Judith Allnatt talks about history as inspiration, challenge and opportunity for the writer.
Report by Natasha Orme.
Historical Fiction is a hard one to get right and it was a joy to hear Judith Allnatt put our worries at ease. She spoke about her emotional engagement with her first novel; The Poet’s Wife and how she really had to feel for the story to come alive, it wasn’t about peopling the story with characters but more about discovering the story they held.
She spoke more about each aspect of writing historical fiction, focusing for a moment on setting and how to immerse oneself in creating it. She highlighted the importance for drawing the reader into the story by making the place real and she felt the only real way to do that was to experience the place first-hand. She ran through the in depth research she did into the home, place of work, as well as associated places.
Judith gave some good tips on avoiding contradicting facts and conflicting opinions before moving onto how refreshing the style of writing can be when aiming for authenticity. She admitted the difficulties faced when trying to approach a new dialect or even being factually correct with their vocabulary and terminology.
Despite how hard this all seems and how much there is to remember, Judith didn’t fail to remind us all how simple an idea needs to be before it blossoms into a full length novel. She spoke about her latest novel, The Moon Field, and the simplicity of the reader finding a little tin box; something so small, yet so significant and throughout the story, the importance of the items in the tin box become apparent. This allowed her juxtapositioning of a sweetheart romance and what the main character endured through the war.
Judith was able to give all of us plenty of food for thought as we contemplated our own current and future projects, inspiring us that it is within reach and may not be as hard as we first think. She didn’t make it sound easy but she did make it sound rewarding.