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Writing Historical Fiction

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27th May 2014 - 6:00pm to 8:30pm


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"Historical novelists are time travellers, creating worlds that no longer exist and peopling them with living, breathing people… How do we do it? By time travelling ourselves."

Sarah Dunant

Historical fiction is one of the most challenging genres to write well and to get right. Bestselling authors and experienced creative writing tutors Celia Brayfield and Sarah Dunant will guide you through the challenges of writing and researching historical fiction.

They will share their knowledge and experience of creating or recreating historical characters, of evoking period settings, of finding inspiration in archives, constructing a compelling narrative without sacrificing accuracy and finding voices for characters that are true to their time and place. This masterclass combines the authors' wealth of experience with exercises designed to inspire your own writing, tackle some of the technical issues of historical writing and help you translate your fascination with a past time into words on the page. 

After writing eight modern thrillers, Sarah Dunant’s love of history was rekindled on an extended visit to Florence. The Birth of Venus was the first of a series of historical explorations of what it was like to be a woman within the Italian Renaissance. Her most recent book, Blood and Beauty, reimagines the Borgia dynasty. Sarah Dunant is a founding patron of the Orange Prize and a teaching fellow at Oxford Brookes University.

Celia Brayfield tutors award-winning students on two of Britain’s leading Creative Writing programmes, at Bath Spa University and Brunel University in London. She is the co-author of Writing Historical Fiction: The Writers & Artists Companion. Her first novel, which began in Malaysia in 1938, was written when historical fiction was the love that dared not speak its name. She subsequently smuggled revolutionary St Petersburg, Paris with the Ballets Russes and the Barbary Coast in the eighteenth century into some of her nine highly acclaimed and bestselling novels. Her next novel is about the love affair between a French man and an English woman that finally brought Mary Queen of Scots to justice; in retelling this tragic episode in English history, she has used recent research to follow the lives the ordinary people trapped Mary’s doomed  court-in-exile. Along with Dr Jerome de Groot of Manchester University, she has established an academic research network in historical fiction.  She is the author of Bestseller (Fourth Estate) 1996, one of the very few guides to writing successful popular fiction from a bestselling author. 

Event details:

The event will be held at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. Doors will open at 6pm, with drinks provided upon arrival.

Your workshop with Celia and Sarah begins at 6.30pm prompt, finishing at 8.30pm.

Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers & Artists Companion is an invaluable companion for a writer working in this challenging and popular literary genre, whether your period is Ancient Rome or World War II.

PART 1 includes reflections on the genre and provides a short history of historical fiction. PART 2 contains guest contributions from Margaret Atwood, Ian Beck, Madison Smartt Bell, Ronan Bennett, Vanora Bennett, Tracy Chevalier, Lindsay Clarke, Elizabeth Cook, Anne Doughty, Sarah Dunant, Michel Faber, Margaret George, Philippa Gregory, Katharine McMahon, Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Hilary Mantel, Alan Massie, Ian Mortimer, Kate Mosse, Charles Palliser, Orhan Pamuk, Edward Rutherfurd, Manda Scott, Adam Thorpe, Stella Tillyard, Rose Tremain, Alison Weir and Louisa Young. PART 3 offers practical exercises and advice on such topics as research, plots and characters, mastering authentic but accessible dialogue and navigating the world of agents and publishers.


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