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.

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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.

Episode Notes:

Charles Darwin’s first diagram of an evolutionary tree from his First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837). Wikipedia Commons

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