Carly Schabowski

Thesis title: A Novel – The Rainbow Man. Critical reflection – Between History and Fiction – The creation of convincing characters in historical fiction and the author’s responsibility to fact versus fiction

Start year: 2015


Research topic

As this is a creative writing PhD, the research proposal is two-fold; combining the creation of a historical fiction novel with an accompanying critical analysis of how I have created a convincing character within a previously little-used historical background, discussing strategies involving historical fact and fictive imagination.

The historical background which will be investigated is the journey and experiences of Polish soldiers who were forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht during WWII. This will then form the basis of my historical fiction novel, titled The Rainbow Man, which will depict the life of such a Polish solider, his journey through the war, settlement in the UK and his life post war.

My proposal will aim to investigate this balancing act within historical fiction, and answer how a convincing character is created in an historical fiction novel. Are they based more on fact, or fiction?

Many argue that an author of historical fiction has a duty to portray the character and events as accurately as possible in order to maintain the regard for the genre. Yet, when dealing with such emotionally charged events, seen in novels surrounding the Holocaust and WWII, when does it become acceptable for the author to ‘keep the door closed’ to the entirety of the shocking or emotional scene, and instead, let the reader’s imagination take over? My proposal will therefore address these questions and discuss the responsibility of the author to present accurate fact, questioning whether there is a moral obligation to the survivors and victims’ to portray the events as accurately as possible.


Poland, Wehrmacht, World War II, Historical Fiction, The creative process

General research interests

Historical Fiction, The Creative Process, Moral obligations of Fact in Historical Fiction

Academic school / department

School of Education, Humanities and Languages

Teaching experience

  • Voluntary creative writing teacher for Oxford Academy in conjunction with the Oxford Literary Festival 2013
  • Summer School teacher in Journalism for Oxford Royale Academy 2014, 2015

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • BA Journalism University of South Australia 2009
  • MA Creative Writing Oxford Brookes University 2014