Writing Fiction from Historical Fact: A Conversation with novelists Jonathan Lee and EJ Levy

HEIM 202

Open to the public

/ Tuesday


This in-person Zoom viewing gathering is open to current students, faculty, and staff. Other members of the SLC community are welcome to view the event on Zoom by registering here.

Critic Megan O’Grady says that "Historical fiction arises out of...the belief that it is possible to tell stories about a vanishing past that bear on the immediate present, forged at the place [where] the archives end and the author’s imagination begins. The desire to hit the pause button — to 'awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed,' as Walter Benjamin put it..." What's the appeal for writers of writing from history? What are its challenges? How does one conduct and translate research? How does one negotiate the weight of recorded fact and invention? Who has the right to tell a story? What, if any, is one's obligation to history when writing such fiction?

EJ Levy’s debut novel, The Cape Doctor (Little Brown, 2021), was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and one of Barnes & Noble “100 Best Books of Summer.” It is based on the life of Dr. James Miranda Barry (born Margaret Bulkley in Cork, Ireland, circa 1790) who revolutionized medicine in the English colonies. Editions are forthcoming in France, Spain, and Italy.

Jonathan Lee is an award-winning, internationally bestselling novelist, editor, and screenwriter living in New York. His new novel, The Great Mistake (June 2021), is available for preorder now. Jonathan’s last novel,High Dive, was chosen as a book of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, and many other publications.