June Hall McCash, an award-winning author, talked all things historical fiction at Tuesday’s Author Luncheon hosted by the Friends of the Library.
Over 300 guests attended to hear McCash speak. As an author of 14 books, both historical fiction and nonfiction, the Newberry, South Carolina native shared her knowledge on what makes historical fiction unique and challenging as well as dispel some common assumptions about historical fiction.
“Writers of historical fiction use the same sources as the writers of history. And when I’m writing a novel about historical figures, I never want to write anything that can be proven to be false,” said McCash.
Originally a teacher, McCash spent most of her academic career at Middle Tennessee State University before becoming a full-time writer. She started her writing career with nonfiction but then switched to also writing historical fiction.
Not only does historical fiction tend to sell more copies of books, McCash explained, but she also felt “liberated” as she began writing fiction. She was no longer in the confines of footnotes and bibliographies and was able to have the most fun. Which is why she said she now prefers writing historical fiction today.
“It’s the essence of historical fiction, free with the creative spirit to delve into the truths or the probabilities of characters’ motivation, thoughts, and emotional reactions...In short, to plumb their minds and hearts,” said McCash.
Historical fiction, McCash admits, still has its limitations. She has to be extremely detailed, more so than nonfiction writers. Therefore, historical fiction writers have to be more curious, she said.
For instance, McCash said she had to know the phases of the moon on a certain day in 1854, or the names of a certain icing being used prior to commercial frosting.
With so much detail to discover it took her 40 years to write her book Eleanor’s Daughter, a story about a 12th century French royal.
All these details make the story come alive and pay off in the end. Her book received first place in the International Chaucer Competition in 2018.
But often, there’s no luxury of flexibility. McCash said the hardest part of her writing is leaving characters out. And if two sources are conflicting, McCash says she has to stick to one and continue writing.
Overall, historical fiction brings history to a wide group, McCash said. Those who would not normally read about history are more entertained to read about it through a good story.
“New information is less important than a good story,” said McCash.
And if there’s ever an error in her writing, McCash says her readers let her know. And if it’s accurate, she especially wants to hear it.
McCash’s other books include:
Friends of the Library goals
Through their donations, the Friends of the Library have been able to purchase new shelving for the youth area. The library has also added computer help services and book delivery to the community during the pandemic shutdowns. Now, they are looking to create an outdoor patio at the back of the library