How I Write My Historical Novels, by Eva Stachniak

Wise words from the wonderful Eva Stachniak. See the Historical Novel review for my interview with her.

Writing Historical Novels

As soon as I knew that I wanted to write a novel about Catherine the Great, I gave myself three months to do extensive research on the historical Catherine and the period in which she lived. I started with Catherine’s biographies, both recent and older ones, downloading 18th and 19th century books into my e-reader, taking advantage of the fact that old rare books are being extensively digitized and made available through major library portals. I read scholarly articles on various aspects of Catherine’s reign, her political conquests, her art collection, her gardening. I also read her own writing: memoirs and numerous letters which have preserved her voice from different stages of her life.

What general research produces is a great wealth of material which can yield many possible themes and approaches. I could try to tell the story of Catherine the Great’s whole life, or focus on one particular…

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