How Kate Atkinson writes

Kate Atkinson: “This is a novel, not a polemic [and I am no historian] and I have accordingly left the doubts and ambiguities for the characters and the text to voice.”
[in Author’s Note, in the Doubleday paperback edition of ‘A God in Ruins’]

Kate Atkinson

[photo: Euan Myles]

In her Author’s Note at the back of A God in Ruins [how I much prefer to read these texts after I have read the novel, not before], Kate Atkinson explains that she decided to write a novel about the Second World War, “I rather grandiosely believed that I could somehow cover the whole conflict in less than half the length of War and Peace”. Of course she couldn’t and so she settled on the London Blitz in Life After Life, and the strategic bombing campaign against Germany in its companion novel A God in Ruins. It is the difficulties of bombing that she leaves in the mouths and minds of her characters.

Kate Atkinson

[photo: Wikipedia]

She writes of the perils for the novelist of writing a story based on true events. “There is nothing that happens during the chapters set during the war in A God in Ruins that isn’t in some way based on a real-life incident that I came across in the course of my research [even the most horrific, even the most outlandish], although nearly always modified in some way. It is sometimes difficult to remember that you are writing fiction, not history, as it is only too easy to get caught up in the finer [and not so finer] technicalities, but the needs of the novel should always trump one’s own obsessions. The Bristol Hercules engine [above] became mine but that, too, I handed on to Teddy.”

Read my reviews of the two books here:-
Life After Life
A God in Ruins

Kate Atkinson


See how these other novelists write:-
Jill Essbaum
Rose Tremain
Emma Hooper

‘A God in Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Why #author Kate Atkinson fiction based on historical events via @Sandra_Danby #amwriting