Saturday, November 26, 2011
So far, I have only written historical novels set in England, but regardless of when and where a novel is set the characters must be believable.
Before I start writing a historical novel I name my characters. I find The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names invaluable.
Even then, I can go wrong. For example, in my work in progress set in Edward II of England’s reign I named the hero’s father, Marmaduke. Someone who critiques my chapters pointed out that Marmaduke is the name of a popular cartoon character in the U.S.A. To be on the safe side I checked in the Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names and found out that Marmaduc was mentioned in the Assize Rolls in 1219 so I renamed my character.
It irritates me when, for example, a character is called Wendy prior to 1904 when J.M.Barry first used it in Peter Pan. It also causes me to lose faith it he author.
After I name my characters I create a detailed profile for each major character. Later, as I introduce other characters, I create a simple one for each minor character. This helps me to breathe life into each protagonist.
Amongst other things in the profiles, I describe the character’s physical appearance, background, and, if necessary, regional accent. In dialogue, I indicate the accent and try not overdo it. (I’ve noticed that some authors who set their novels in Scotland use words such as ‘aye’, ‘ye’ etc., so often that it is irritating and makes the dialogue difficult to read.)
Other considerations are financial circumstances, home life, education, and relatives who assist or obstruct my character.
Characters’ behaviour and attitudes need to be in accordance with the historical period that a novelist has chosen. In my opinion, and others may disagree, a novel in which the characters act like 21st century people transported back in time. Before I begin a novel I work my way through a pile of reference books in order to understand contemporary attitudes and beliefs.
I also need to understand the ramifications of class. For example, in my mediaeval novel an earl wants to dress his mistress in opulent clothes but obeys the law governing what different classes may wear. Status is another important consideration. The earl’s mistress (a villein) plans and plots ways to gain her freedom.
Another important consideration is the position of women in society. Other than widows, did they have any control over their property? Did they have any say in the way their children were brought up? What were the differences between women from different classes? Something a novelist needs to bear in mind is that throughout the ages, women have been controlled by men due to factors such as family ties, financial considerations and the law. If a woman chose to defy her father, legal guardian or husband, what would her situation be? Without masculine support, how would she survive? Another question that needs to be answered is how men regarded women.
A historical novelist needs to know how those in the chosen era regarded the world around them. What did they think of foreigners, other religions, education, war, etc? For example, depending on when the novel is set, and to name a few issues, what were the attitudes towards the Roman occupation, Wars of the Roses, the dissolution of the monasteries, the Roman Catholic Church, the British Empire and the 1st and 2nd world wars.
There are many other things to consider, including the clothes which were worn. I was very amused by a young woman in a novel who ran for a mile in spite of tightly laced stays stiffened with whalebone and full skirts and petticoats.
There are many traps for the unwary novelist but with careful research most of them can be overcome.
Friday, November 25, 2011
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Thursday, November 24, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
For example, she writes movingly about Davy the page, who would stand with his back to the door while Madeleine and the other manicurists sewed or darned their stockings while singing No,No, Nanette, Lady Be Good or Yes We have No Bananas.
“Davy never stopped. When the bar was open customers would send him off for cocktails; others wanted cigarettes or theatre tickets. The cashier sent him to the A.B.C with a tumbler for her afternoon tea. Hew used to race back across the busy Strand holding the steaming glass in a serviette, dodging in and out of the traffic, diving under the nose of our tall commissionaire, then balancing his precious cargo on the tips of his fingers, push through the swing doors. We all liked him. Fifth or sixth of a very large family, he had a passion for a baby sister to whom for Christmas he had given her a perambulator, costing twenty-two shillings for her doll. He would have liked to buy a bed for the doll and he was saving his sixpences and shillings, but the Strand was full of temptations when he and Georgie” another page “ would glue their faces against the windows of bicycle shops, the shops that sold photographic apparatus and the postage stamps and all the other things dear to boys so that the money Davey had set aside for his little sister’s doll’s bed was broken into sometimes, and a conflict raged between brother and growing man.
“Both boys were tiny. Their delicate limbs and faces whitened by the slums were their chief asset in life, their charm, their stock-in-trade They looked like plants brought up in hot-houses….”
Mrs Robert Henrey’s books are alive with memorable people who populated her world.
She also makes her most mundane experiences interesting.
