Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. To experience life in a different place and a different time fascinates me. As a writer aspiring to write historical fiction, I read these books with one eye on the story and the other on ‘how did they do that?’.
I just finished Divining Women, a novel by Kaye Gibbons. Gibbons is an author I return to again and again because I appreciate her ability to tell a good story with well developed characters in only a couple hundred pages.
Gibbons packs her pages with turn-of-the-20th-Century, ‘place in time’ elements, from the mention of homes decorated with new William Morris wallpaper patterns to characters practicing spiritualism and nudism to a lamplighter. The elements that establish the time do not intrude to take over the story but rather support the characters who are just living their lives.
Finding the balance between which details to include and how to include them so that the reader is comfortable and confident in this place in time – that’s the challenge.