Inevitably, when people read my new historical fiction, Goldfields Girl, they will ask me ‘how much of this story is fact and how much is fiction?’. Previous experience of presenting talks and workshops about my other historical novels, Black Jack Anderson and To See the World, has taught me that, no matter what I say, they will not be completely satisfied. Like that other perennial question, ‘Of all the books you have written, which is your favourite?’, there is no answer. At least there is no definitive answer, which is what the questioner really wants. Today I was reminded of how contemporary author, Ben Learner, deals with the first of these grass-seed-in-the-sock questions that plague writers everywhere.
‘A novel, like a poem, is neither fiction or non-fiction, but a flickering between them.’ (Ben Learner) And how DH Lawrence consistently warned us, ‘Never trust the teller, trust the tale.’
In other words don’t simply accept or reject what you read from a single source. If my story intrigues you and throws up questions, dig deeper. Enter into the lives of the characters through the tale I have to tell, but don’t stop there. If I have sparked your curiosity and made you think more deeply, then I have done my job well.