Ideas

Ross King on the art of history and architecture

Ross King is one of the most popular historians Canada has ever produced. Yet originally, he wanted to be a novelist. And after researching his doctoral thesis on T. S. Eliot, he published his first book, which fictionalized the story of a castrato singer in 18th century London, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring painter. King says he discovered that it was more fun to write when you didn't need to "make up the facts."

The Canadian historian wanted to be a novelist but says it's more fun not to 'make up the facts.'

Writer Ross King has twice been awarded the Governor General's Award for English Non-Fiction. (Submitted by Ross King)
Listen to the full episode53:59

** This episode was originally published on January 21, 2019.

Ross King is one of the most popular historians Canada has ever produced. Yet originally, he wanted to be a novelist. And after researching his doctoral thesis on T. S. Eliot, he published his first book, which fictionalized the story of a castrato singer in 18th century London, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring painter. It earned him a contract for another novel.

After achieving his dream of becoming a novelist, Ross King became personally intrigued by Italian architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, who designed and built the famous cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

Around the same time, King says, he suddenly, somehow discovered that writing was more fun when you didn't feel any need to "make up the facts."

The more research I did into Brunelleschi, I thought there was a wonderful novel to be told here. I had already written two historical novels, and this seemed like a natural follow-up. But I suddenly thought: this story is too good as history for me to mess up as fiction.- Ross King

Since the switch to fact from fiction, Ross King has written non-fiction books about Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, Éduoard Manet and Claude Monet, as well as a beautiful book about Canada's Group of Seven. His work has been translated into several languages, and is widely published around the world.

Ross King is an independent scholar and popular historian. 1:16

Ross King now lives in England, and has twice been awarded the Governor General's Award for English Non-Fiction. He spoke with Paul Kennedy immediately after an appearance at the Toronto International Festival of Authors.


** This episode was produced by Paul Kennedy.