A huge thank you to the staff and pupils at The Kingsley School in Royal Leamington Spa for making me so welcome last Thursday. I was there to present an author talk and run a workshop exploring historical fictional and the true story behind my novel One Day In Oradour. There were 50 girls in the group – all Year 8 – and what a smashing group they were! There were so many fabulous questions and, if we hadn’t run up to lunchtime, I think we could have gone on and on.
We began the session by talking about historical fiction as a genre and why some young readers tend to avoid it when looking for something to read in bookshops, libraries or online bookstores. Sadly, the presumption can be that historical fiction equates to dull old facts. So I did my best to explode that myth and, by revealing just some of the many different kinds of stories which can be broadly classified as historical fiction, I showed (I hope!) that good historical fiction can be riveting, moving, inspiring and entertaining. It can, of course, have its fair share of romance, humour, mystery, adventure and even fantasy, too! Linked to that, we looked together at what inspires authors to write – from fascinating people to new discoveries and ground-breaking, life-changing events, including of course the true story behind One Day In Oradour.
The author talk was then followed by a workshop which gave the girls a chance to chat about what they had just heard and to identify aspects of the true story which they found most interesting or intriguing. It was then time for the pupils to consider what angle they might take if they were writing a story about Oradour-sur-Glane. I was particularly impressed with one group’s suggestion for turning the story into a mythical, fantasy story featuring dragons to represent the German soldiers. If you write that one up, girls, I would love to read it.
In fact, I welcome any questions about the story behind by book – and would be delighted to see young writers’ own attempts at historical fiction, and to hear about the events or people which inspired them. Details of how to send stories to me can be found on the Contact page. And don’r forget what I always say: if you are ever stuck for writing ideas, just look behind you!