Ambrose discusses writing historically accurate fiction
Island author Marty Ambrose is in the midst of completing her romantic, historical, mystery trilogy, based on the Byron/Shelly circle. Book two, “A Shadowed Fate,” which was recently released, took her approximately a year, she said, due to research, including a three-week trip to Italy.
“This book,” said Ambrose, “picks up where ‘Claire’s Last Secret,’ left off.”
Ambrose said she planned for this to be a trilogy, after the story grew bigger than the original idea she’d had that it would be a novella. She admits it was quite a shift going from writing a contemporary mystery to an historical, literary mystery. Ambrose said she combined her love for writing with her interest in academia to build the trilogy.
“The whole trilogy,” said Ambrose, “takes place around the Byron/Shelly circle, narrated by Mary Shelly’s step-sister, Claire Clairmont. They all died quite young, but Claire lived into her 70s. The idea of using her as a narrator came to me when I thought – how would it feel to be the last of this famous group the only one left? The mystery is that she had a daughter with Byron — Allegra — who supposedly died when she was a little girl, but Claire never saw her body and believed her whole life that she hadn’t died. The mystery is – what if she didn’t die?”
The impetus for writing this mystery series, she says, came from having had back surgery and realizing she was going to be home for a while. Ambrose admits she was already very well versed in the family history, on which the trilogy is based. Although she says the amount of research necessary to write this particular story accurately was somewhat overwhelming, she feels she was able to do enough research to finish the whole of the work, which is fortunate, as a return trip to Italy would be very difficult at this point in time. She also said the audience for a historical mystery is extremely discerning, leaving no room for historical errors on her part.
“‘Claire’s Last Secret,’ was the first time I had an academic review,” said Ambrose. “It went really well, but I will say, they really read those carefully when you get to college, or people that are in the Byron Society.”
She went on to explain the importance of fictional details being correct and told the right way. The difference between fiction and historical fiction is that you have to be certain the things you’re writing about could have happened. They might not have ever happened, but they can’t be impossible, says Ambrose, emphasizing that it would hit you hard as a historical author, if they were.
“When you’re a writer,” said Ambrose, speaking of her trilogy, “they always tell you to write the book of your heart, and this was really the book of my heart. I was able to write about figures I had studied my whole life. I was able to write in a different style. It has all the emotion and all the passion I wanted to put in as a writer.”