The Pros and Cons of Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Character(s)
By Christopher Hawthorne Moss, author of BELOVED PILGRIM
Assembled: Christopher Hawthorne Moss; Frankie Deramus, the riverboat gambler from WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING; KING LAWRENCE, the title character of AN INVOLUNTARY KING; and ELISABETH/ELIAS, the protagonist of BELOVED PILGRIM.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: What are we talking about this time?
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: The Pros and Cons of Historical Fiction.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: As opposed to what?
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Actual history. You are all fictional characters.
KING LAWRENCE: That’s not true. I’m factual. I was the King of Crislicland.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Don’t you remember that one review where she said she looked it up and could not find a KING LAWRENCE?
KING LAWRENCE: Oh yeah, that’s right. But I lived in a factual time and place.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Mais non, mon roi. The time perforce was real, but there is no Crislicland, never was. There was, and is, a New Orleans and a Mississippi River.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: “New” Orleans? What was wrong with the old one?
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: We talked about it, you guys. You know, the New World and all that.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Chez moi.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: I knew some real people. Actually, several. A Margravina, some dukes, some counts, even an emperor or two.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: I knew some Confederate generals. I told Johnny I knew Stephen Foster, but my author had his dates wrong on that one.
KING LAWRENCE: And I met King Offa of Mercia. In fact, my fictional son married one of his factual daughters…
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: All right, all right. Let’s focus here. Some people don’t like historical fiction. Why do you think that is?
KING LAWRENCE: I suppose they think they can’t believe it. History is one thing, but fiction is by definition all made up.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: Except history isn’t always fact. The Crusade I was on was never recorded by an eyewitness. The three people who wrote about it were a monk who didn’t come with us, another monk who asked some people who did ten years later. And the emperor’s daughter, who stayed comfortably sitting on her velvet throne while we all sweated and starved our asses off. Facts have never been my friend.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: I know what you mean, madame…. I mean monsieur. Mine is the only romance Christopher here wrote, yet historians would question my romance with another man ever could have taken place. Pure merd.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Or that our “Beloved Pilgrim” here would have an identity we now call “transgender”. They would say she’s a woman and no women fought in the Crusades.
KING LAWRENCE: I don’t see why. We had Saxon women warriors.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: The Church made a rule you couldn’t tell about the women in the Crusades, even though the Paynim wrote about them. Besides, I am not a woman. Not in my heart and soul. I am a man. Is that what you called transgender, Christopher? Why would I need an “identity” as that? I know myself. I know who and what I am, and that’s a man.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Exactly. So what you are saying is that since history has lots of holes in it, we should make the rest of it up?
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Certainemnet. But it must be plausible. You can’t just make things up willy nilly.
KING LAWRENCE: I’m surprised you knew that expression, “willy nilly”. You speak Creole French, right?
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Oui, but I speak English as well, and, more important than that, I am fictional. I mean, neither of you spoke English, not in your real time. Christopher had to translate everything you said, in a manner of speaking. I can say whatever I want, except in the book. In the book we all have to at least sound like we fit our time.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Frankie, you said some historians don’t believe there was same sex love in the past.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Not exactly. They know there were men who loved men and women who loved women. They just get squeamish when writers like Christopher suggest that there were any people who saw themselves as part of an identity. All because of that Foucault fellow. But he had his own, how do you say, agenda. He was trying to prove some theory about power. Frankly, I never quite understood what he was going on about.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: You know what I think? I think they believe same sex loving people are only about sex. They think there were men who just liked to have sex and would have it with anyone and anything. They don’t seem to understand that love is about two people who meet, fall in love, and stay together. It’s like you always say, Christopher. You can’t pass laws against people falling in love. Whether they grew up looking forward to the day they would fall in love with someone of their own sex, when the time came, they felt the emotional attraction. You can’t stop that from happening.
KING LAWRENCE: Tell me about it. It seemed like half the male population of the British Isles fell in love with my wife. But I see what you are saying. And how would they know, anyway? Like whether there was a Crislicland? They weren’t there.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: But there was no record of a Saxon kingdom called that.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Just because there was no record doesn’t mean the thing never was. Maybe with a huge kingdom, but lots of things and people did not get recorded. Like men like me.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: And men like me.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Back to what you said about a story needing to be plausible. Even for example if there was no riverboat called Le Beau Soleil, there could have been. It doesn’t matter if a novel doesn’t read like a transcript of real events, so long as it is within reason that events and people like that might have existed. Enough to make up stories about.
KING LAWRENCE: In fact, that’s what is so good about historical fiction. The stories. People think of history as dry and flat. They know what happened and who was there but they don’t usually know what the majority of those who lived through it felt about it.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: That’s one of the two points about historical fiction that I think makes it every bit as important as history. That it humanizes the events of history. The second is that it can present stories that are overlooked, erased from history. For example, there are lots of records of people who were punished for being caught making love. The only reason is that it was against the Church or civil authorities. First of all, that is hardly the whole story of what we now call gays and lesbians. And by thinking about what it would be like to live at such a time and have that punishment hanging over your head all the time, you can write a plausible story that is broader in concept, and by definition important to human understanding.
ELISABETH/ELIAS: The only people you seem to find more detailed about are rich people. Aristocrats. Like me.
KING LAWRENCE: And me.
FRANKIE DERAMUS: Et moi! You know, I just realized something. Christopher always writes about the uppermost classes. He needs to come up with a commoner to write about.
KEVERN TREVELYAN: I’ll be there as soon as I can. It’s a long walk from Cornwall to Winchester.
CHRISTOPHER MOSS: Kevern’s in my next novel. Thanks for popping by, and thanks to you all for enriching my life.
KING LAWRENCE: Thank you, Christopher, for giving us life.
Blurb for BELOVED PILGRIM, 2nd Edition
By Christopher Hawthorne Moss
At the time of the earliest Crusades, young noblewoman Elisabeth longs to be the person she’s always known is hidden inside. When her twin brother perishes from a fever, Elisabeth takes his identity to live as a man, a knight. As Elias, he travels to the Holy Land, to adventure, passion, death, and a lesson that honor is sometimes found in unexpected places.
Elias must pass among knights and soldiers, survive furious battle, deadly privations, moral uncertainty, and treachery if he’ll have any chance of returning to his new-found love in the magnificent city of Constantinople.
Christopher Hawthorne Moss wrote his first short story when he was seven and has spent some of the happiest hours of his life fully involved with his colorful, passionate and often humorous characters. Moss spent some time away from fiction, writing content for websites before his first book came out under the name Nan Hawthorne in 1991. He has since become a novelist and is a prolific and popular blogger, the historical fiction editor for the GLBT Bookshelf, where you can find his short stories and thoughtful and expert book reviews. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his husband of over thirty years and four doted upon cats. He owns Shield-wall Productions at http://www.shield-wall.com. He welcomes comment from readers sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
OUR STORY GLBTQ HISTORICAL FICTION
WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING
Artwork (cover, author, publisher logos)