“How much is true?”
That’s question I’m often asked about my historical novels.
The short answer: “All of it.”
But the real answer is more complicated. I don’t change facts. But sometimes there aren’t many facts to go on, or they aren’t at all clear, or historians don’t agree. So I often do a complicated dance, choosing among the possibilities to find those that make a good story that is also “true.”
My most recent book, THE BAD QUEEN: RULES AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR MARIE-ANTOINETTE, illustrates the challenge. A lot is known about the life of Marie-Antoinette, but she is also surrounded by myths. Her supposedly hard-hearted dismissal of the French peasants unable to find enough bread to keep them alive, “Then let them eat cake!”, has been thoroughly discredited. There is no record of her saying it. Another hotly debated issue is whether or not she had an actual affair with the Swedish count. (Read the book and decide for yourself!)
My inspiration for writing the story of the famous (or infamous) French queen was the 2006 film, “Marie Antoinette”--gorgeous to look at, but I didn’t think it explored the subject in depth. Movie-makers are not concerned with factual accuracy. Their goal is to create a vivid impression in a very short time; no one cares if dates are altered or events rearranged. My goal was different: I used my research as a basis for imagining what Marie-Antoinette might have been thinking and feeling, to weave scenes and create dialog in order to make the story vivid and engrossing and to create a dynamic, wholly rounded—and believable--character.
I was fortunate with Marie-Antoinette; plenty of books have been written about her and about the French Revolution. But sometimes there simply aren’t many facts to rely on. I recently finished work on CLEOPATRA CONFESSES, a historical novel to be published in June 2011. What a challenge that was! Cleopatra’s birth date is approximate. No one knows who her mother was. There are no contemporary writings about her, none of her own words have been preserved, and there are no pictures of her to tell us what she really looked like.
But is it true? As true as I can imagine it to be.
Thanks so much Carolyn for participating!
I love Carolyn's books and reviewed her newest book earlier today.
I have a shiny, finished copy of The Bad Queen to giveaway to one lucky winner!
Ends January 4
Fill out THIS FORM to enter!