Emma Darwin had published two acclaimed works of historical fiction when she set out to write a novel about her extraordinarily eminent family, among them her great-great-grandfather Charles. The result was creative disaster, an epic writerly tangle that she chronicles in her new memoir, This is Not a Book about Charles Darwin.
In the first episode of a brand new series of the History Workshop Podcast, listen to Emma Darwin talk to Marybeth Hamilton about historical fiction and the perils of family story.
Emma Darwin’s novels are The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy. Her how-to book on historical narrative, Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, is full of rich ideas and insights, many of which are discussed further on her blog, The Itch of Writing. Her memoir, This is Not A Book About Charles Darwin, is out now, published on 12 February to coincide with Darwin Day.
- Jenny Uglow’s The Lunar Men: the friends who made the future is published by Faber.
- Emma sets out more details on the Darwin family tree on her website.
- The geneticist Adam Rutherford reflected on Darwin’s legacy in 2009, the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, in the Guardian, 5 January 2009.
- More on Gwen Raverat (1885-1957), including examples of her engravings, can be found here. Her memoir Period Piece is published by Faber.
- The Darwin Correspondence Project is based at the University of Cambridge.
- Emma mentions two wonderfully innovative works of historical fiction: Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.
- For more on “world building” in fiction, start here or here.
- John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, was first published in 1984.
- Margaret Atwood’s 1996 lecture “In Search of Alias Grace: on writing Canadian historical fiction” was published in 1998 as part of an American Historical Review forum on Histories and Historical Fiction. Those with access to JSTOR can find it here.
- George Stocking’s essay “Books unwritten, turning points unmarked: Notes toward an anti-history of anthropology” can be found in his 2001 collection Delimiting Anthropology: Occasional Essays and Reflections.
- Emma mentions two much-praised recent works of creative non-fiction: Edmund deWaal‘s The Hare With the Amber Eyes and Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk.
- Emma gives her “twenty top tips for academic writing” on her blog. Information on the Royal Literary Fund’s Fellowship Scheme is available here.
- Emma quotes from Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.