Author Jennie Dobson writes as guest blogger this week, discussing the difficulties faced when writing an historical novel.

It’s very popular at the moment – historical fiction. The eagerly awaited dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s double Booker prize-winners Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies is about to appear on our television screens with a stellar cast, lavish costumes and breathtaking locations. Philippa Gregory’s novel, The King’s Curse is the latest in a long list of books that she has published about the Tudors and the Plantagenets. One glance at Historical Novels Review (published by the Historical Novel Society) gives but a small glimpse of the number of novels in this genre being published each month. Odd because not so many years ago, publishers wouldn’t touch them with end of a very long barge pole. Now it seems they can’t get enough of them. Historical novels are hard to write. I say this, not because of the thorough research that is required. Usually, authors who write them enjoy the research as much as the act of writing. No, I say they are hard to write because they carry with them a huge responsibility. I’m assuming (and I know you should never assume) that most historical authors feel a duty to be as accurate as possible where events in the past are concerned. However, although with good research and luck (the documents need to be available to do the research) you can get the events more or less right; it is often extremely difficult to understand their personalities without the gossip of their servants or relatives. Mostly information of this nature this will never have been committed to parchment. Finding evidence about their personal lives is a rare event. This then is a problem I’m having with one of my characters – in fact my main protagonist. Everything I have read about her makes me believe she was dull, dull, dull. Now here is my dilemma: do I change her personality in order to make her more interesting or do I try and be faithful to the little evidence I have? I am aware that once I change her into someone else, she will no longer be the person who carried out all the deeds that made her interesting enough to write about. There is, in fact, very little description of her so I could just create her as fits the story I want to tell. But would that be right? Would I be faithful to her? The responsibility weighs heavily.

Jennie Dobson has worked as a press officer, a journalist, and currently as a guide in Shakespeare’s Birthplace dressed as a Tudor servant. She has contributed to an eclectic selection of magazines and has an MA in a Shakespeare-related subject. She is currently writing an historical novel. Contact her at:  or read her blog on