R266. UnBiography: Creating Fictional Characters from Factual People

D133-134, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1
Thursday, March 28, 2019
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm


Transfiguring historical figures into fictional characters asks the writer to grapple not only with craft challenges, but questions of genre, ethics, and research. Does the artist who uses a real subject for inspiration inevitably become Robert de Montesquiou’s “thief of souls”? How faithful can or should writers be to the historical record? How do writers research that record without becoming paralyzed by it? Panelists will discuss big picture questions and offer practical suggestions.



Caitlin Horrocks is author of the novel The Vexations and the story collection This Is Not Your City. Work appears in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, PEN/O Henry Prize Stories, Pushcart Prize, and others. An editor at The Kenyon Review, she teaches at Grand Valley State University.

Jasmin Darznik is the author of the novel Song of a Captive Bird and a memoir, The Good Daughter. She is a professor in the MFA and Writing and Literature programs at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Peter Ho Davies is the author of the novels The Fortunes and The Welsh Girl, and the story collections The Ugliest House in the World and Equal Love. His fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Harpers, Granta, The Paris Review, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Prize Stories.

Zachary Lazar is the author of five books, including the novels Sway, l I Pity the Poor Immigrant, and Vengeance. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Tulane University.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center