Historians Writing Fiction

Endorsed by the Western History Association

Saturday, April 4, 2020, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Gender and Sexuality; Slavery; Theory and Methodology


Historians are writers who have a duty to stick to the evidence. But sometimes, imagination nudges us to wonder what happened beyond what we know, or what might have happened if things were a little different. The participants in this roundtable have published mysteries, ghost stories, and romance novels, informed by their skills, knowledge, and insight as historians. We will talk about how we write, how history and fiction differ, and how venturing into the realm of fiction has shaped our craft, our choices and our career decisions.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Virginia J. Scharff, University of New Mexico
VIRGINIA SCHARFF is Distinguished Professor of History Emerita at the University of New Mexico. Her books include Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age (1991); Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West (2003); Seeing Nature Through Gender (2003); Home Lands: How Women Made the West (coauthored with Carolyn Brucken, 2010); The Women Jefferson Loved (2010); and Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (2015). A number of her books, including The Women Jefferson Loved have been named as New York Times “Editor’s Choices.” 
 Scharff has served as Women of the West Chair and Senior Scholar at the Autry Museum from 2003 to the present. She is a Fellow and former Executive Board member of the Society of American Historians (elected 2004), was President of the Western History Association (2008), and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians. 
 Under the name of Virginia Swift, Scharff is author of four “Mustang Sally” mystery suspense novels, published by HarperCollins. She is working on a series of historical novels set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, featuring four women who meet as students in a convent school in Paris on the eve of the French Revolution.

Panelist: Katharine Brophy Dubois, Novelist; Duke University
Katharine Brophy Dubois received a Bachelor’s degree in History from Duke University in 1989 and a PhD in Medieval Religious History from the University of Michigan in 2001. A former Mellon Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, and American Academy in Rome Fellow, she currently teaches courses on popular fiction part-time in the History, Religious Studies, and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies departments at Duke University. 
As Katharine Ashe she is the award winning and USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen historical romance novels and four novellas from HarperCollins Publishers, as well as seven independently published romances. Her books have received highest praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal and many others, and have been translated into languages throughout the world.
A native of Pennsylvania, Katharine is now a permanent transplant to North Carolina. 

Panelist: Tiya Alicia Miles, Harvard University
Tiya Miles is the author of three prize-winning works in the history of American slavery, including Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story. Her most recent book, The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits, was awarded the Rawley Prize in Race Relations and Curti Award in Social History from the OAH, the Bradford Biography Prize from SHEAR, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Non-fiction, an American Book Award, and a Frederick Douglass Book Prize. Miles’s historical fiction, The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and Publisher’s Weekly Pick of the Week. She has shared her travels to "haunted" historic sites of slavery in a published lecture series and published various articles and op-eds (in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, CNN.com, and the Huffington Post) on women’s history, history and memory, black public culture, and black and indigenous interrelated experience. She is a past MacArthur Foundation Fellow, Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellow, and National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Award recipient. She taught on the faculty of the University of Michigan for sixteen years and is currently a Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard University.