Saturday, 14 July 2018


From Helen: Usually, the Mid-Month Extra is posted on the 15th of each month, but as I am away at a conference this weekend I thought I would post it a day early as it is a very interesting article.

The Mid-Month Extra with Richard Tearle

On the 1st  January, 2017, Helen (Hollick) launched this site, Discovering Diamonds. The aim was to present reviews of books of historical fiction by, primarily, new and largely independent authors.  It was very much a case of a step in the dark, a leap of faith and holding your nose whilst jumping off the top diving board. In at the deep end definitely, for to engage upon such a journey, one must have the backing and interest of authors. Not to mention a pile of books, fresh and eager to be opened, read and appraised.

These months on and there can be little doubt that this venture has proved a resounding success with readers and authors alike. So: here are a few interesting little facts.

Statistic no 1: As of the 30th April 2018, 228 different authors have been featured.

Keep in mind a couple of things here: reviews aren't published at weekends, there have been variations on mid-week  'extras' (articles on some aspect of writing), tributes to renowned authors (including Helen herself, but she'll 'edit' this bit, I'm sure! [Helen: tempted to delete, but I’ll leave it in!] ), Book and Covers of the Month awards, the fact that she took a well deserved holiday during August, and no reviews were published during December, making way for the wonderful and exclusive short story feature Diamond Tales. Yet even that can be tempered with the fact that some authors have had more than one book reviewed, that projected reviews take us well into June and that there are still books awaiting allocation to reviewers. Not to mention that, inevitably, some books submitted have not satisfied the necessarily minimum standards to receive a review. Excluded has been the 1066 Turned Upside Down anthology (because Helen is one of the authors) , but included has been a book co-written by a husband and wife team.

That's pretty impressive.

Statistic No 2: of those 228 authors, 168 are women (73.6 %) and 60 are men (26.3%).

Once again, this doesn't take into account the actual number of books, but just a quick glance at the 'Books by Author' section would show that the statistics would favour the ladies even more.

I looked at the most popular eras covered, again using the number of different authors rather than the number of books and have ignored those written in black as these have yet to have their reviews published.

Statistic No 3: 1400s. 10 books – 8 by women, 2 by men.(80%/20% - even I can work that one out without a calculator).

Statistic No 4: 1500s: 16 books, 12 by women, 4 by men (75%/25%)
Statistic No 5: 1600s: 23 books, 18 by women, 5 by men (78.2%/21 .7%)
Statistic No 6: 1700s (including regency): 26 books, 21 by women, 5 by men (80.7%/19.2%)
Statistic no 7:1800s (including American Civil War):51books, 42 by women, 9 by men (82.3%/17.7%)
Statistic No 8:1900s (excluding WWI & WWII): 28 books, 20 by women, 8 by men (71.4%/28.5%)
Statistic No 9: World War I: 13 books, 8 by women, 5 by men (61.5%/38.4%)
Statistic No 10: World War II: 29 books, 21 by women, 8 by men (72.4%/27.5%)

And finally, to hammer home the point:

Statistic No 11: 1300s: 7 books, 7 by women, 0 by men (100%/0%)

There are a few other periods and the outcome would, by glancing at them only, be very similar to the overall picture. And if I have miscounted somewhere (and that is sure to have happened), then one or two errors either way will not have any significant impact on the findings. Clearly, then, Historical Fiction is most definitely a woman's domain. You, authors yourselves, may have opinions on why this should be – and we would love to hear them; I will make no comment here other than to stress that Historical Fiction is only one genre (and a blanket one at that) and wonder whether men 'dominate' in other genres – horror, crime, fantasy etc – as much as women do here.

What drew you to write Historical Novels as opposed to some other genre? Are you surprised by the findings? Do you think a sample of just under 300 books is sufficient enough to justify the claims? Oh, I know many of you have written books that can be also be classified in other categories, or embrace more than one (Timeslip, for example), but they must have contained a high degree of the past to have been reviewed here.

So: any thoughts or comments?

© Richard Tearle


  1. Those statistics are really interesting, Richard. I confess, most of the HF books I read (but not all) are written by women - but maybe that's because of the ratio of male to female authors.

    As for me - I never even intended to write HF. I always vowed and declared a) I would never write a novel (I wrote short stories before) and b) I would absolutely never, ever write HF. The following year... I'm now extremely careful about saying what I will never do. As for why - I simply don't know but I have discovered I really enjoy writing HF. Maybe it's because the speech style can be quite elegant.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Loretta. I should have also noted that almost all of these numbers are both new and written by Indie authors. I blame it all on the 'attraction' of hairless Highlanders who still manage to maintain designer stubble! Or Cornishmen, perhaps!

    1. Lol, Richard. Well, it is fiction - although I'm afraid my hero and anti hero both wear short beards - but then, so does my husband, so I'm biased.

    2. Lol! Short beards are fine (I have one!) and probably more authentic than half grown and carefully shaped stuff that spoil the credibility for me! Is there no room for a short flabby, bald guy with proper chest hair and a real beard? I could volunteer to model for a book cover if there was!Lol!

    3. Haha, you need to start a campaign for 'real' heroes with actual guts - not perfectly chiselled ones with bulging abs and flat stomachs. Maybe I'll start one for real heroines - scaredy-cats with specs and messy hair like me who aren't terribly co-ordinated. (You can't trust those author pics of mine, wink! They took hard work and limited visibility!)

  3. I'm fascinated by history, but it's not always presented in a very engaging way via textbooks. Historical fiction makes history come alive for me!

    1. I agree, Pat. Through the skill of the novelist, they can transport what may have been just a name into a believable person with a definite substance and personality.

  4. Tricky, this one, as I don't want to be accused of rampant sexual stereotyping! But I wonder whether HF lends itself to more character analysis, which is a rather female interest. I know there is plenty of action in HF, but do male writers prefer to write about more modern equipment - the latest weapon, the fastest car - rather than researching old technology? And maybe women do like to romanticise the past, when chaps were more chivalrous, and all you had to do to attract attention was flash an inch of trim ankle... It's wall-to-wall sexual stereotypes, as feared!

  5. I'm (literally!) just back from a conference in Leeds and dead tired - I'll be with yo all to reply tomorrow!

  6. Ah, I was asked to ponder this the other day, and you know, it seems to be a more modern phenomenon. In the past we had Walter Scott, R.L. Stevenson, John Buchan, Nigel Tranter and John Prebble (yes, all Scots, but I'm biased that way). And now we have very much moved into the realm of the female historical fiction writer. So why? I think it has something to do with the romanticising of the past. I don't mean that in a patronising way. But Loretta may have hit on something, I believe, when she mentioned speech patterns were more elegant in the past, and I know that has the power to draw me personally as a reader. And in many ways life was simpler - no motorways, computers, social media and general media distractions, heavy industry, deadlines etc. Although, of course, there were other stresses. But this slower, quieter way of life, gives more opportunity to explore the less man-made aspects of life and there is a certain charm to that, which I sense women are drawn to, perhaps, more than men. Time to explore the beauty of the landscape the book is set in, the sumptuous clothing, archaic speech patterns, graceful manners, sense of honour that has perhaps fallen by the wayside to an extent these days. Something along those lines, perhaps, a softer side found in historical fiction that women tend to be generally better at and more drawn to.

    1. Another interesting point (though not so much for this discussion) is whether a 'historical novel' which was written contemporarily is still a historical novel! There was Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer and others, of course, but you have made a good point - thank you!


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