H – Historical Fiction: Charting Your Course

Today’s post is courtesy of Carrie Dalby, author of Corroded and Fortitude.


If you had asked me twenty-five, twenty, or even ten years ago what I thought I’d be doing, I never would have dreamed of saying “writing historical fiction.” Writing? Yes. Historical? No. While I enjoyed writing research papers in school, I never enjoyed history class. There were too many dates to memorizes, the textbooks were dry. And I failed my A.P. U.S. History test.

The two main things you need to write historical fiction are the ability to research and a passion for the subject matter. I knew how to research and acquired a love of history as an adult by reading historical novels—mostly middle grade, but some young adult and adult titles as well. Well researched books by Laurie Halse Anderson, Avi, Richard Peck, and countless Newbery winners captivated me. The time periods that once were dry came alive and I began to understand the history of the country and world.

When my idea for what became Fortitude first came to me, I immediately thought “Historical, no way! I don’t like history. I don’t do war. I failed my A.P. U.S. History test. I’d be a fake. I’d get it all wrong.” But then I looked over my bookshelves and realized that historical fiction had become my main to-go genre in the past decade—proof that reading tastes do evolve, minds can expand.

How did I make sure I “got it right” when writing? I researched for five years. Yes, five years off and on while I wrote my contemporary novel, Corroded, and while I started the new story. Then while working with my amazing editor, Sean Connell, he called me out on a few liberties I’d taken and I had to go back and do more research during the editing process. The final product of Fortitude is something historical readers can enjoy but also those who don’t think history is their thing—because it wasn’t mine for the longest time. Try reading a new genre, it might surprise you.

Now I’m working on the first draft of my seventh historical-based novel and I consider a great Saturday one that I spend a few hours at the local history and genealogy library doing research. My teenage-self would be shocked I found passion for Spanish-American War soldiers, but also proud to know I followed my writing dream and put my fondness for research papers to use.


CarrieDalbyI’m a California girl with Midwest values living in the South: a Wonderwegian. Home is where my heart is– family, books, music, and imagination. If I could name a hometown, it’d be Wonderland.

While experiencing the typical adventures of growing up, I called several places in both San Diego and Santa Cruz counties “home.” In high school I began writing seriously, finishing a novel-length manuscript a year between the ages of fifteen and seventeen.

At seventeen years old, I worked part-time during the day and took night courses at the local community college four evenings a week, as well as worked on the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” correspondence course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I graduated with an Associate in Arts and Sciences, completed the ICL study course, and had four first drafts of novels written by the time I was nineteen.

I’ve lived on the Alabama Gulf Coast since 1996, and after a break from writing during much of my twenties, I’ve devoted time to the craft since 2005. I’ve sold several non-fiction articles that have published in magazines such as TALL and The Ensign. I was elected president of Mobile Writers Guild in May of 2011 and served two terms from 2011-2013, and have been the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI since 2012. I also volunteer with the local chapter of International Reading Association’s annual Young Author events.

Two young adult novels, Fortitude (historical) and Corroded (contemporary), released in 2016 by Anaiah Press’s Surge imprint. My current project is an adult Gothic series. When I’m not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, I can often be found knitting or attending concerts.

You can follow me on my website and Twitter.

4 thoughts on “H – Historical Fiction: Charting Your Course

  1. Hello fellow A-to-Zer! I kind of write historical fiction, too– or anyway I set many of my stories in the Victorian or the Edwardian era. And this was a surprise to me, too– finding that I was writing historical fiction. Research is so much fun, though it is a lot of hard work. Since I hate to think of getting a single thing wrong, I end up doing a lot of it– I imagine you do, too. Discovering that my local library had a room devoted to local history was a thrill, and actually going there and poking around was another. And I bless all small villages (especially those in England, the setting for many of my tales) who maintain websites of their own local history. One can learn so much, and soak in so much atmosphere.
    Melanie Atherton Allen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.