I had an interesting discussion with Irina Dunn of the Sydney Writers Centre at the recent HNSA conference on the difference between writing historical fiction and a fictional history. To my way of thinking, while writers of historical fiction may introduce fictional characters into their scenarios, the author must remain true to historical fact, so far as it is known, whereas a ‘fictional history’ can give you much more wriggle room. I touched on this during our panel discussion on genre (with Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell and Jess Blackadder) when I compared my medieval crime series, the Janna Chronicles (historical fiction) with A Ring Through Time – what I term a ‘fictional history’. The novel is set on Norfolk Island with a flashback to the Second Penal Settlement – a black stain on the island’s history. My main characters, the ‘commandant’ and his family are entirely fictional, but what happens during their time on the island is factual (although it all happened under other commandants), along with some of the people I’ve woven in to the story. My aim was to tell a love story, but also to give readers a clear insight into the dreadful conditions on the island at the time, and the brutality of the commandant John Giles Price, who was the inspiration behind my fictional commandant. To my surprise, Irina took completely the opposite point of view and, after arguing amiably for some time about it, we decided that this would actually be an interesting topic for a future panel discussion. But I’m getting in early: what do you think? I’d be fascinated to hear your opinions as to what I’ve actually been writing!