When is fiction historical? A book launch and an unknown genre

Historical fiction seems to be a trendy genre these days. The question is: when does a story qualify as historical fiction?

It seems clear that if a story takes place in the past and is fictional, it must, by definition, be “historical fiction.” But it seems that it’s not that clear.

The blurb on Masterclass that leads into Margaret Atwood’s class on creative writing says the following:

Historical fiction transports readers to another time and place, either real or imagined. Writing historical fiction requires a balance of research and creativity, and while it often includes real people and events, the genre offers a fiction writer many opportunities to tell a wholly unique story.[1]

So, any novel that transports the reader to another time and place is historical―except when it isn’t. There seems to be a notion decreed by some parts of the online community that anything set 50 years ago or earlier is historical fiction. But really? If you’re sixty-five years old and lived through the period in question, then, for you, it’s not historical fiction at all. It may not be contemporary, but a story set fifty years ago won’t feel like it is in any way in the same category as, for example, The Girl with the Pearl Earring or The Thornbirds.

It seems then that what is historical fiction is a bit subjective. And what about a story that starts fifty-five years ago (1965) and sweeps you all the way to 1989? Historical fiction? Probably not. And that’s what we’re launching.

Kat’s Kosmic Blues, the prequel to The Year I Made 12 Dresses, is really a contemporary book.

Listen to author Patricia J. Parsons as she talks about it.


[1] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-historical-fiction-definition-of-the-historical-fiction-genre-and-tips-for-writing-your-historical-novel#quiz-0