If there is one thing that my fans and critics can agree on, it’s that there is a lot of history dotted throughout the pages of the Alex and Jackie Adventures; much more than one expects to find in a genre classified as Fantasy. I admit that this is a guilty pleasure for me, and I’ll apologize in advance if it is not for everyone, but that’s just the way it comes out.
This style dates back to my business days, where I always liked to breakdown complex business issues using storytelling and anecdotes. The history thing took full swing in a book I wrote about Business Continuity. Looking to liven up what can quickly become a dry and tedious subject, I opined on the complaint du jour, the outsourcing of American jobs to India, by telling the story of William Caxton and the introduction of the printing press into England. Well this led to a few heads being scratched – “We’re here to talk seriously about job loss and this idiot is going on about Richard III and the downfall of the Guild of Stationers,” they said.
So I bid a fond farewell to the real world and set up shop in the Land of Fantasy, but I did take the history lessons with me.
This raises some questions. How does one blend facts into a work of fiction? Where does one draw the line? I’m happy to say that, in the books, I completely obliterated the line; the facts and the fiction are there to complement each other, to feed off each other. I’ve said before that all the stuff about Boston, in First Night, and Luxembourg, in The Elf of Luxembourg, is there because one of the goals of the Alex and Jackie novels is to showcase these great cities. But in addition to this, I’ve taken the factual history, Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials, the search for El Dorado by Sir Walter Raleigh, and the discovery of the Glozel Stones by Émile Fradin, to weave fictional narratives. I’m not the first to do this – Neal Stephenson did this to brilliant effect in his Baroque Cycle, and this was the inspiration for me to try it on a smaller scale – but I hope that my readers can see that without the facts there would be no fiction, at least not for me.
So Fact vs. Fiction is probably the wrong phrase, because in allowing the fictional Alex to talk to the factual Cotton Mather, or the fictional Cuchaquichá to become a servant to the factional Captain Sparrey, the books serve their second goal, of putting before the reader the notion that facts (and history) are not always what they seem.
ABOUT TOM: Originally from England, Tom Weston now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Before becoming the full-time author of the Alex and Jackie Adventures, Tom headed a systems consulting company. His other works include non-fiction books, screenplays and audio/video. For further information, visit him at his web site, http://www.tom-weston.com.
^Agreed! Very interesting post :D
Thanks for giving me this space on your site to throw out a few opinions on this subject. I must admit to a small devilish pleasure when someone says, “How did you think of that?” and I reply, “I didn’t have to - that bit is all true.” And then they say, “Well, I remember reading about this in history class”, and I reply, “No, because I made that bit up.”
If anyone has a question regarding fact vs., fiction in the Alex and Jackie novels, I’d be happy to set the record straight.
I love a mix of truth and fiction.
Very interesting guest post!
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