Historical Fiction is a tricky genre because you are weaving fact and fiction so closely that hopefully people won't see the joins. With 'The Beauty Chorus', the reactions I've found most interesting are from the people who lived during that time. Hearing from the real ATA girls has been particularly interesting. Someone once said they were a bunch of 'tough babies' and boy were they right.
Overall, it's been positive (the archivist called it a 'masterpiece' ... I think he meant it). Comments have ranged from 'oh, you do like the old stories, don't you dear', to queries about whether you really could do *that* in a Spitfire (you could, it was dangerous, many lost their lives doing it but it did happen). I'm glad my research was rigorous because these girls don't pull their punches. The comment that has given me most pause for thought was passed along second hand - one of the old veterans had said 'nonsense - none of us cried'. I imagine she was talking about sections of the book where the girls lost people they loved during the war. I know there was little time for grieving - there was a war on, but were lips really that stiff I wonder that they didn't shed a tear? I've read real accounts of women comforting one another ... of women seeking the solace of dark cinemas to cry in peace. Again, I'm sticking to my guns. My characters are feisty and 'tough babies' but they're not made of stone. I think modern readers would feel cheated, that the character was too 'hard' if they didn't break open and grieve their losses. In fact, when people have said to me that the novel made them cry in places, I've felt pleased that the fiction felt real enough to move them - to put it simply, I've done my job. What do you think?
Today on our blog tour we are off to a great blog, where they know all about debut novels, the First Novels Club. Donna, Sara, Frankie and Janine run a terrific blog full of advice for new novelists - the internet equivalent of a shoulder to lean on while you're getting your first novel together. Enjoy joining them and their adventures in reading, writing and life - today we're talking about writing historical fiction.