Historical Fiction: A Quest For Authenticity
Author: Colin Pearce
Historical Fiction: A Quest for Authenticity is the essay component of my MA thesis for which I was awarded a High Distinction in 2013.
It’s not a heavy academic read.
It is a commentary on the rigours of creative thinking and self analysis I experienced during the writing of the novel component. The novel I used to be dead, is also available in this shop. Although it is an academic essay, one of the examiners wrote,
‘It has been a privilege to examine this work. The novel is outstanding and the exegesis is thoughtful, well researched and managed to answer many of my questions about the novel.’ The examiner also commented that he had rarely experienced such pleasure in examining a Master’s thesis.
I address the role existential anxiety plays in the mind of the creative writer and reveal how it fuelled my own work. I discuss the self doubts, arguments and questions I faced when creating an almost complete fiction set against the historical narrative in the New Testament about the raising of a child from death. The fact that the exercise would inevitably take me along paths that had the potential to trample sacred ground such as world-wide reverence for the Bible, widespread devotion to Jesus Christ and unwavering faith in his miracles, was at times terrifying.
This should be thoroughly stimulating to writers creating historical fiction no matter what the subject matter might be, be it the sinking of RMS Titanic, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the 1936 Olympic Games or the invention of the paper drinking straw.
I explain how I felt free to take liberties in some aspects of the story which hold no resemblance to the Biblical narrative – such as the family relationships I created between the townspeople and some of the Apostles, the tension between the protagonist and her mother, the home-life of the characters, their world view, their daily life and ambitions. Yet I also point to areas I found too sacrosanct to touch.
This essay will help other writers patch together history and their own fiction without tearing the fabric of fact.
I’ve spent thirty years giving funny speeches at business conventions and teacher conferences in places as diverse as Beirut and Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore, Istanbul and Indiana, Lagos and Los Angeles, Vienna and Vietnam.
Although this is an academic piece, I don’t see myself as an academic and neither it seems do my peers. One fellow MA student (aged 23) referring to a conversation we were having before a seminar even commented that he never thought he’d be in a class where the class clown was 63 years old. However I love writing to make things clear for any reader and I claim, ‘My kind of academia is engagement, clarity and cut through.’
I’ve been telling stories and making up fun things for children a lot longer than that. A veteran of over 1000 children’s TV shows, I’ve written stories and poems and even a CD of sing-along songs called Billabong Songs.
I’ve also written six business books and many business training programs and have qualifications in theology and teaching and (because of this thesis and its novel) an MA in creative writing, but I like people to know me simply as a story teller.
Of all the testimonials I have received, my favourite was written by a third grader in Sydney after one of my story telling visits. She wrote, ‘My little brother thought you were well worth the $2 ticket’.
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