Too much History for Historical Fiction

What does a writer (unpublished) do when told by someone in the publishing industry that although she (the writer) has an impressive knowledge of history, there is far too much of it going on in her Historical Fiction novel?

And – that her Main Character is not famous enough for anyone to EVER be interested in reading her story?

My main character – Marie de Rohan – helped drive a fundamental change in 17th century European history. Her story can’t be told without this ‘history’ aspect. She was interesting enough for Alexandre Dumas to write about her and for Marcel Proust to mention her in his Remembrance of Things Past. Also – Queen Victoria was on the throne when the last major study of her life happened.

Both comments have utterly floored me for a while now. Are these industry wide thoughts?
Is there no room anymore for the new subject – a Scarlett O’Hara rather than sweetie-pie?
No room for the pure, un-PC historical without pages of velvet bodices and excruciating post- Freudian self-examination?

I don’t – I can’t – believe that this is true. Am I wrong? Do you have any thoughts about marquee names and watered down history? Help, please!

Picking myself off the floor now.
I’m stubborn enough to carry on regardless. Just not sure which way to turn!!

Marie de Rohan

8 thoughts on “Too much History for Historical Fiction

  1. There is an interesting article on the current popularity of historical fiction in yesterday’s Telegraph: And whilst this might not get you an agent or a publisher, it does indicate that those who are saying there is no market for what you’re doing aren’t very in touch with what’s actually selling–which is one reason, I daresay, why many agents and publishers are not doing as well as they might in this market.

    The last time I read a convincing work of historical fiction on 17th century France was Janine Montupet’s The Lacemaker. Which was stupendous. And of course, the French cinema continues to produce fine films set in the 17th century–from Tous les Matins du Monde to the more recent Moliere. But then the French are less afraid of their history than are the British, I find and are consequently a great deal more knowledgeable about their collective past.

    Best–MM Bennetts

  2. Thank you MM! Thank you. I’d not seen that article.
    From your link I’m pasting….
    “What seems absolutely clear is that readers are seeking vivid, accurate accounts of the individual experience. What was it like to live in fear of damnation, plague and the king?”

    And this is where I’m utterly flummoxed.

    To get from here to there is a minefield of Agents and Publishers i.e. the ones with the key to the lock.

    I’ve not read The Lacemaker but will look for it. And I agree wholeheartedly about the French being much less afraid of history. This post came from a place where I truly believe that history has been hijacked. I’m a lover of Undset, Oldenbourg and Renault et al. Some Amazon reviews today call these works dour, miserable, hard.
    Mmmn! Yes! But! If it bleed it leads – a 21st century statement that works for CNN but not historical fiction???
    PS I enjoyed your blog very much 🙂

  3. Hi Jackie,

    OMG! Seriously, don’t stop keep trying! As a historian myself, I am convinced you’ll find a publisher. The facts you need to wrap around your story are very important. Don’t let anybody tell you differently!!! To my opinion, historical-fiction or not, you will appear even more professional and convincing in your effort of 1) entertain and 2) educate. Because people will want to know more and more about something that interests them and if you provide much information next to the entertainment, readers will take you seriously, recommend you and thank you for on your side taking them as serious and not dumb people…

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Your blog is awesome. And be assured, you’ve got a fan in Germany (and a scientist too…).


  4. Wow, Claudia. Thank you very much for your support 🙂
    Entertain AND educate – that has always been my view of historical fiction. If a novel fascinates, I go way beyond it to learn all I can about the history.

    I’ll not stop trying.
    I’m just a little confused about the huge gap there seems to be these days between the industry and the reader and want to try to make sense of it.
    Best wishes to you…

  5. Hi Jackie,

    I know you will continue to be true to your creative vision and I will look forward to reading your novel when it is published. Sounds very much interesting to me-please don’t allow one opinion to discourage you. (How nice to learn of another who enjoys the novels of Zoe Oldenbourg. She is one of my favorite authors.) Looking forward to reading you!

  6. Thank you so much Ursula!
    I’m reading Heirs of the Kingdom right now. Ms Oldenbourg was an amazing writer!

    I’ll keep on writing and one day the book may…will be on the shelves 🙂
    Have a nice day

  7. A little late at making a comment but, I am a huge reader of historial non fiction and fiction. One of my favorite authors said her book was turned down over and over by many publishers. One told her to burn her work, no one would ever pick up her book. She said she was floored, depressed after that. Well she said she picked herself off the floor and now she is a huge successful author. The book she was told to burn became a huge huge success world wide. Believe in oneself it shall happen. Best of luck to you, when your book is published let all of us know! It shall be soon!

    Warm Regards,
    Devon Maureen

  8. Thank you Devon Maureen for such an uplifting comment.
    It is much appreciated.
    To be told to Burn one’s work is horrific!!
    I have huge respect for your favourite author and her guts/determination.
    My best to you for your support and my thanks :o)

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