7 Sites Re Historical Fiction

A writing friend of mine pointed out a couple of days ago that historical fiction is not a genre and that got me thinking. Just what is this category of books I’ve spent most of my life loving to read? My own definition goes like this: historical fiction books are about actual historical events and people brought to life through fictional characters and events set against the backdrop of history. Some of my favorite historical writers over the years have found their way into my posts before today. Check out Favorite Historical Fiction Authors which elicited a lot more excellent suggestions for HF books in the comments section.

Wikipedia defines the category this way:  Historical fiction tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the manners and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. I like the addition of what HF writers try to do in their novels. (My writing friend will not like that Wikipedia refers to HF as a genre!)

For a comprehensive and compelling  Telegraph article about HF by David Mitchell,  try this link. I especially like his comments on the burden of research.

Want to know something about a historical you’ve heard about before you buy it? The Historical Novels site lists over 5000 novels and many have been reviewed.  I wonder how long it will take me to read them all?

Another useful site I’ve just found is at Bookmarks Magazine.  Sarah Johnson says “Fans of historical fiction know that there are other ways of categorizing the world of books, but they are forced to sort through tales of modern suburban angst, lurid contemporary thrillers, or generic bodice rippers to find the works that match a compelling story with an informed view of the past.” In the tail end of that is her simple definition of HF and the article lists many excellent HF books. Readers, have at it!

I joined the Historical Novel Society this year and am glad I did. Go to their website and look for all the advantages to being a member, not the least of which is actual entry into this world of writers and readers. Yes, I said readers. The society is just as interesting for readers as for writers.

Finally I mention Goodreads where a lengthy list of HF books awaits. Some sifting through may be necessary as the categories seem very broad to me. One of Goodreads’ advantages for authors is that you can put your own book on the site with a review. One of these days I’ll have to get more active in this site.

Consider leaving a comment with your favorite sites, historical fiction or not.

18 thoughts on “7 Sites Re Historical Fiction

  1. Great post! I haven’t checked out the various links yet, but I particularly like the Wikipedia definition of HF. That is certainly what I’m about in my WIP. I am curious, though, as to why your friend doesn’t consider HF a genre.


  2. I think it might not have been supposed to be a genre, but it became an acknowledged one sometime in the last 20 years or so. There isn’t, however, a category for HF in Barnes and Noble; the books are lumped in with Romance, Mystery, or Fiction, depending on where they land, broadly. So with that in mind, your friend is right.

    The reason for the “genre/category” title is it might separate the “real” historical novels (those with real historical characters, places and events) from the purely fictitious (using only a time period and place). It also separates the category, broadly, from books on history (NF).

    I tend to use real people, places and events in my books but weave in my own fictitious characters (because, really, who wants to be sued by some family’s descendents for getting the real person’s words wrong?) I did have a “conversation” with Caroline Astor in my current novel, which I am quite sure she would never do, but left her as the head of Society at the time, which she was. I’ve never been able to find a true first hand account of what she said (other than Ward MacAlister and he’s not very believable)so I think I’m okay there.

    Just a few thoughts.


    • I found that with Author Salon where I have my historical fiction posted. At first they didn’t have a category for Historical Fiction but then they created a category called Upmarket, Literary, Historical, and General Fiction which worked for me. Thanks for your lengthy comment on the topic, habisha!


  3. Good post, Elaine. Though I have never written historical fiction and doubt I ever will, I do love to read it. I think Wikipedia’s definition is a good one. At the same time, I can see the need to delineate between historical romantic fiction, historical mystery fiction etc. as Habisha has indicated. It pinpoints more accurately what you are looking for when selecting HF books.


  4. Historical fiction can be argued over for many years to come, thus giving it sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories. I guess these individual categories will continue to grow as more writers create new avenues written into their fiction. Thank you for a great article. I can never get enough of your advise. Kathleen, Gulf Coast Sun Hubber


    • Thanks so much, Kathleen. The dialogue is the important thing and I love that writers continue to create new ways of looking at the world; hence, new fiction. BTW what does Gulf Coast Sun Hubber mean?


  5. I like the Historical Novels site you list http://www.historicalnovels.info because you can pick what time period you are interested in, and what country. That is a great way to get a list of potential books to read! I prefer ancient history or middle ages in European countries, but I may check out some listed under Australia or Africa too. Some times libraries will put a “history” tag on the spine of historical books, but not always. Some libraries also have an online search catalog that you can search for a historical period or country as a subject search or keyword search. This is another way to get a potential reading list.


    • And I was so thrilled when I typed in Historical Fiction and came up with several new sites. Of course we always have to find what is relevant to us individually, but web searching is helpful and relatively easy. Thanks for commenting Janet!


  6. Pingback: Only in the Past « The Rules of Engagement

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