Writing an historical character – what do you do?

I attended a book launch last week of one book about Catherine De Valois – The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson. http://tiny.cc/h6ayqw

Today I read an article about the writing of another forthcoming book on Katherine De Valois, The Forbidden Queen, this time by Anne O’Brien. http://tiny.cc/p7ayqw

A cursory glance at the two covers immediately indicates that these books are about the same person – the picture used in each case is instantly recognisable. But there is one obvious difference – the spelling of her name.

A minor illustration of a greater truth – that much of what is written in historical fiction involving historical characters is a matter of choice and that there is often room for many interpretations of one character’s story. Each author, if they strive to remain true to the known facts may, and likely will, present a very different story.

As readers we should value this variety.

As writers of fiction we must recognize that we write from a starting point of our own perspective and that in some sense our attitudes / belief systems/ even our prejudices will have permeated and helped to form the stories we present.

We should welcome and learn from other, often very different, insights into characters that we, through spending months, or maybe even years with, have come to know and love. It may be an enriching experience.

So – a big question – when writing about an historical character should writers consult other fiction dealing with that same character, or should they restrict themselves to non-fiction sources?

What do you think?

Available now…

‘Turn of the Tide’ is a year old!! You can buy it in bookshops in the UK and find it on Amazon

It is all very exciting, and a little scary!

I’m working hard on the sequel just now but some of the characters are being a little difficult – refusing to do as I tell them and insisting on going their own way…doing a bit of travelling too and getting into dangerous waters.