I write (among other things) historical fiction, and I find that an odd term because “fiction” suggests something entirely made up but “historical”—though in fact the etymology is less clear than that and story and history are much more closely entwined—has come to imply a factual background. I’ve written here about the historical roots of A Just and Upright Man, exploring the research that went into writing the book. In an early draft of Zappa’s Mam’s a Slapper (set in the present day and not published yet—I’ll keep you posted), the protagonist describes himself as “the sort of person where eighty per cent of your life goes on inside your head.” That’s also a description of me; when people say, “Where do you get your ideas from?” one of the possible answers that I never give would be: “From the archives I spend my time in and the endless stream of documents I find there and the images that ricochet afterwards around what I like to think of as my mind.”
Fernand Braudel wrote brilliantly in The Structures of Everyday Life about the “top down” view of history (taught in every school and university) assembled from what concrete data exist and the “bottom up” world that for most of human history is almost invisible. The people in that world lived, loved, hated, married and raised children, fought and died just like anyone else. On this page I plan to bring some of their stories to light—just as, on the pages of my fiction, I try to bring them to life.