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Writing In A New Period Of History As A Historical Novelist, by Henry Venmore-Rowland (guest article)

A twofer yesterday for great articles on Writing Historical Novels website. I like that he mentions he is a generalist. Personally, I can’t imagine just staying in one time period because there are too many people, places, and events that have gone on throughout history.

Writing Historical Novels

I was described by one of my teachers as an intellectual butterfly, flitting from one pretty flower to the next. This is not to be encouraged in a historian. Thankfully my degree was in Ancient & Modern History, allowing me to write papers in anything and everything, from Alexander the Great to the rise of nationalism in 19th century Europe, the American Civil War to the Year of the Four Emperors and any number of things in between. It’s fair to say then that I am a generalist, not a specialist.

However, aside from writing a cracking good yarn, the thing that readers of historical fiction crave the most (judging from the legions of Amazon reviewers out there) is authenticity. Reading the newspapers sometimes you would be forgiven for thinking the authenticity comes first. I admit I’ve only seen half an episode of The White Queen, but most of the…

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Taking 14 Years To Get My First Novel Written And Published, by Anthony Riches

Really inspirational to keep trying and to now let fear get in your way.

Writing Historical Novels

The title of today’s blog pretty much sums up the reaction I tend to get from people when the story of how I got into print for the first time comes up in conversation. It’s true, I do have to ruefully shake my head with an expression of ‘what might have been’ at the thought of all those wasted years. You see, back when I started writing historical fiction the field was far less packed than it has become of late. The big name was Bernard Cornwell (and still is, mind you), and authors like Conn Iggulden and Simon Scarrow were still plotting their successful assault on the charts.

Picture the scene, if you will. It’s August 1996 and the Riches family is on its annual holiday. Being the typical family with youngish kids, we’d elected for a value holiday in Cumbria, which put us handily close to Hadrian’s Wall, a…

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Weekly Musing: Give Me Some Inspiration, Baby!

This is my sixth stab at trying to write this Weekly Musing. While I have a list of topics to choose from, deciding on one for this week has given me fits. One topic seems intriguing but when I start typing up my thoughts, it starts to feel not right. The inspirational flame instead of being Olympic size is a mere flicker in a dying candle. So why not talk about what gets me inspired?

I am still quite a ways way from tapping into my full potential. Being creative and letting that out is an incredibly new experience for me and one I struggle and fight with at times. When I first began writing, a wonderful source of inspiration was listening to NPR. Listening classical music with hosts giving brief backgrounds into the composers and news stories, kick started my creative side. Truth and history are very much stranger than fiction. One of my earliest inspirations was from a story NPR ran regarding the Cook County morgue in Chicago. They had an unbelievable backlog of bodies, months’ worth of bodies. The bodies were pretty much homeless people or people no one wanted to claim. So they sat in the morgue waiting to be buried in the county cemetery. I began playing the ‘what if’ game. My mind immediately thought of a horror story and the voice of one of the bodies spoke to me. What if one of the bodies came back to life and wanted to avenge a system that had let him and the dozens of corpses in the morgue down?

Another source of inspiration for me, and for many other writers, are books, TV, and movies. Sometimes it’s a sense of ‘I could do better than that’ but that’s an entirely different posting all together. I’m specifically referring to a time period, genre story (Steampunk, fantasy, etc.), character (historical character in my case), or concept. If I’m inspired by a TV show or movie, it’s usually because I’m a crazy fan of it. I get excited about a concept and start spinning in my head what I would do differently or how could I make my idea just even a little bit different from someone else’s? Again, characters pop up and say hello.

As I mature as a writer, I’m trying to move beyond these to keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration in everyday things. For example, I was thinking over something, happened to stare at my wedding ring, and began thinking of an idea for a story based upon it as it contains 3 generations of diamonds and is a family heirloom on my husband’s side. Shortly after that initial thought, I went on a cruise to Alaska so now I’m thinking about combining the history I learned a little bit of to make some kind of multi-generational story. Whether or not I ever get around to writing this story is another matter.

I have also started keeping a dream log. For a while I was having a lot of off-the-wall dreams that combined so many different elements of my life twisted into some kind of giant rubber band ball they just begged to be written down. The problem with having a dream log is to actually remember to write the dreams down and first thing in the morning. And I am so not a morning person so I usually have forgotten most of the dream by the time I get to brushing my teeth.

But for all the ideas I manage to write down, there are so many more that I forget. I do keep a small pad of paper and pen in my purse for just such occasions. It helps immensely. At my last place of employment, I frequently sent e-mails to myself as something popped into my head. Having my laptop available is a huge convenience, too, because I can just open up the Word doc I’ve got going and jot down an idea. I have a notebook and pen by my bed because I often think of stories as I go to bed but dammit, I can’t remember to write down scenes or snippets of dialogue because well, I fall asleep. It’s like a machine needs to be invented one could plug into the mind and have it transfer thoughts into a program. Actually, that type of machine sounds like an incredibly BAD idea. Or a good idea for a sci fi story. Hmmm….Must learn to keep myself awake enough to write it down!

I’m sure I’ll discover more and more sources of inspiration. I’ve already got 16 pages worth on my computer and countless others tucked away into a binder. Whenever I see something even remotely interesting, I print out the article or I flag it if it’s in one of the history magazines I read. The idea dam may have tickled at first but now the waters flow briskly. At times they rise to flood stage, dump the ideas out quick before it drowns you! Other times it’s calm.