'Fiction is where individual memory and experience and collective memory and experience come together, in greater or lesser proportions. The closer the fiction is to us readers, the more we recognise and claim it as individual rather than collective. Margaret Laurence used to say that her English readers thought The Stone Angel was about old age, the Americans thought it was about some old woman they knew, and the Canadians thought it was about their grandmothers.' Margaret Atwood talking about historical fiction in general, and in particular about writing Alias Grace.
UK writer Emma Darwin (The Mathmatics of Love, A Secret Alchemy to be released soon) uses this quote as a trigger for a brilliant discussion on her blog about the 'why' of historical fiction. Something I've wrestled with after writing The Blue (historical) and now writing Precarious (contemporary). I comment below her post.
If you have time, continue to read through Emma's blog. She really does wrestle with the stuff of writing in a gutsy no-holds-barred sort of way.
NB. She's related to Charles.