Addenda: characters in historical fiction

It turned out in my previous post that I have reasonably strong feelings about how historical characters are fictionalised. Possibly, though illogically, for vague feelings about ethics, but also because of the difficulties of marrying aspects of the life that are well-documented with the entirely made-up sections. It is, of course, something that writers of historical fiction think about hard. Rather belatedly I came across this post by the author of Variable Stars, which I have just reviewed, on Inventing real people. Here she talks about how she had to deal with existing biographies and, especially, the amount of self-writing that Caroline Herschel produced. She writes:

“Stick too closely to the source material, and you run the risk of merely reiterating what has already been better expressed. Stray too far away from it, and you lose the freshness and immediacy of the original.”

I think, indeed, that Christina Koning did a good job of capturing Caroline Herschel’s voice, and it is interesting to read her thoughts on the process.


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