By Joanna Courtney
I’m thrilled to be a part of the writing team who will, this Autumn, be bringing 1066 Turned Upside Down to your e-readers. When I first dreamed up the idea of having a collection of ‘alternative 1066’ short stories I never imagined I would actually make it a reality, or that I would be lucky enough to do so with such a wonderful collection of authors. Huge credit has to go to the wonderful Helen Hollick for her energy and drive but everyone on the 1066 Turned Upside Down team has responded with such enthusiasm and imagination to the brief. But then, why wouldn’t they?
As historical fiction writers we are fascinated with getting to the truth of what happened in the past. That may not be a ‘truth’ in the way that academic historians would recognise it, substantiated by unassailable facts and backed up with sources, but an emotional truth – a narrative that makes sense of the past for us and, hopefully, for our readers. We are always, always aware that we are filling in gaps with fictional interpretation – so why not go one step further and fill in those gaps with pure fiction?
In writing stories for this project I have discovered that invented history, for me, is like driving a Ferrari, or hang-gliding off a cliff, or riding a roller coaster. It is not, perhaps, something I would like to do all the time but it’s wonderful to try every once in a while. I’ve found writing these alternative stories has been a challenge, a fascination and a pure joy – a giddy rush of almost illicit pleasure.
And what is truth anyway? We might be able to establish events but can we ever really pin down motivations? And what of belief – does that constitute truth? A question, perhaps, for more learned and philosophical minds than my own, but as a writer of fiction the nature of truth does fascinate me.
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