“I like reading history, and actually most authors enjoy the research part because it is, after all, easier than writing.” – Ken Follett
Born in Wales on this date in 1949, Follett has carved out arguably the number one spot in the world for the writing both thrillers and historical fiction. Since the publication of his first book Eye of the Needle in 1978 he has sold a remarkable 350 million copies (and counting) recently achieving a rare three number ones in a row on the New York Times Bestseller List with his “Century Trilogy.”
I have to admit I, too, was caught up in the trilogy even when, at times, his inclusion of the extreme brutality of some of his main characters left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach. But, ultimately, the story pulled me along and I was fascinated with the history that he seamlessly wove into his tales.
Having just published my first work of historical fiction and now working on another I also have to agree with him that doing the research is both interesting and an absolute “must” if you’re going to tackle this particular genre’.
You build and build on a folder full of facts, figures and personalities until you realize that if you’re ever going to create the story itself you have to stop researching and start writing. And, it’s fun to try to connect those “real” personalities with those you imagine and put on equal footing with those who were part of history.
And Follett likes that process. “I like to create imaginary characters and events around a real historical situation,” he said. “I want readers to feel: ‘Okay, this probably didn’t happen…but it might have.” When that’s accomplished, you know you’ve got success on your hands; and Follett, indeed, has had plenty of experiences with success.
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