|SOUTHERN CROSS at Amazon|
My guest this week is Tom Isbell, author of Southern Cross, an exciting tale of double agents, espionage, revenge, and murder set on the S.S. Southern Cross in pre-WWII.
Historical fiction blends the reality of history with the make-believe world of the characters and plot. How true to history should historical fiction be? I spend a good deal of time researching the timeline before I start writing a story. However, the historical part of the story shouldn’t overshadow the plot. The reader isn’t looking for a history lesson. Too much detail pulls the reader out of the story. A friend of mine once said, “It’s fiction, just make it up.” I don’t agree. In order for a novel to be believable, the bits and pieces of history woven into the story must also be believable, and above all correct.
I was well into writing my second novel, Icarus Plot, when I discovered that one third of the town had burned down during the time period of my story. People lost everything and were forced to live in army tents while the town rebuilt. The area was placed under martial law. All of this complicated my life as a writer, but I could not ignore the fire. It was part of the town’s history. I couldn’t change the timeline of the story since it flowed into my next book. After more research, I found some photographs of the fire and also determined the cause of the fire was unknown. This fact presented an opportunity to blend history with fiction while furthering the plot. I wrote two chapters into the book showing how the fire started and how it affected my characters. The fire became an integral part of the plot.
In another instance, I found myself writing a history lesson; showing how much I knew about the history surrounding the time. I chopped two thousand words from a story. The historical facts were interesting to me, but they were not furthering the plot. I would have lost the reader.
So, how true to history should historical fiction be? In the context of fiction, doses of historical fact should remain subtly in the background and not call attention to themselves.
About T. C. Isbell
Like many authors, I started writing in high school. In the sixties and seventies I wrote short stories and poems influenced by those turbulent times. During the eighties, I wrote articles for The Rodder's Bulletin, a monthly newspaper for car enthusiasts. Retirement has given me time to pursue my passion for writing. Southern Cross is the first in a series of historical thrillers set in the period just before the
officially enters World War II. It is available through Amazon and Barnes
& Noble. Icarus Plot, the second
book in the series, is a work in progress. United
I am a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and International Thriller Writers (ITW).