Kimberly CollinsHistorical fiction. Besides an oxymoron, what is it exactly? It’s historical, yet it’s fiction. It’s real, and yet make-believe. One thing is for certain, it’s a delicate dance of words waltzing with real lives and events, while doing the tango with a cast of fictional characters.

Of course when writing historical fiction, it’s rare to know what the “real” people were thinking and feeling. But my characters know everything. And it’s through their eyes I want the reader to experience both the history and the story.

When writing historical fiction, sticking to the facts of the real events is important. But so often those data points can be a boring recitation of things that happened to people we don’t know in a time we have no memory of. By pouring a shot of fiction into the historical account, history comes alive and allows the reader to dive heart first into a piece of the past that otherwise may have never sparked their curiosity.

I place my characters in the situation and turn them loose to explore the tragedy, the love, the place, the moment. I can only bring my characters to the party—what they do at the party and after, is up to them. I’m just telling the story.

I place my characters in the situation and turn them loose to explore the tragedy, the love, the place, the moment. I can only bring my characters to the party—what they do at the party and after, is up to them. I’m just telling the story.

Keeping my characters from altering history requires balance and precision. A deftness of words and interactions blends the facts as we know them with the unknown world of what might have been. What could have been.

Blood CreekFor example, in my latest novel, Blood Creek, Mother Jones played an important role in the real events of the southern West Virginia mine wars. This woman was a force of nature. However, as much as I love the fact that she was a pivotal component of the mine wars, I didn’t want to tell her story. So, I introduced my character Jolene to Mother Jones and let Jolene show us the involvement of this real-life powerhouse in the historical events. All the facts concerning Mother Jones’ involvement in the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek strike are still there as historians recorded them, but we see it all unfold through a fictional character’s experience and how she interacted and related to Mother Jones—much as you or I would have, had we been there. But it is Jolene’s story.

The fiction should never change history, only enhance what we already know. It should slip in a perspective that may not have been considered.

In the end, story is what ties our lives together—past and present. Fact and fiction.


Kimberly Collins is the author of two novels, most recently Blood Creek, which is the first in the Mingo series. Collins grew up in Matewan, West Virginia, the home of the Hatfield & McCoy feud and the legendary Matewan Massacre. She loves the mountains, the river, the people, and the history. Collins is busy working on several projects including the Mingo series, short stories, photography, and dabbling in other creative endeavors. In 2017, she co-wrote her first screenplay for a short film, which premiered at the Knoxville Film Festival. For more information about Collins and her work, visit https://www.bluemingopress.com