During the late summertime of this year I wrote the first fiction I have ever written and submitted it as my dissertation for the MA in sociology I was then completing. Now, in early November, I’ve found this quote at the end of the novel I’ve just finished reading which would have inspired me had I read Kate Atkinson’s book in time. So maybe I’ll call her quote a justification for my own story. Because by the end, as I carried out the final edit, and even though it was for a sociology degree and contained a fair amount of history, the fiction was paramount and everything had to serve the story.
“If it doesn’t move the story on its not staying in” I’d say to myself as another fascinating fact from my research was jettisoned in favour of the fiction.
Which is how come I was so retrospectively pleased to read these words from Kate Atkinson this morning:
“To research the background of this book I read as much as possible before beginning and then tried to forget as much as possible and simply write. As a reader I dislike historical novels where I’m continually stumbling over an excess of facts. I readily understand the compulsion to include all the fascinating stuff you’ve spent so much time reading about, but there are few things more uncomfortable for the reader than to be constantly stumbling over the recondite research of an author… For me, I find it difficult to create an authentic atmosphere or narrative credibility if continually constrained. Fiction is fiction after all. That doesn’t mean that I don’t check things afterwards, but sometimes to find the truth at the heart of a book a certain amount of reality falls by the wayside.”Kate Atkinson: from “Authors note” in Life After Life, 2013