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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM PAIGE TURNER!
Truth is Stranger than Fiction
Why historical fiction needn’t be all dresses and drawing rooms
Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
He had a point. Fiction has to deal with events that seem plausible, because we need our readers to willingly suspend their disbelief. But sometimes, in striving to make our stories believable, we overlook true stories we could never make up in a million years.
For me, historical research is like a big lucky-dip, with every new thing I pick out and unwrap a wonderful surprise. With a little research, the fascinating people and odd incidents of history can make the most compelling settings for historical romance.
Rather than write about young ladies languishing while their menfolk are away at war, I’d rather explore the story of James Barry, a military surgeon in the British Army in the eighteenth century – who, on his death, was found to have been born a woman. Think of the things he must have seen! He had an unparalleled reputation for surgery, supposedly fought two duels, and Florence Nightingale called him a “brute”.
Or, for inspiration for an historical with a supernatural twist, I might read about Les Loups de Paris, The Wolves of Paris – a pack of man-eating wolves that terrorised Paris during the winter of 1450. History does not record whether or not they huffed and puffed, but they got in through the city walls and killed forty people before they were hunted down and stoned to death in front of Notre Dame.
If I’m in the mood for a detective story, I could write about Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who successfully investigated at least two criminal cases and yet believed utterly in spiritualism and in the Cottingley Fairies – which weren’t exposed as a hoax until the 1980s, when the cousins admitted they had photographed themselves with pictures of fairies cut out of paper.
Or if science fiction is my obsession du jour, I could do worse than to dip into the works of H G Wells and Jules Verne, who made some astonishingly specific predictions about inventions that were still many years in the future.
H G Wells’ The Time Machine predicted a technology we haven’t mastered yet – time travel. Except that, if it’s done right, I think historical fiction can be a time machine, a way to visit all the weird and the wonderful that history has to offer.
My novel Bone Idol, released on the 12th of December, is about the Bone Wars, a period in the late nineteenth century when palaeontologists went to incredible lengths to one-up each other. Fierce rivals Edward Drinker Cope and Charles Othniel Marsh (See? Even their names are stranger than anything I could come up with) stooped to bribery, trickery and even outright theft to discredit each other and win the title of the Victorian era’s top bone hunter. Bone Idol is the story of another such rivalry…
Paige Turner is an Englishwoman who believes very firmly in the restorative power of tea. Paige likes to write MM love stories with a difference—whether it’s boy-meets-boy in a hot historical or mortal-meets-monster in an erotic otherworld, she thinks that everyone deserves a happy ending.
Paige is currently working on a twisted fairytale and an epic, angst-ridden historical where the happily-ever-after is looking a little uncertain.
For a chance to win a copy of Bone Idol and a cameo role in the next book in the Past Perfect series, and to share your thoughts on the weird and wonderful in history, leave a comment! Winners will be announced on Christmas Day.
Didn’t win? Buy a copy
The BONUS BUMPER PRIZE QUESTION (don’t answer this yet – write them down and I’ll ask you to email them in on Christmas Eve.)
13. Born on Christmas Day 1908, and portrayed on the screen by the lovely John Hurt – who was he?