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Monday, February 22, 2016

Imagine yourself 'in' the time

“I always try to find a story in the margins of history, but I don't like to do too much that's improbable.” – Philip Kerr

A native of Scotland, Kerr is best known for the Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set primarily in Germany during the 1930s, World War II and the Cold War.  He has authored some 30 books of fiction, several nonfiction works and a dozen children's books, including the Children of the Lamp series, under the name P.B. Kerr.  

Born 50 years ago today, Kerr started writing in middle school and really never stopped.  In the early 1990s he was honored as one of Britain’s “Best Young Writers,” and in 2009 he won both the “RBA International Prize for Crime Writing” (also worth nearly $200 thousand in cash) and the British Crime Writers' Association's “Ellis Peters Historic Crime Writing Award.”

He resides near Wimbledon where he also writes nonfiction and essays and is a frequent contributor to The Sunday Times and The Evening Standard, although it's his writing “about the recent historical past,” that is his forte’. 

As for the challenges of writing historical fiction, Kerr said his best advice is to immerse yourself  in that time.  “History asks us to imagine ourselves in a period, but it's a very different situation when you're in that period and faced with those situations,” he said.  “(And) The hardest thing is to write about people. First and foremost, you have to encounter their humanity. That is the only way you can make them live as characters on the page.”

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