When Fact and Fiction Merge: Authors Clare Clark, Lesley Downer, and Kate Williams Discuss Writing Historical Fiction

CLARE CLARK’s latest novel, Beautiful Lies (June, 2012) is set in a Jubilee year-1887- fraught with economic uncertainty, riots, and tabloid scandal mongering. Sound familiar? Praised by Hilary Mantel as “one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture”, Clark’s novel illuminates both Victorian England and our own time. Clark is also the author of The Great Stink (longlisted for the Orange Prize) and The Nature of Monsters.

LESLEY DOWNER’s latest novel, Across a Bridge of Dreams, is an epic tale of love and war in nineteenth-century Japan and is based on the true story of the “last samurai.” Downer has written many books about Japan and its culture including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, and Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West. She has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4 and the BBC.

KATE WILLIAMS’ historical novel, The Pleasures of Men, is set in an 1840s London on the brink of collapse. Catherine Sorgeiul becomes obsessed with a series of murders in the East End – and unearths the terror in her soul that she has tried to forget. The Independent on Sunday wrote “The Pleasures of Men shares with Wolf Hall an ambitious, challenging concern with form combined with a pitch-perfect historical ear… This intoxicating and disturbing novel is properly thrilling and extraordinarily well-written.” Williams is also the author of England’s Mistress (2006), which was Book of the Week on Radio 4, and Book of the Year in the Times and the Independent. Becoming Queen (2008) was Book of the Year in the Tatler andSpectator. She discusses history, politics and culture regularly on television and radio, including Newsnight and the Today programme, and was the social historian on the BBC’s Restoration Home. Her most recent book is Young Elizabeth: the Making of Our Monarch published in May 2012.