“I often tell people who want to write historical fiction: don't read all that much about the period you're writing about. Read things from the period that you're writing about. There's a tendency to stoke up on a lot of biography and a lot of history, and not to actually get back to the original sources.” – Thomas Mallon
An award-winning Novelist, essayist, and critic, Mallon (whose 65th birthday is today) is known for historical novels that are renowned for attention to detail and context as they provide their readers into a “fly on the wall" view of the historical events swirling around them.
The author of 9 novels, including Henry and Clara, Two Moons, and Watergate, he also has written one of the definitive works on plagiarism, Stolen Words, and two volumes of his insightful essays. All told, he has written 16 books and hundreds of news stories, features and essays in his long career as journalist and creative writer.
As a journalist who is fairly well versed about Watergate, I really enjoyed Mallon’s terrific crafting of his 2013 novel Watergate, a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The colorful retelling of the Watergate scandal from the perspective of 7 characters is a truly great read.
Historical fiction, he said, is the genre in which he is most interested. “I think the main thing that has led me to write historical fiction is that it is a relief from the self,” he said.
As for advice to writers of historical fiction, he offered this system that has worked so well for him. “For almost every novel I've written, I've read the daily newspaper of the time almost as if it were my current subscription. For Two Moons, which was set in 1877, I think I read just about every day of the Washington Evening Star for that year. For Henry and Clara, I read the Albany Evening Journal of the time.”
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