Historical fiction: marrying reality and invention

Since THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCH was released in July 2014 I’ve been invited to speak at a number of reader events and book clubs. At these events people most like to discuss the real characters in the novel - Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - and the research I carried out in order to gain an insight into the lives of these extraordinary individuals.

When I spotted this Citroen Tourer at the National Museum of Australia, 
it struck me as just the kind of car Monty Chapel would drive.
There’s no denying that the president and his wife are worth talking about, but I don’t feel that I, as the author, made these characters extraordinary. In reality, Franklin and Eleanor were remarkable people long before I ever began writing about them. I merely portrayed a portion of their lives in print.
World War 2 correspondents such as the 'Murrow Boys'
were my inspiration for Sam Jacobson.
That’s why, a couple of Sundays ago when I visited a book club to chat about THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCH, I was delighted when the women revealed they would prefer to discuss the fictional characters. These are characters that were born in my own imagination, people I sweated over to bring to life on the page. There were no biographies, memoirs, diaries or letters to read. There were no photographs or historical documents to scour. These are the characters in THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCH that are my real achievement.
It was the clothes of American designer Elizabeth Hawes
that helped me shape the character of Iris McIntosh.
It is extremely hard work researching real-life characters. Visiting libraries and reading endless lists of autobiographies and other historical texts takes time and discipline. Then organising the resulting information and utilising it well takes patience.

However, I consider it far more challenging to create a believable life for characters who never existed. And that’s what the ladies at the book club understood and appreciated.

No comments:

Post a Comment