William Martin




William Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, a PBS documentary, book reviews, magazine articles, and a cult-classic horror movie, too. His first novel, Back Bay, established him as "a master storyteller." He has been following the lives of the great and anonymous in American history ever since, taking readers from the Mayflower in Cape Cod to Ford's Theater in The Lincoln Letter to the South Tower on 9/11 in City of Dreams. His latest, Bound for Gold, sweeps readers back to California in the legendary year of 1849 and "solidifies his claim as king of the historical thriller" (Providence Journal). He will publish December '41, a World War II thriller, in June. He was the 2005 recipient of the New England Book Award, given to an author "whose body of work stands as a significant contribution to the culture of the region." In 2015, the USS Constitution Museum gave him the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, for "patriotic pride, artful scholarship, and an eclectic interest in the sea and things maritime." And in 2018, the Mystery Writers of America (New England Chapter) gave him the Robert B. Parker Award. He serves on the boards of many of Boston's historical and cultural organizations, has taught writing at the Harvard Extension School and the famed Maui Writes Conference, lives near Boston with his wife, and has three grown children.

Read more on his website.

SESSION: Finding the Fiction in History and the History in Fiction

You have an idea for a historical novel. It might be a thriller, a Michnerian chronicle, a biographical novel, a historical romance, perhaps even a mystery about, say, ancient Rome. But no matter the genre you choose within a larger historical context, you will face unique challenges and enjoy unique advantages when you set your story in the past. First off, remember that you’re writing a novel, not a work of history. All the demands of plot, character, pacing, prose style, and point-of-view that challenge the authors of contemporary novels will challenge you. But you’ll have to be a historian, too, or nobody will believe what you’ve written. William Martin will give you insights on how to navigate these narrative waters and draw creative strength from them. He’ll guide you from the first inspiration and the grand design through all the elements of craft that you will employ as you write. He’ll consider the role of research, the use of setting and specific detail, and the techniques of creating believable but historically accurate dialogue. He’ll discuss the larger question of how to draw upon historical events and situations to create individual scenes that help to create the narrative structure itself. And most importantly, he’ll show you how you employ these elements to achieve a sense of verisimilitude in the lives of characters who walked the earth a decade, a century, or a even a millenium before you decided to write about them…