Rachel Hore began her career as an editor, rather than as a writer. From working as an assistant editor at HarperCollins Publishers, she progressed to the role of senior editorial director before beginning a family. Hore never left her love of literature behind, and began writing after leaving her job. Having learnt so much about writing from her extensive experience editing, Hore’s first novel The Dream House was a huge success and the start of a fantastic career writing historical fiction.
What kind of research do you undertake before beginning to write an historical novel? How do you make your story as accurate as possible?
I begin my research by looking at memoirs and reading diaries from the time. Wherever possible, I try to go to the place I am writing about to really get a solid grounding for my book. I also find it useful to read novels that were written in that time, so I know how my characters might have spoken, and I can begin to hear their voices in my head. For my book The Glass Painter’s Daughter I actually learnt how to paint stained glass because I felt the experience would help me write the book.
I just need to try to make my story credible, it is always possible to go into details about tiny things, like how a telephone call is made, but it is not always required. Sometimes, you can just not include the telephone call to avoid having to go into that detail! There comes a point when you have enough information and your imagination needs to take over.
What makes you want to write historical fiction as opposed to novels set in the modern day?
I want to discover more about the lives of ordinary women. We often only know about the most famous figures in history, so I like to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. I sometimes base my characters on people who did exist; for example, the astronomer’s sister in A Place of Secrets was based on a real woman who worked on astronomy with her brother.
You mentioned on your website that you’ve always had a love for English literature, even as a child. Why did you choose to study history rather than English literature at university?
I think at that time it was my history teachers that instilled a love for history in me. The way they taught history was like a story, and the way English was taught was not as exciting. Also, there weren’t the opportunities to study both subjects together at that time.
Why do most of your books feature a door or gate on the front cover?
Yes, actually that was a decision made by the publishers. They decided that the symbol of a door would sell well and attract readers. But, I suppose it symbolises the entering of a different world through the book.
What would be your advice to young, aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. That, and then of course, write. Keep a notebook on you and write down parts of conversations that you hear, note descriptions of faces that you see. Keep reading and keep writing!