Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

5 Reasons why I love writing historical fiction


A beautiful Flickr photo by pdxnielson

1. The stuff won’t ever get dated. It’s already dated — it’s history!   

2. A ready-made colorful, rich setting, ready to use. (Okay, so I am making it sound too easy. Research is hard work!)

3. The fun you can have with the language, some expressions that had been used, slang, etc.

4. I love tracing how a time and a place can affect people, and yet how, we  humans are basically the same creatures, no matter when or where we come from.

5. Some editors/agents are wary of historical fiction, because supposedly “it just doesn’t sell.” (Fortunately for me not everyone feels this way, of course! 🙂 ) At one writers’ conference, one editor said point-blank, “don’t send me any historical fiction.” I jotted her name down, thinking, “all-righty then, I won’t.” Then, hesitating, she added, “Or if you are going to send me historical fiction it has to be really, really good.”

Well. I love the fact that some editors are a little scared of the genre. I’d hate to be riding on the coattails of a hot hot hot trend, writing a story everyone else is writing in the hopes of becoming another fill-in-the-blank!!! 🙂

Plus, a little confession. A part of me really loves it when someone with authority says, “Oh, this stuff won’t sell.” If someone ever said that about my manuscript — not shrouded in compliments, but just came out and said it in the brutal, direct way editors used to speak and write, I think I’d actually be a little honored.

Because that would put me in the company of George Orwell and Stephen King! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Flickr photo by Valeriana Solaris

As of now, I’m in the company of Marcus Zusack, M.T. Anderson, Laurie Halse Andersen, Karen Cushman, Jennifer Donnelly, Philippa Gregory, Kathryn Stockett, and many many others who write historical fiction.

And what great company that is 🙂


May 28, 2010 - Posted by | Writing Mirror


  1. Great list! I’m playing with the idea for a story set in 1920 New York City and researching the slang and pop culture is so much fun.

    Comment by pskillings | May 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Pamela, really? Wow!
      I am CRAZY about the 1920s slang. If you’re researching it, then you might know that this is where a lot of our current slang came from. Things like “babe” and “bull” and “baloney.” One of my fave 1920s expressions is, “none of your beeswax.” They also had “bees knees.” They sure liked their bees! 🙂 Thanks for checking out my blog — good luck with your story. I want to read it already, lol!

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. I think there was a time a few years ago when historical fiction wouldn’t sell, but a quick look at a lot of the prize lists of late includes quite a few novels with historical settings.

    Maybe I am a bit biased though. I am a historical fiction lover from way back.

    Comment by Marg | May 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi,

      Yes, I totally agree — that’s why I was surprised when I picked up on this fear that seemed to be coming from some agents and editors. I repeat though: SOME, not ALL. My own agent definitely seems confident! 🙂 Which is a great thing for us, people who like to immerse in other worlds of long-ago.
      By the way, I love your “Reading Adventures” blog!


      Comment by Katia Raina | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thanks Katia!

    If you love historical fiction check out Historical Tapestry as well.

    Comment by Marg | May 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Yep, checked it out and added it to links – it’s great. But while I do love historical, I think I am like you in that I love fantasy, too. Or contemporary, even, if it finds a way to create a world for me, even if it’s a world of slamming locker rooms and baseball fields and boyfriend drama. I love any good book, as long as it takes me on a journey.

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s great to “meet” you!

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  4. What a beautifully constructed blog! I have loved historical fiction since I was a child way back when and I still crave a good novel set in Victorian times. As a teacher, I often used YA novels to teach the culture of a country in a particular era. The students learned the necessary information and a lot more – and best of all, they enjoyed it.

    Comment by Susan Townsend | June 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Exactly!! A good historical novel is like a trip to a time and a place. So much better than sitting there, reading something like this: “In Victorian times, houses were constructed of . . . blah,blah, blah.” When you read historical fiction you actually get to visit the house!

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 2, 2010 | Reply

  5. I love your site, Katia, it’s a wealth of interesting stuff. Also, nice list idea, and great execution. I didn’t know that historical fiction was not “in” right now – it seems like a perennial favorite to me. I especially love that you wrote this: “I’d hate to be riding on the coattails of a hot hot hot trend, writing a story everyone else is writing in the hopes of becoming another fill-in-the-blank!!!” It’s hard to imagine chasing a trend could ever lead to really good work.

    Comment by Andrea | June 3, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Andrea, and welcome. Yes, you chase the song that your spirit is singing — that’s what you chase when you write — not a trend. Speaking of chasing the song, back to work I go! 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words about my site — and for taking the time to say “hello!”


      Comment by Katia Raina | June 3, 2010 | Reply

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