My forthcoming book There Will Be Consequences(February 2022) is a biographical novel. Unlike my previous works, which incorporate both fictional and nonfictional characters, this book contains only people who exist in the historical record, but is still written as fiction.
Biographical fiction as a genre strives to present “real life” people in a way that moves beyond the strictly biographical to imagine their emotions at specific moments in their lives. It also bridges the undocumented gaps that strict biography can’t cover by imagining what might have happened, given what we know.
The earliest biographical novel is believed to be W. Somerset Maugham’s 1919 The Moon and Sixpence about painter Paul Gauguin. Perhaps the most famous are Irving Stone’s 1964 Lust for Life about Vincent Van Gogh and Michael and Jeff Shaara’s books about the Civil War.
More recent biographical fiction include Hillary Mantel’s Wolfe Hall andnovels about the British royalty or that focus on people active during World War II. These books may or may not be strictly biographical as I define it: using only historical characters and adhering firmly to documented, or at least plausible, timelines. I know some authors are more comfortable about breaking these “rules” than I am.
One thing these books all have in common is that they tend to focus on one or two individuals and their experiences. There Will Be Consequences breaks new ground by using twelve different characters. As each section of the narrative moves forward, the reader experiences that portion of the story through the eyes of another person, who may be anyone from a rebel to the governor to a priest.
This multi-layered approach was an exhilarating challenge to write and allowed me to explore the events of New Mexico’s 1837 revolt in what I believe is an interesting way that enables the reader to experience a complex situation from multiple perspectives. I hope you’ll agree.
2 thoughts on “What Is Biographical Fiction?”
What a challenge you have undertaken, Loretta. I have written some historical characters into Delilah, but I did it sparingly, afraid to take too many fictional liberties with their characters. I can’t wait to read this new book, “There Will Be Consequences”. Please put me down for a review copy. I will look forward to it. 🙂
I will! Thanks!
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