When you think of it, every story we tell is historical. As soon as we use the past tense, as in “my daughter woke up in the middle of the night with red spots all over her chest”, we are dealing with history. To be considered a part of the historical fiction category, though, the subject matter should be at least fifty years in the past, a rule set and followed by the writing community.
That idea of categorizing sometimes leads us writers to wonder just what genre our new story actually fits into as it may have historical elements but they are more fantasy than history. Or it may have historical elements as the backdrop for a murder that needs to be solved. Is it historical or is it crime fiction?
This leads to agents having difficulty knowing where to sell a story. It may be excellent but their job is to sell it and they do all they can to figure out where their market might be. At lunch yesterday this very problem led me to suggest my author friend might be better to self-publish her book as it does not clearly fit into one category or another and I wondered if an agent would struggle to find a market for it. The book is extremely creative in its structure and story line, something readers love to see, but the author must decide how best to actually get it to those readers. Should she try to traditionally publish or do it herself?
In a similar vein, the new book I’m writing started out as creative non-fiction but I’ve completely restarted it as a biography. You see, the framing device that I had thought was so clever, actually began to be extremely unwieldy, so much so that a few weeks ago, lying awake at three o’clock in the morning, I decided I had to start over and write this thrilling and uplifting story about Ron Calhoun and Terry Fox and a lot of other amazing people as Calhoun’s biography.
That decision is allowing me to use a more sequential time line and include a rising action aspect just as I do in my historical fiction. And it relates to my historical fiction very well as I’m telling the story of a man born in 1933 who came to be so connected with historical figures during his long lifetime (and he’s still going!). My working title for this is The Man Behind the Marathon of Hope: The Story of Ron Calhoun and How He Helped Terry Fox Raise Millions for Cancer.
Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings: