Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.
Your historical fiction manuscript sits on a knife’s edge.
Falling to one side awaits epic historical fiction. The other side? Epic
significant responsibility. It’s time to get serious.
shapes views of the past.
impressions of the past into minds. When the American gold rush is mentioned,
many minds reference Francine Rivers’ Redeeming
Love. American Civil War? Gone with the Wind or Killer Angels. Many feel they know
medieval history because they’ve read Pillars
of the Earth.
If the wrong ingredient is added, is the recipe ruined? For some, no—they like
salt instead of baking powder. But historical fiction readers are usually
informed. They know what the pudding should taste like. And if you use skim
milk instead of whole milk, they’ll know.
books read. Until you pretend you watch TV, so you can fit in. Until, embarrassed
and ashamed of your dirty little reading secret, you have three Goodreads accounts with fictitious
names just to keep track of your books.
an impression on you.
fill, history dominates your head. Nothing specific, maybe—just history. You can’t
help but write history. Sweeping themes of humanity. Struggles of what it was
to live in another time.
history. Breathing it. Loving it. Writing the past.
where do I begin studying history? How do I get my historical fiction game face
followed by The History of the Medieval
World, and just out is The History of
the Renaissance World.
are trusted sources. If a time period interests you, read the books she lists. Those
books list sources. It’s okay to find those books and read them. And then read the primary sources
listed. You can find gold mines in the bibliography of any historical books.
what she’s reading. Read those books, along with the ones she’s written. And
finally, subscribe to periodicals and journals, such as the American Historical
Review. Sure, they’ve got some bias, like taking down Christianity, but it’s
the latest in historical thought. And someday, you might be in a position to combat bias.
terribly wrong, taking over your life. When your manuscript falls off the knife
edge and on the side of epic historical fiction, keep reading history.