What historical fiction means to me: Margaret Connolly owner of literary agency, Margaret Connolly and Associates

‘A prize like the ARA Historical Novel Prize draws attention to the high quality of works of historical fiction and brings to public attention both new and established writers of the genre.’

Our second literary agent interview is with Margaret Connolly. She has years of experience in the literary field, and here shares her wisdom with regards the highs and lows in the popularity of historical fiction, and excitingly, how something like the ARA Historical Novel Prize can boost historical fiction across the board.

In your experience as agent for an historical novelist, what is the genre’s particular appeal? 

What impresses me most about historical fiction is the blend of fact and fiction, research and creativity. This is the genre’s particular appeal and the reason why it attracts such a wide readership.

How do you think a prize such as the ARA Historical Novel Prize helps to raise the profile of historical fiction in general? 

There are times when historical fiction is very popular, and sought after by publishers, and times where its profile is quieter. Raising the profile of historical fiction increases the public’s interest in it, encouraging a groundswell of support and excitement. A prize like the ARA Historical Novel Prize draws attention to the high quality of works of historical fiction and brings to public attention both new and established writers of the genre.

What are the benefits for an agent in submitting entries to a high-profile writing contest with significant prize money? 

As an agent, it’s always exciting to have my authors recognised for their talents and, of course, to receive prize money to enable them to keep writing. Literary prizes and awards are important both in raising an author’s profile and in boosting book sales.

Which sub-genre of historical fiction are you pleased to see is eligible, and why do you feel it is important?

I have a broad list of authors working in fiction and non-fiction, and writing for both adults and children. I am pleased by the breadth of the ARA Historical Novel Prize guidelines, which include writing for adults, young adults, and children. 

What do you think makes a standout historical novel? 
A standout historical novel should have the features of any standout novel: strong characters, and a good story, well told, with the addition of excellent research (worn lightly) and atmosphere, and the sense of “eavesdropping” on the period and characters’ thoughts. Two historical novels which I’ve particularly enjoyed recently are Francis Spufford’s On Golden Hill, and Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind, and it was a highlight to work with Christopher Koch on his great historical novel, Out of Ireland.


More about Margaret Connolly
Margaret Connolly has been a literary agent in Sydney for over thirty years, setting up her own business, Margaret Connelly and Associates, in 1992, after a number of years at Curtis Brown, Australia. She works with a wide range of authors and illustrators in fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature. 

This interview was compiled by HNSA Marketing Coordinator, Lou Greene. Lou was winner of the HNSA First Pages Pitch in 2017 and she long-listed in the Richell Awards. Last year, as well as being short-listed in the HNSA short story competition, she was a recipient of an ASA Mentorship Award. Lou has an MA Modern History and has recently completed a dual timeline, novel manuscript. Find out more about Lou’s writing from her website, or connect with her via Instagram or Twitter.

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The ARA Historical Novel Prize, for published historical novels by Australian and New Zealand authors, will be worth $30,000 to the winning author. With entries opening on May 1, it is a partnership between generous sponsor, the ARA Group, and the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA), in association with the New England Writers’ Centre. HNSA is delighted and proud to introduce this initiative, which celebrates the diversity and strength of an increasingly popular and acclaimed genre.

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