The Perse School

Renowned historical author James Wilson gives fascinating insight to Perse students

10 Nov 2017

Top history writer James Wilson gave a fascinating insight into his work to Perse students attending the latest 42 event.

Mr Wilson, who has written several historical fiction works such as The Dark Clue and Consolation, engaged in an in-depth conversation about his career with Upper Sixth students Clara Balon and Lucia Cafoor-Camps before taking questions from the audience.

The Cambridge-born writer revealed he had wanted to become an author from the age of five and how his fascination with the past had stemmed from reading the swashbuckling novels of Stanley J Weyman before going on to study history at Oxford University.

He felt the important elements in writing historical fiction were getting the language of the characters completely accurate and remembering they were not two-dimensional, but as complex as people living in the current day.

Mr Wilson also spoke about the research he carried out for his 1998 non-fiction work The Earth Shall Weep, a critically-acclaimed history of native Americans’ struggles for survival against waves of incoming peoples and cultures.

His interest came from spending time with North America’s indigenous peoples while writing Canada’s Indians for the Minority Rights Group of Canada before being commissioned to write a report entitled The Original Americans, experiences he said were both “enchanting and terrifying”.

The Earth Shall Weep is now used as a textbook in schools on native American reservations.

Mr Wilson said: “I enjoyed the conversation very much. I thought the two interviewers, Clara and Lucia, had done an excellent job with the questions and I really enjoyed having the chance to answer them.”

Hear Mr Wilson talk more about why he was pleased with the response to his discussion and his advice on researching and writing historical fiction and non-fiction.

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