Inger Edelfeldt’s Writing Process

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In her current blog entry, Swedish writer Inger Edelfeldt writes about the historical novel she once set out to write but abandoned. It was to take place in Milan in the 16th century. With fine self-irony, she describes her research efforts until finally, she gave up …

Inger Edelfeldt at 2010 Bokmässan Göteborg (Wikipedia Commons)
Inger Edelfeldt at 2010 Bokmässan Göteborg

Jag är inte den sortens författare. Jag är lat eller nåt. Jag orkar inte ta reda på vilket skrå som stod i vilket gathörn år 1519, och vilket slags läder skorna gjordes av.

“I’m not that sort of writer. I’m lazy or something. I just can’t make the effort to find out which guild was based on which street corner in 1519, or what sort of leather shoes were made of.”

So unable to research the book, she abandoned it. (Even though, she writes, she really liked the first 100 pages she’d managed to write. They were set in the countryside and she felt more able to use her imagination.)

I’m the other way about

My situation seems in some ways the opposite. As a student of history (and one-time history teacher), I can’t stop myself researching. Whenever I come across a question, I have to go look for a true historical answer. It’s only when I’m satisfied that nobody knows the answer that I can let my imagination off the leash and dream something up.

Of course, writing the novel stops dead while all that is going on.

I am coming around to the belief that successful historical novelists have a genetically inherited ability to balance fact and fantasy.

Inger Edelfeldt’s author blog (på svenska) here:
Inger Edelfeldt’s English Wikipedia entry:
The illustration of Inger Edelfeldt speaking at the 2010 Bokmässan in Göteborg comes from Wikipedia Commons here

Revisited for SEO, spelling and an improved featured image 6 March 2017.

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2 thoughts on “Inger Edelfeldt’s Writing Process”

  1. John,

    Thanks for sharing this. I recognise this even if I haven’t written a historic novel. Travel writing (especially if you write about a place you have left and you are a former science communicator who really want to find the truth behind tales rather than repeating them) has similar time-consuming phases. I check and double check every fact. The difference is that I can often stick to wikipedia and don’t have to go looking for hand-written letters in obscure libaries around the globe 🙂

    My advice to you would be to give up on telling the exact truth all the time and start using your substantial knowledge and just make it up!!

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