Hello everyone,

Research is a constant, ongoing process while writing historical fiction. Sometimes a fascinating tidbit surfaces that might be of particular interest beyond its use in a novel. As I continue to work in the historical fiction field, I will post those occasional points of interest here. Occasionally I muse on the writing process as well along with news to keep readers informed of what's going on with my books and other writings.

Please feel free to post comments--I'd love to hear from you.


The photo above is of Snowdonia in North Wales, which plays a large part in the setting of the Macsen's Treasure Series.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

On Writing Historical Fiction


Daydreaming is a good thing. Some will disagree, like one of my grade school teachers who asked the question: “what’s first person singular of the verb ‘to be’?” She followed with, “You look like you’re daydreaming,” and called my name. I answered flippantly, “I am,” meaning I was, in truth, daydreaming and had not heard the question. By coincidence, it was the right answer. Miffed that she hadn’t embarrassed me, she scowled and moved on to the next daydreamer.

Indeed, I don’t remember what I was daydreaming about then, but it very well could have been of knights in shining armor, the Three Musketeers, or that clever fellow Zorro of early California. To escape the present world and seek the adventure of another time and place always felt comfortable back then. The truth? Still does! Inexplicably, being transported to another time has a certain appeal. Is it ladies in long dresses? Big hunky men in kilts? Exotic languages no longer spoken? Great sword fights? Sea battles? Who knows?

The daydreaming eventually led to an insatiable interest in history after watching the BBC’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII.” Visualizing the Tudors’ lives made me understand that history examines the dynamics of people’s actions and is not the dull, dry business it’s been made out to be by countless school systems. By the time I attended university, I found my favorite studies of art, music, literature and drama were all closely interconnected by their histories. So much to discover!

Throughout the decades that followed, the fascination remains strong. The desire to communicate that interest manifested in the form of historical fiction. This took a lot of learning, patience and persistence. Writing historical fiction goes far beyond simply telling a story set in another time. It’s many disciplines: the historian’s craft of performing thorough, solid research to recreate the world of another era; the art of the written word; and the intuition—the creative daydreaming—that takes the spark of an idea for a story and gives it the fire to unfold in all its power.

After writing four books, I still wonder why certain eras intrigue me, some quite strongly. Is it my Welsh and Scottish ancestry? Dark Age Britain’s Celtic culture draws my attention the most and began doing so long before I discovered my heritage. Is it something as ethereal and unprovable as reincarnation? Sometimes dreams and images come to me so fiercely while I’m writing that they seem more like memories than imagination. Or is it the challenge to puzzle together what happened long ago and find the story within that context?

I wonder what that grade school teacher would say if she knew where my daydreams have taken me. With apologies to Descartes: I write, therefore “I am”?

3 comments:

Glynis said...

I was looking out of the same window!
My English teacher encouraged me to write and actually told me daydreaming is OK as long as I write it down later on. He recently passed away and I thought back to the ones prior to him, the ones who kept my mind in a black box all day.
I smiled at your post, ah memories.

Kathleen Guler said...

There are just certain teachers who understand the value of imagination. I had one like that in my last year of high school. I really should try to find out if he's still around--would love to tell him the results of my daydreams and his encouragement to write.

Thomas said...

Great!