Thursday, October 22, 2009

Changing history

Although having real people mingle with my characters adds even greater realism to my historical novels, there is always some trepidation that I’m altering history somewhat. For example, one of my main Canadian characters in Elusive Dawn is an aviator in WWI, and becomes the top British Ace when Albert Ball dies. The problem is that the person who succeeded Ball was Canadian Billy Bishop. History is “changed” by the fact that for a few weeks at least, my character has claimed Billy’s rightful title.

What a relief then to have Billy Bishop’s son, Arthur, recently tell me that he really enjoyed both my “Muskoka Novels”, and found them not only suspenseful and well written, but also historically accurate. He said that the amazing amount of research evident in the books provides an excellent educational background on the Great War and on aviation. Coming from a WWII pilot, who is himself a respected author - not only of his father’s compelling biography, but also on aviation and other military topics - this is indeed exciting.

Also reassuring is the fact that, since Billy actually interacts (briefly) with my characters in Elusive Dawn, I did justice to him in my portrayal, based upon Arthur’s book as well as Billy’s own account written during the war, and other sources.

Speaking with Arthur, I was also intrigued to feel at just one small remove from the legendary Billy Bishop, VC, about whom there has been much controversy, but who was unquestionably an heroic young man.


  1. You cannot change history by 'writing words'. You can only change history by doing. History is only known through the interpretation of facts within the present milieu. There is no objective truth. Things only make sense through the conceptualizations that we have. If we change those conceptualizations we change history. Changing conceptualizations generally takes lots of doing.

    So if your writing affects that much in the present to shift the context within which we understand the past, then you are changing history. Names, dates and places are hollow stuff without context. Facts only make sense within context. Changing context is changing history.

  2. Most reassuring, as this is a constant dilemma I face when using real people. Now, do I allow the Prince of Wales to do a "side excursion" on his visit to Canada in 1919 to see "old friends" who never existed except between the covers of my novels?

  3. Thank you. My opinion... by all means do what you can to enhance the context of our understanding!

  4. My goal is to enlighten while I entertain. I'm delighted to say that many people have written to tell me that I have achieved that.



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Gabriele Wills's books on Goodreads
The Summer Before The StormThe Summer Before The Storm
reviews: 2
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.50)

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A Place to Call HomeA Place to Call Home
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.00)