Hilary Mantel‘s article in the Guardian on finishing a historical novel and getting the facts right is delightful. Just a taste:

“There’s a certain kind of reader (they pop up at readings and festivals) who worries about the ethics of historical fiction, feels vaguely guilty about reading it, and would like the author to make it clear just which bits are made up, perhaps by printing them in red ink. Some fine authors hardly care about accuracy. I heard Penelope Fitzgerald say that she did her research after a book, not before. Didn’t she get angry letters, asked a shocked member of the audience? Oh yes, she said, smiling. They tell me about the birds in the trees, she said; in no way could the hero, in such a place, in such a year, have seen or heard a collared dove! She had a certain way of smiling, which suggested a mind above ornithology, an imagination licensed for its own flights.”