'Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't'
- Mark Twain
Because I write both novels and 'straight' history, Mark Twain's famous dictum about truth being stranger than fiction often comes to my mind. While I know what 'the father of American literature' meant, I do find myself taking issue with him. I'm using the summer months to get stuck into my next major project which is all about the roles played by women during the Reformation. After the publication of The First Horseman, my novel about 1536, the most critical year in Henry VIII's reign (Catherine of Aragon died, Anne Boleyn was beheaded; Henry came close to death; the north of England rose in revolt; etc.) comes out in August. That will involve me in a lot of publicity activity so I need to make a good start on Reformation Women before I'm inevitably distracted by signing and speaking activities.
The nuggets of truth I'm mining about women activists of the 16th C are remarkable. There are inspiring stories of courage, intellectual brilliance, defiance of male domination, profound humanity and toleration in an intolerant age that might appear OTT in a work of fiction. And yet, in the novel, although I have to keep within bounds set by actual events, I have scope for imagination. I can try to impart what I believe it felt like to live in tempestuous Tudor England. My imaginary characters experience the trials, tribulations and triumphs many people must have experienced, though their stories have not been recorded.
Both fiction and non-fiction can be enthralling and exciting. At least, I hope so.