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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > January 2017 > Historical fiction: Rewriting the past

Historical fiction: Rewriting the past

Certain periods of history are already well explored by other authors, but there’s still room for new approaches. Historical novelist Nicola Cornick helps your book stand out from the crowd.

‘Not another novel set in Tudor times.’

The very first review of my new historical timeslip mystery, The Phantom Tree, summed up the difficulty of making a well-known period of history your own. Fortunately the review went on to describe the book as ‘surprisingly brilliant’, ‘surprising’ in that it covered the well-worn territory of Tudor England in a new way. So how does a writer take a period like the Tudor era and write a book that is fresh and original?

First, it’s worth examining why this is such a rich seam for historical novelists. The popularity of the Tudor period has not waned in all the time I’ve been reading about it (which is over forty years) and it is curious as to why, despite the richness of other places, characters and eras, writers return to it time and time again. In some ways the very familiarity of the story is its appeal. It has memorable characters, family rivalry, bloodshed, romance and adventure. From Bosworth Field to the defeat of the Spanish Armada and beyond there is a vast, exciting backdrop of events and huge and colourful cast of characters to draw on. It’s terrific background and inspiration.

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About Writing Magazine

• STAR INTERVIEW WITH LEE CHILD, the multi-million selling creator of the Jack Reacher novels • Writing wisdom from the great Greek thinkers – rules that have stood the test of time • How to make your historical fiction stand out, and top tips on the genre from author Nicola Cornick • Study the short story masters to learn the art of the unreliable narrator • The magazine sleuth - how every magazine tells you exactly what its editor needs

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