There is the term “historical fiction,” and I think we can all agree that it is a work of fiction (that is, imagination) based on historical fact. But historical fiction covers an unusually wide range of literary work. There can be novels such as my Midnight Magic, which, while ostensibly set in Renaissance Italy (Naples) is rather like a costume drama that takes general modes of thought from the time, but has virtually no historical fact. Then there are books like my Iron Thunder, in which I tried to replicate a deeply researched reality, so that even the boy protagonist was a real person.
I just finished a new work of historical fiction. It was a challenge because the historical moment, which all agree happened, is usually (if then) hardly more than an anecdotal footnote. While I tried to stick to the facts, virtually everything else is invented by me—because no one knows what really occurred.
At the conclusion of the tale, I have a commoner and a king (both historically real people) engage in a vital conversation, in which the king says something that I hope effectively sums up what the whole book is about.
My editor says, “But the real king would never say that.”
My reply, “I agree. But this is a work of fiction, and my book needs him to say that.”
In short, historical fiction is fiction. That’s a fact.