Putting Words in their Mouths – Writing historical fiction based on real lives

At the Springs, Mount Wellington c.1880

Last month I was invited by the writer, Jean M Roberts to contribute a post about my latest novel to her blog, The Book’s Delight. My post looks at the challenges I faced trying to write accurately and honestly about the characters of my novel and not treat them as chess pieces to be moved around the board in service of what I thought would be a good story.

It is said that all we owe the dead is the truth. But when we write historical fiction how do we do this, especially when we attempt to imagine the lives of those who left only faint traces in the records.
My latest novel, Cold Blows the Wind, is based on a period in the lives of my great-great-grandparents, Sarah Ellen Thompson and Henry Watkins Woods, Ellen and Harry. It is set in Hobart Town, Tasmania between the years 1878 and 1885 and grew out of my genealogical research.
Both Ellen and Harry were the children of people transported to Australia from the British Isles. Their parents were not among those who made good and went on to live of comfort. They were what is described today as the working poor… Continue reading

Jean M Roberts writes historical fiction. Her latest book is The Angel of Goliad, a gripping time slip mystery set during the Texas revolution in 1836. As J M Roberts, she also write cozy murder mysteries. You can read more about Jean’s novels at The Book’s Delight.

2 thoughts on “Putting Words in their Mouths – Writing historical fiction based on real lives

  1. I had to do the same thing when writing some family history. I knew some basics, but there were things/ times uncovered by the stories I had heard, and nobody who knew could be interviewed anymore – most have died already, and the only one who might have known (because he had lived to meet his grandparents) is too old and with the memory-affecting diseases of old age.
    I had to fill in the gaps too, by research and asking myself how and why for several times… The great-grandchildren liked my stories!

    Liked by 1 person

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