To what degree is research necessary for my books? Well, the rhetoric revolves around the genre’s tag of ‘Historical Fiction’ and it begs the question ‘what is it?’. I think a publisher/bookstore needs to attach a label to the author but my own genre is subtly complicated.
I regard myself as a writer of fiction in a historical context but, equally, there are historians who write fiction. The latter carry out less research because they are in possession of the facts by virtue of their learning. The former – me – are pretty good at telling stories but don’t have the historical events at our fingertips. So, we have to trawl through mountains of stuff on the internet to check that Louis XlV was dead in 1716; that coffee had, indeed, reached Europe by 1490; or that Catherine Howard was, actually, Henry the Eighth’s fifth wife! I am, occasionally, brought to book by my beady-eyed readers when I drop a clanger.
I find that there comes an optimum point for research when I’ve obtained enough factual material within which to weave my story. As long as key dates and facts are respected, it’s time to get on with the pen-to-paper process. I must admit that I’m in awe of any historian’s knowledge but, are they good at producing fiction? We’re all judged by the size of our readership – it’s a tough old world.