Allison’s first post (welcome, Allison!) was particularly interesting because I was planning to write about the role of autobiography in fiction for my next post: when we come up with new stories, are we spinning webs from thin air, or are we just rewriting our own experiences? This debate is hot in the British publishing industry at the moment thanks to the recent winner of the Costa (formerly Whitbread) Award. Stef Penney set her novel The Tenderness of Wolves in the Canadian wilderness without having once set foot across the Atlantic; instead, she brought her locations to life with the help of maps and articles in the British Museum. Some people dared to question how she could make Canada sound convincing without seeing it for real; a larger number of people replied that invention is the whole point of fiction, that the writers of Dr Who haven’t been to different galaxies, that JKR isn’t a wizard, and historical writers don’t possess handy time machines. It’s like acting: Liam Neeson didn’t actually rescue hundreds of Jews during the Second World War, but he does a great job of looking traumatized in Schindler’s List.
On one level, I agree with Ms. Penney’s defenders. My most recent horse novel was set during the English Civil War, but I claim to be neither Cavalier nor Parliamentarian. And much as I hate to disappoint thousands of hopeful Warriors fans, I’m not actually a cat. [Read more…]