“As there was no cloak-room attached to the shop, my colleagues and I had the right to use the very luxurious one reserved for the famous grill-room. The woman who guarded this fortress did not arrive till eleven, so that all the morning, or at least for the best part of it, this palace of marble or white porcelain and tall mirrors with its Niagara of hot water was almost my own….The tall mirrors caught me, handing me from one to the other. My little black dress was poor, but my magnificent shock of blonde hair shone like a ball of fire under the myriad electric lights. ….Now for the wash basins with the gallons and gallons of hot water….was it not reasonable to wash my stockings? Soon, being of a practical nature, I washed my lingerie.”
Madeleine’s blonde hair, energy, enthusiasm and French accent attracted many admirers at the Savoy. Amongst them was a Hollywood film magnate who sent photos of her to the studio and arranged for her to go to America. However, she met Robert, her future husband at the Savoy. On the following evening he took her out to dinner and kissed her in the taxi. Madeleine chose love instead of Hollywood and, after a long illness when she fought against death in the Pyrenees, she returned to England hoping her mother was wrong when she said that Robert would have forgotten her.
While travelling by car in France, Madeleine and her companions passed through “…small white villages scorched by the sun. …one did not see anybody except an occasional little old woman all in black sitting on a cane chair, her feet in black stockings and black shoes on a footstool, a cat asleep behind geraniums on the window-sill, and hens pecking around her. How happy she must be! I seldom saw such a wizened old woman without thinking this, and hoping one day to be contented and happy… Yes, she (the old woman) must be happy! May I end my days with the orange cat, the geraniums and the pecking hens!”
Cured, Madeleine returned to England where Robert met her at the railway station. Before long they married in St Georges, Hanover Square.
Mrs Robert Henrey’s biographies and autobiographies fascinate me. I plan to read as many as possible and share some of them on my blog.
New releases from MuseItUp Publishing
Tangled Love set in England in Queen Anne's reign 1702-1714 27.01.2012
Sunday's Child set in the Regency era 06.2012
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Writers must enjoy writing even when they encounter obstacles. This is particularly true of writing historical fiction. Historical novelists require a profound interest in all things historical.
The historical novels that I read more than once sweep me into the activities and ‘mind sets’ in a way which I enjoy.
When writing historical novels I enjoy recreating times past and presenting plots and themes unique to the country and era that I present to my readers.
Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881 wrote: “No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” (Today, he might have written: Great men and women.) To add veracity to my fictional characters I either mention or allow historical characters to play a part. In my forthcoming release Tangled Love Queen Anne, the Duke of Marlborough and his wife, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough have their place. All too often, there is not as much information about less important people as a novelist would like. However, imagination is any novelist’s best friend, and a historical novelist can people novels with colourful but imaginary characters.
History, or Herstory, interests me and provides more ideas than I have time to develop; but what is history? One of the definitions in Collins English Dictionary is: “A record or account, often chronological in approach of past events, developments etc.” Thomas Carlyle wrote: “What is all knowledge too but recorded experience and a product of history; of which, therefore, reasoning and belief, no less than action and passion, are essential materials?” Yes, indeed, these are the heady ingredients which historical novelists can incorporate in novels.
For various reasons many people’s knowledge of history is scant. For example, Charles II, the merry monarch, is fairly well known but his niece Queen Anne is not. Yet most people are interested in the past even if history did not interest them at school and they chose to study – for example – computer studies, catering or modern languages. Programmes such as Dontown Abbey, the first two parts of which have been shown on television in the U.K., has attracted a vast audience. No doubt they will generate further interest in the era prior to and during the 1st World War. Undoubtedly, this interest will increase the sales of fiction and non fiction relevant to the period.
Last week, in my blog about Writing Historical Fiction, I referred to my dislike of novels in which history is ‘despoiled.’ Fiction must entertain, but it is also the author’s responsibility to reveal past times and interpret history as accurately as possible. There should be much more than dressing characters in costume and allowing them to act as though they are twenty-first century people. For example, when writing about countries in which Christianity predominated, religious conflict can provide a powerful theme but faith and attendance at church is often ignored.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
There was a time, a few winters ago, when the fourteen hours of travel to fly down under was but a moment in time. Full summer Melbourne, warm breezy sun and a bouquet of wildflowers; the young man that greeted me at the airport radiated ebullient enthusiasm. Nervous? Were we not. The year and a half of emails and messages exchanged online had allowed us to know nearly everything about each other, yet nothing of true import.
So often I am asked if an author's fiction reflects true life. Whether it's a name, a scent remembered or a story lived, those who write can not help but include their experiences in their tales. From what else do we have to draw? What else would ring so true?
