Let Them Eat [Sumptuous] Cake

Writing Crumbs 2

EIBF Sunday : Sarah Dunant [SD]

cake (c) Italian Cake Shop LeithAccording to tradition tiered wedding cakes date back to the Renaissance when guests brought individual cakes and piled them on top of each other – which is a roundabout way of introducing the sumptuous literary feast of writing advice that SD served up at her EIBF event on Sunday evening.

Blood & Beauty cover image uk editionSD gave a warm, bubbly, yet forensically detailed, insight into her writing and the research process that went into the creation of her latest novel, Blood & Beauty (Virago).

  • research, research, research: immerse yourself in the period and then drip it lightly into the text to add authenticity; don’t layer your research too thickly but serve it in slices, slid in without the reader realising you are teaching them something new
  • do the work and be confident in your knowledge of the period
  • Blood & Beauty is a campaign, written to correct the gossip and slander around the Borgias, especially, Lucretia
  • history is written by the victors and until recently women were left out of official history. With new developments in archival research and feminism, Dunant could redraw these characters with historical truth and depth
  • she must be truthful to history – can’t make it up- except when it comes to interiority, where fiction is key to unlocking thoughts left unwritten and to explain recorded acts
  • scientific and medical advances aid our understanding of events as they unfold – make sure you remain truthful to what the characters would know about their situation [diseases etc]
  • be aware of changing metaphors over the ages, be period-specific and contextual in prose and style; historical fiction mustn’t sound modern

    Sarah Dunant at EIBF 2013
    Sarah Dunant at EIBF 2013

SD’s website is packed with information about writing as well as topical commentary on her blog and twitter feed.

**I think what impresses me the most about SD is the way she has managed her writing career. She stepped effortlessly from writing serial crime fiction to historical novels and changed her career from criticism and presenting [radio and tv] to writing full time and continues to find new things to say and new ways to say them.