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Historical fiction and non-fiction

10 October 2011

The Historical Writers' Association

Novelist Manda Scott has recently formed the [no-glossary]Historical Writers' Association[/no-glossary] as a forum for writers and to promote the genre. The internet-based group already boasts around 100 members including authors, agents and editors, is open to writers of historical fiction and non-fiction.

, which we reported on last year, seems to have marked the coming of age of the genre of historical fiction. This has long been popular and many classic writers, such as Norah Lofts, Mary Renault, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Henry Treece, were opening up the past through their novels 40 or 50 years ago. It is strange how genres come and go, with no obvious explanation, although sometimes the success of one or two books can have a knock-on effect, reviving the market for other similar books.

But it does seem to be more than that. There's been a corresponding revival of interest in history in general, with a large number of non-fiction titles being published, some of them becoming bestsellers. There's a real feeling that people are turning to the past, whether with fiction or non-fiction, perhaps as an escape from the dullness and lack of interest of the present. You could point to the interest in Heritage, in visiting historical sites of all kinds, in finding our about and understanding the past. It's natural that all this is reflected in what people want to read.

The Historical Writers' Association has grown into what founder Manda Scott describes as 'a solid coalition of fiction writers, non-fiction writers, publishers, agents and booksellers, all bound by our common interest in historical books, but more so by the sense of community that comes from a shared obsession'.

The Association now has over a hundred members who are connected by email, a website, a forum, Facebook and Twitter and who have just elected Michael Morpurgo as the honorary President. The aim is mutual support and it looks like it's working. New books are listed by period and there's a link to Amazon to buy.

Why is it that these writers' associations are so popular? It seems just to be that authors are lonely creatures and there's much to be gained from a bit of solidarity, socialising and discussing mutual problems. They also help to support the genre itself of course, to get it taken more seriously and attract more readers. As the Association's website shows, it is attracting quite a number of publishers and agents, who see themselves as publishing and handling authors writing in this category.

Historical Writers' Association

Writing Historical Fiction