Setting means nothing. I have seen performances where they have modernized the set and costumes, but nothing has changed with the language of the play itself. Instead of Fifteenth Century garb, they dress the characters in World War I era British uniforms. The audience were not affected at all.

That is the challenge for a historical novelist. I still write fiction with the same purpose as any other novelist. The rub is have to make them believable enough to the reader enough that they can identify with them in present time.

The Metacom Saga is a historical retelling of the King Philip’s War. The war nearly wiped out an entire race of people. After the war, it took decades for the colonies to recover. There are similarities to the King Philip’s War and the recent events that have been occurring around the county.

They fought the war to defend a people’s culture. Unfortunately, it led to violence. The two sides were too different culturally. One side was more concerned to explain the war as being punishment for their sin, rather than actually looking at how they were treating the other party.

That was four hundred years ago.

As I have watched the news, I have seen thousands of protestors of different races, ages, sexes, sexual orientation march under a common banner, and calling out for change. And change is coming!

I have tried to keep this short. Many of my followers are writers, so they already know where I am coming from. But, I am also developing a network with actual readers. I have built a following for the Metacom Saga. I hope that this was useful.

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