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Historical Fiction
‘Do Quote Me …’
On historical fiction …

‘I believe it is every bit as important for writers and readers of historical fiction to speculate on what their characters might have been thinking about, dreaming about and imagining for themselves, as it is to describe what they actually did.’
On brevity …

‘Always take a care for your reader’s eyesight.
Don’t use an extra paragraph when one will do.
Don’t use an extra sentence when one will do.
Don’t use an extra word when one will do.
Don’t even use a word … when none will do.’
On the past tense …

‘The urge to listen to a story (that is something in the past tense) is very powerful. It is comforting, like a bed-time story, and as old as the hills. Present tense is more challenging, however. It is a description of something - demanding our attention. Look! And then, of course, when we do look, we usually find ourselves asking questions.’
On detail …

'The quality of inserting ‘detail’ in an historical novel is not a matter of endless descriptions of clothing, smells, buttons and bows. Instead, it is the constant appearance of the unexpected: the detail that comes from the creative imagination rather than the text book or search engine.'
On readers …

‘A reader is your guest if you are a writer. You invite them in and welcome them to your world. You are honoured by their visit.’
On solitude …

‘An educated mind has no aversion to solitude - a state in which independent thought, creative spirit and the reading of great books become possible.’
On characters …

‘For an author, you have to love your characters. If you are bored with them or feel reluctant to renew your acquaintance with them each and every day, you should hardly be surprised if your readers do likewise and avoid them too.’
On the virtues of printed books versus ebooks …

‘Good literature is dependent on neither ink nor batteries, and has no preference for either.’
On writing at night …

‘The nighttime is wasted if a writer uses it only for sleep.’
On phrases and sentences …

‘The alchemy of words is what excites me, the mystery of how a few separate words on their own, and which might mean very little in isolation, can be combined to produce something greater than their parts - phrases or sentences that have the ability to transform reality and change perception. It is a process that can, indeed, seem magical’
On the past …

‘I believe we should always judge a culture and its people by their achievements, which are unique to them, rather than by their vices, which are common to all.’
On the nature of stories …

‘Stories are one of the most powerful ways in which we communicate ideas among ourselves. They are the stuff that brings us together, the things we celebrate, the things we share with one another.’
On historical accuracy …

‘There is no symbiotic relationship between historical facts and good literature. Believing otherwise can lead to unfortunate outbursts of finger wagging and smugness.’
On good and great stories …

‘The thing about a good novel is that all the heartache, sweat and tears that went into it can be seen by the reader. With a great novel, on the other hand, it is entirely invisible.’
On knowledge …

‘A man should not glory in what he already knows but in what he has yet to learn.’

Random observations on reading, writing and books

Robert Stephen Parry
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