I’m getting critiques back about the first 50 pages of my second draft. Responses are mostly positive: definitely still needs work but it’s evidently it’s a compelling read.
Most of my critique partners aren’t historical fiction enthusiasts so I find their input valuable re: possible cross-genre appeal. One even said that though she’s not a history buff she’d read my book for the alchemy and magic alone.
I never thought I read historical fiction as a child, at least in the “pure” Dorothy Dunnett/Philippa Gregory/Margaret George mold. I preferred “real history” (I cringe at my childhood snobbiness). But after this discussion it occurred to me: I was reading histfic all along. I just found it in other genres.
Take Anne Rice. I was a teenage goth so of course I read and reread her Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches series. Rice typically falls on the horror/fantasy but Lestat and co. survive through pre-revolutionary France and antebellum New Orleans; the Mayfair family moves from England through to the Caribbean and thence to the New World over five centuries.
Octavia Butler’s Kindred also stuck with me. Time travel puts this sobering read squarely in the sci-fi box but Butler’s nuanced depiction of slavery in the American south suggests painstaking research of the type associated with the best historical fiction.
Kage Baker’s Company series goes everywhen: Tudor England (Baker taught Elizabethan English as a second language and it shows) to 17th century Spanish California to the 19th century old west and elsewhere…with time-traveling, historical-artifact-saving cyborgs.
More histfic with scifi/paranormal elements:
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series goes without saying.
Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy has it all: witches, vampires, werewolves, and time travel
The Witch Who Came in From the Cold: John LeCarre-style Cold War spies…with witches
Chelsea Quinn Harbor’s Saint Germain series – the vampire St. Germain through multiple time periods
Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series – mixes Victorian vampires and Jack the Ripper
The quality and success of all of these genre mash-ups reassure me that there’s a place for my hybrid WIP someday.
Please share your own favorites in the comments!