Back to Calendar

"Historical Fiction Boot Camp" with James L. Haley

Add to my calendar

ACC Highland Campus, rm 2210
6101 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78752

10/10/2015 From 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

This class is currently at capacity. There will be no tickets sold at the door. Proof of purchase will be required to enter classroom. Questions? Please see our Classes page or call 512-499-8914.

$49 for members (log in for member pricing)

$109 for nonmembers

Before purchasing, please read all policies as noted below and on our Classes page.

Note: Online registration will close at the end of Thursday, October 8. After that you can pay admission at the door with a check for the walk up rate - $59 for members and $119 for nonmembers - as long as seats are available. Thank you!

What makes historical drama so compelling? From I, Claudius to Gone With the Wind, from Forever Amber to Riders of the Purple Sage, from The Night Watch to Downton Abbey, readers’ appetite for historical fiction has always been insatiable. Why?

Unforgettable characters and trenchant dialogue, certainly, but what this genre has that others do not, is the ability to recreate bygone worlds. The historical novelist has the power to make the past leap to life, but like all skills it must be learned and mastered. In this half-day class students will learn, among other things:

  • What and how to research your time and place
  • How to lay the boundary between accurate history and the needs of the story, and this is different for each book
  • How to employ the historical setting to propel the story, and avoid historical bunny trails that do not serve the story
  • How to use historically appropriate dialogue without tongue-tying your characters or slowing down the story
  • How to use history to enrich every element of the story—even sex

Class exercises will illustrate cases in point, and at the end of the class handouts will summarize the key points, and provide concrete examples of the principles discussed. The class will be a good fit for writers interested in undertaking historical fiction, writers engaged in a historical novel who need guidance on melding history and fiction into a smoother story, and writers of traditional history who are interested in transposing their historical knowledge into a better-paying market.

About the instructor:

In this class, James L. Haley will draw on his backgrounds in history and fiction. His dozen nonfiction works about Texas and the American West have won two Spur Awards, two Fehrenbach Awards, and the Tullis Prize, among others. Three of his five novels have had widely varied historical settings: The Kings of San Carlos (Doubleday) set on an Apache Indian reservation in the 1870s; The Lions of Tsavo (Bantam Books; movie rights sold to Disney/Touchstone) set in British East Africa in 1898; and The Lion’s Mouth (now in press with G. P. Putnam’s Sons) takes place in the U.S. Navy of 1805, set in New England, Gibraltar, Naples, and North Africa. The Lion’s Mouth is the first of a three-book contract; the second book now under way, The Tempest, is set during the War of 1812, and the third, The Devil in Paradise, is set in Hawaii in the 1820s.

REGISTRATION BY MAIL: If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click HERE for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it.

NOTE: Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster. For more information, visit our Classes page.

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at

Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to

The Writers' League of Texas would like to thank Austin Community College for its generous support and commitment to community, ongoing education, and the arts. Visit