On Historical Fiction, True Stories, and Not Recreating Reality

By – Craig Larsen on how writing a novel is like fabricating an elaborate lie

“One question I am often asked is whether The Second Winter is a “true story.” There is no simple answer to this. I do descend from giants; real-life giants who did enormous things. On the other hand, these ancestors of mine—Fredrik and his family and some of the other characters who populate the novel—are mythical constructs of my imagination, products of the stories I grew up on as well as of my own constitution. But despite the nearly impossible things they did, these were in fact real people, with real hungers, fears, weaknesses, and wants. I did not write the novel in order to capture the personality or recount the history of my father’s uncle. I invented these characters, drawn in part from family, and then I placed them into the context of Denmark during the occupation.

The war itself was real. The Holocaust was real. Young girls were pressed into prostitution to service soldiers. A propaganda machine was created to refashion these atrocities into another truth. The Nazis did exterminate millions of people because of their race and religion. Adolf Hitler lived and breathed. So did many men and women who came to the aid of the Jews or who fought the Germans for so many other reasons, some who died, some who themselves killed. When I approached the novel, I wanted to envision my characters as individuals thrust into this reality. I wanted to understand their motivations from a personal perspective as opposed to the larger societal forces that were driving this conflict between organized groups of people. At the same time, I understood that I could use this dichotomy to develop who my characters were and why they made the choices they did…”

(Read More Here)


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