with Maria McCann, Emma Darwin, R N Morris & Rose Melikan
Many would say that we’re living in a golden age of historical fiction. But why do readers love to inhabit the past, and why do so many writers love writing it? Is it really just an escape from the mundane present, or is it about looking at the present through a different lens?
With this panel, four historical novelists, who between them write crime, romantic adventure, literary and crossover fiction, come together to talk about what they write and why. From medieval London to 1860s St Petersburg, by way of Restoration Somerset and Revolutionary France, Rose Melikan, Roger Morris, Emma Darwin and Maria McCann all root their fiction in history, but in very different ways and for very different reasons. They talk about how they work with the past; what drew them to the different periods they write about and the different genres they work in; how they research; and above all how they leave the facts behind to reach the might-have-been of fiction.
All four have an acute sense of how their own writing relates to everyone’s ideas of history and storytelling. Roger is on the sharp end of outrage as well as delight for taking Dostoevsky’s detective for his own; Maria draws on the extraordinary history of Civil War radicalism; Rose has created a Georgian heroine with more on her mind than card parties and Assembly balls; and Emma puts on her flak jacket before she goes to talk to the Richard III Society. Together, these four writers explore and sometimes argue about how historical novels work for readers and writers, and how each of them makes their very different fiction out of our shared history.
To know more about us, please see our biographies below. If you would be interested in us coming to your festival or event, then please email Emma at this itch of writing [at] gmail dot com
Emma Darwin’s latest novel A Secret Alchemy (Headline Review) recreates the violent, glamorous world of the Princes in the Tower through the eyes of their mother and uncle, and weaves it together with a modern historian who has griefs and secrets of her own. It was named one of The Times Best Paperbacks of 2009, and the Daily Mail described it as ‘powerful and utterly convincing’. Emma’s debut The Mathematics of Love was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers and Goss first novel awards, and she’s just completed a PhD which explores how historical fiction works. www.emmadarwin.com
Maria McCann’s novels conjure up the dark, turbulent times of the English Civil War. Her new novel The Wilding (Faber) was longlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize and has been chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club. In the early years of the Restoration, secrets among a respectable West Country family threaten everyone’s happiness. The Daily Express called it ‘a gripping narrative.’ Maria’s debut, As Meat Loves Salt (Flamingo) was widely acclaimed and it was an Economist Book of the Year, described by The Times as ‘a fat, juicy masterpiece’. http://www.faber.co.uk/author/maria-mccann
Rose Melikan’s historical adventures highlight the secret warfare waged during the Napoleonic era, as Mary Finch and Captain Robert Holland match wits with French agents and English traitors. Romance Reviews Today called The Blackstone Key (Sphere) a ‘page-turning, excitement-filled mystery’, while Publishers’ Weekly applauded The Counterfeit Guest’s ‘confident voice, quirky characters and sparkling period detail’. The Mistaken Wife was published in April 2010. In her day job Rose teaches legal history at Cambridge University. www.rosemelikan.com
Roger Morris’s four historical crime novels are set in 1860s St Petersburg. Writing as R N Morris, he sets Dostoevsky’s Porfiry Petrovich to investigate murder and crime in the glamorous and sordid cityscapes of Crime and Punishment. Acclaim for Porfiry’s debut in A Gentle Axe (Faber) was followed by two CWA accolades for A Vengeful Longing, which The Times described as ‘extraordinarily vivid’. A Razor Wrapped in Silk is just out, and a fourth will be published in 2011. Roger is also the author of the contemporary thriller, Taking Comfort (Macmillan New Writing). www.rogernmorris.co.uk