Real people and historical fiction

Sarah Johnson of Reading the Past asks, "Do historical novels require celebrities to play more than passing roles, so that readers get the opportunity to 'meet' them?"

My answer is no. I like biographical novels, but I also like historical novels about fictional people. I can always pick up a nonfiction book to learn more about a specific historical person or event.

However, historical nonfiction is often very dry and academic. (One of the most boring books I've ever read was a biography of Mozart; don't ask me how the author managed to make him so dull.) Maybe that's why some readers turn to fiction to learn about history. Maybe there's a need for more entertaining — not dumbed down — historical nonfiction. Just a thought.

6 Replies to “Real people and historical fiction”

  1. These comments are interesting. As an author of historical fiction, I find it a delicate "balancing act" to include famous real-life individuals in a story. If one delves too deeply into their characters, one can stray too easily into the ugly world of anachronism. On the other hand, one wants to avoid treating such people as "cardboard cutouts" as well. It's a challenge. My new novel is entitled The Fuhrer Virus. It is a fictional, WWII spy/conspiracy/thriller for adolescent/adult readers and can be found at,, and


    Paul Schultz

  2. I have read all of Phillipa Gregor, Allison Weir and I need to know a new author, who as you say is not "dry". Could you help me with names please.

  3. Penny, if you're looking for historical fiction with a royal theme, try Sharon Kay Penman. "Here Be Dragons" is a good one to start with. Or two of my favorite authors from the past, Norah Lofts and Jean Plaidy. Some of their books are back in print.

  4. I myself am a huge fan of this genre. I love Weir and Gregory and have heard of many other authors for this. I started however with 23 books that spurred my love of historical fiction and royalty. The top of my list and most unforgettable, is Anya Seton's 'Katherine'. You won't be disappointed. The second with a different flavor but also intrigued me would be Marion Zimmer Bradleys 'The Mists of Avalon' and the last is a series, (probably the first historical series I read) by Mary Stewart is the Merlin Trilogy about the King Arthur legend. I read 3 books in days, I couldn't put them down.

    Happy Reading!!

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