Writing a Historical Novel: One Writer's Experience

Accomplished mystery writer Lori Rader-Day was drawn to the story of children who were evacuated to Agatha Christie's vacation home during WWII, but having never written a historical novel before, she faced challenges. We talk about what she learned along the way while working on "Death at Greenway."

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read
Episode #854

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In this interview, I talked with one of my favorite authors, Lori Rader-Day, about her new historical novel, "Death at Greenway." 

"Death at Greenway" was inspired by a tidbit Lori read in a book about Agatha Christie that mentioned that during WWII, children from the cities were evacuated to the countryside and other countries in an attempt to keep them safe. Some of those children ended up at Christie's vacation home, Greenway. As a contemporary mystery writer with five successful books in print, she faced new challenges finding and incorporating the research necessary to get this story right (or as right as she wanted—she wanted to make it as historically accurate as possible, even though it is a work of fiction). 

We talked about:

  • How she chose the viewpoint characters for the story.
  • How she decided what historical elements to include.
  • The choices she made with language to make sure the book's characters sounded authentic for their time and place.
  • How an author can give characters that could seem quite similar (same age, gender, hometown, occupation, etc.) their own distinctive voice.
  • When it's appropriate to use eye dialect (spelling words as they are pronounced) to represent regional speech.

You can listen to the interview using the player at the top of this page, or you can read a complete rough transcript.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.