Historical Novel or Historical Fiction? Is there a difference?
Although these two terms are used almost interchangeably today, there is a wide spectrum in this genre based on how much of the material is fact versus fiction. On one end of the spectrum is a factual historical account where all characters and events are from recorded history, and dialog is only added where necessary to portray actual events. This would be the equivalent of a docudrama on television that tries to recreate the events with actors. Much more common though is the other end where an author creates a completely fictional drama while being as true as possible to the time and location setting and its cultural norms. The latter can bring the past era to life and give the reader a feel of what it must have been like to live during that time. This is an important part of what most readers enjoy about historical fiction. Often historical novels have their fictional characters participate in real historical events. Two examples of this that I enjoyed reading were Fall of Giants and Winter of the World by Ken Follett. These took fictional characters through stages of World Wars I and II from different sides of the conflict. A good historical novel in my mind also allows one to learn about history in a way that sticks with you. When this is well done, I find myself constantly going to Google to find out if that really happened. In Cry for Jerusalem we have used the writings of Josephus to create a set of historical novels that are based mostly on real characters and real events. Yet I have expanded what is known about those characters (and added a few more) to create dramatic, yet plausible, interactions and events. I know for me it is often difficult at the beginning of a book or movie to keep all the characters straight. So I have made a dramatis personae (list of characters) at the beginning of each book to help the reader become better acquainted with the characters. Of the 28 persons in the list in book one, all but seven are based on real characters mentioned by Josephus or other historians. My goal is for you to learn a lot about the history of this time period through an ethnically diverse cast of main characters that include two strong major female roles.