The Art and Craft of Historical Fiction: A Reading & Writing Workshop, with Susanne Dunlap

Stephen King once said that reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. Often the best way to learn about a genre is to read and study it, and then apply what you learn to your own writing. This workshop will examine parts of four historical novels by some of the most skilled authors writing in the genre. You’ll have a month to read each book, or as much of it as you like, and we’ll discuss the books in our meetings, exploring a particular craft element. After discussions, you’ll have time to apply the craft technique to your own project and work on your writing, guided by a prompt.  

We’ll focus on:

  • Grounding your reader in time and place without committing the cardinal sin of info dumping
  • Seamlessly interweaving essential historical detail in a complex, layered story
  • Creating characters that resonate with modern readers—without unintentional anachronisms
  • The borders between history and fiction and the role of research—how much is it OK to invent

Reading Schedule:

September 4: The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell 
October 2: Libertie, by Katelyn Greenidge 
November 6: The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
December 4: The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd

September 4th, October 2nd, November 6th, and December 4th, from 6 – 8:30 p.m. ($195)

Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine historical novels for adults and teens. Her young adult novel The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild selection and a Bankstreet Children’s Book of the Year, and it was nominated for the Missouri Gateway Readers Prize and the Utah Book AwardHer latest novel, Listen to the Wind and The Spirit of Fire are the first volumes of a medieval trilogy for adults, The Orphans of Tolosa. Listen to the Wind is a semi-finalist for the Chaucer Awards for Pre-1750 Historical Fiction and a Distinguished Favorite in the NYC Big Book Awards. Susanne has a PhD in music history from Yale University.