Saturday, June 9, 2018

Writing Religion into Historical Fiction

From author Judith Arnopp at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots:
 It is difficult for us in our modern, largely secular world to appreciate the importance of the church in the medieval and Tudor period. The day itself was governed by prayer, the bells marking the religious hours, each month punctuated with Christian festivals and feasts. Every aspect of life, from diet to sex, was governed by the church. The people, ruled by superstition and fear of offending God, did not question that authority. Heresy was not tolerated. To the medieval mind, life was a penance to secure entry into Heaven. An after-life for the godly was a certainty … the sinner was destined for hell. Satan was a constant torment, tempting the unwary – both a terror and a deterrent.

The characters in my books, most of them historical figures, were bound by the strictures of the church. Margaret Beaufort was renowned for her piety, her goodness and charity and my objective is to make that relevant to my readers, and help them relate to Margaret. Today’s audience may not find the depth of her conviction attractive or believable.  I had to be very careful not to bore them to death. Margaret has been portrayed in fiction a lot, sometimes as a flawless saint, while others paint her as bordering on evil. I admire Margaret and in my books I wanted to present a rounded character. I kept her piety but also showed her humanity, her imperfection. She wavers between certainty and fear, success and failure, so although she is devout, she fights an internal battle each time her earthly ambition conflicts with her religious conviction. (Read more.)