Author Guest Post - Maggie Anton

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Readers, please join me in welcoming Author Maggie Anton, who's guest posting here today!

Maggie Anton is the author of the historical trilogy, "Rashi's Daughters." Book II - MIRIAM is now available and Book III - RACHEL will be out in August 2009.


Because the main characters in my “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy are real, historical figures, the family of the great medieval Jewish scholar, readers are both concerned and curious about what is fact and what is fiction in my novels. This important consideration leads to a basic question: what is the difference between a historian and a historical novelist? Answer: the historian must be right, but the historical novelist cannot be wrong. In other words, as long as nobody can prove the fiction author is mistaken, she can write what she likes. Legally, you cannot libel the dead.

But the novelist must have some integrity. Obviously if forks weren’t invented until the 14th century, my 11th century characters can’t use them. Yet because nobody knows what my heroine did for a living, I felt free to make her a midwife. After all, we know there many midwives in medieval France, and it’s not as if I made Rashi a midwife. The author must also be accurate about what her character eat, how they dress, where they lived. And since I considered my characters sophisticated enough to gossip about local court politics, I insisted on ferreting out events and scandals that actually occurred in Champagne and Paris, as well as the names of the nobles and clerics involved.

What about legends? Certainly a novelist should weave legends into the story, excepting those that have been absolutely discredited. But the details should be authentic. For example, legends say that Rashi’s daughters were learned in a time when most women were forbidden to study the holy texts. So I had create realistic scenes in which their father first began to teach them, then decide what texts they’d study and how their husbands and communities would react to this breach of custom. Not everyone agrees that Rashi was a vintner, but when I chose to give him this profession, I became an expert on medieval winemaking.

Last but not least - if the author wants to write something with no evidence whatsoever, she owes it to her readers to inform them of this invention in an afterword or ‘note to readers’ at the novel’s conclusion."

Thank you for that intriguing post, Maggie! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome.

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