Richmond library hosts author event on writing challenges

When an author turns the life of a historical person into a fiction novel, questions around legitimacy may be raised.

Ann Pearson, a novelist and retired UBC instructor, will be speaking about biographical fiction novels and the challenges of writing them at the Richmond Public Library (Brighouse branch) on Jan. 22. In her presentation, she will invite listeners to question how biographical novels work and the differences between novels and traditional biographies.

“I hope listeners question how legitimate (biographical novels) are, what writers are doing with the lives of real people and if it’s a good thing,” said Pearson.

The Vancouver-based author wants to hear readers’ comparisons between biographical novelists and biographers.

Pearson’s inspiration for her own biographical novel A Promise on the Horizon was the diary of Henri Beyle, a young French man, who was a minor civil servant in Napoleon’s government.

In Beyle's diary, he mentions finding a book, written by an English author, that had been left behind in a stagecoach.

“It was odd because England and France were at war at the time,” said Pearson, adding that she assumed the book must’ve belonged to someone from France who may have also been a woman.

When Pearson woke up one morning, she wanted to write about the mysterious woman who left her book on the stage coach and “the only way (she) could write about (the character) was to write a novel.”

Pearson aims to show that a biographical novel “is problematic in some ways because (novelists) go beyond the facts, however, at the same time the imagination can bring a reader into the depth of a historical person’s thoughts.”

The book talk will take place at RPL’s Brighouse location from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

This is a registered event. People can reserve their seats at

© Richmond News