In the end it really does not matter where reality ends and fiction begins because a great story IS true whether or not it happened just that way,
You are cordially invited to come along on a journey of discovery. Can a young man barely out of university be convinced that there is worth in paying societies dues? Can a life-worn woman years his senior have what is truly important to offer or will the secrets she’s' so carefully guarded destroy his faith in her as a wonderful human being? I could tell you what real life dealt. You might suppose that most young men could not handle the complexities of an adult life filled with truths and tragedies lived in all its messy realism. You might be right? Or would you…
I invite you to experience one young man who has that ineffable something that separates him from the crowd—extraordinary tenacity, the willingness to grow and change even when he thinks his heart might shatter and the stuff that makes a true hero— a leap of faith toward love.
“Walk me home, Bryan.”
The smile slid from his face. Re-fastening the stud of his jeans, he turned to her. “What’s wrong, Carrie?”
“Look at me.” He hooked her chin with two fingers. “Why are you treating me like I’m suddenly a stranger?” Tilting her face up to his, he lowered his head to engage her eyes. She still had hers cast to the ground. “Come on. Did I say something wrong? I felt…it was…you were amazing.”
Her eyes scrolled in reluctance to his. “I don’t think I can do this.”
“What do you mean? You just did…and in the most incredible way.” He smiled, testing the waters of her reaction.
“It’s not you…You were perfect.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it.”
Clamping onto her shoulder he looked into her with intensity. “God damn it Carrie. Don’t start clamming up. We never did online. Why start now?”
“We never had sex online.”
He raised a dubious brow.
“Okay…so we wrote about sex. That doesn’t get you pregnant.”
“So you are worried.”
“I should have waited to go to the chemist.” He shook his head in self-recrimination. “Should have had a condom.”
“No…I can’t.” She stiffened again in his arms.
“You can’t what?”
“I can’t get pregnant,” she spewed.
He felt his jaw drop. “You can’t…”
“Yeah. Can’t,” she reiterated in cold indifference, like a news reporter delivering a story.
He instinctively drew her to his chest, holding her body as though it might break. “I never dreamed…I think it’s…okay…”
She pulled away from him, engaging his eyes once more. “Yeah…I can tell it’s just what you had in mind.” Turning, she began to jog away from him in the direction of the high-rise hotels.
“Damn it, Carrie.” He took off after her. She quickened her pace. Shit she was fast. He broke into an all out sprint to catch her.
Hooking her arm, he twirled her about like a top. She spun into him, air knocked from her at the impact. “Let me go, Bryan,” she spouted in gasp.
“I don’t even know where you’re staying.”
“Why do you need to know? It was obviously a mistake coming here.”
He took her by the shoulders. “Listen to me Carrie. It’s you who’ve decided what’s important to me. I don’t give a rat’s arse if you can have kids.”
“Yeah…that’s why you’ve been talking about what a great dad you’re gonna be…how much you want to watch them grow up.”
She’d caught him. He had said those things when they’d exchanged hopes and dreams online. He tried to keep his expression even, but the look on his face sent her over the edge. The pain in her eyes was something he never wanted to see, never meant to cause. He knew he’d sent a knife to her heart.
She turned from him again and ran. He stood, arms hanging in impotence at his side and watched her disappear into the night, her figure reappearing in the lighting of the awning of the hotel closest.
It seemed an hour before he was able to move. His feet felt glued to the pavement; his mind reeled in self-loathing and regret. Why hadn’t he stopped her? What was wrong with him?
The chill of the night invaded him. He felt it press into his bones through the thin t-shirt he’d dragged over his head. He’d left his jacket behind under the trees where they’d...
“Damn.” The word shot from him sounding like it came from someone else. His chest ached with it. He turned toward the beach car park and walked numbly to his Rover.
She fell into the center of the billowing white comforter. Clothes sweaty, she shivered. The envelope of the duvet surrounded her like a comforting nest.
She lowered her head to her chest. His aftershave clung to her skin, rose around her as though he were with her again. “Damn it.” She struck the mattress with clenched fists. Why had she even brought it up? It shouldn’t matter. They were, after all, fast friends first. He was a young man. Of course he had dreams of home and family. But when he’d made love to her so tenderly, with such ardor, she’d melted. She could still feel the touch of his mouth on hers.
“God, you’re an idiot, Carrie.” Her words sounded hollow, disembodied. She grabbed the edge of the comforter and rolled herself in it like a cocoon. Sweat beaded at her forehead and a wave of nausea swept through her. She had to escape.
He drove through the night along the road toward Mornington, every curve and bank negotiated by rote. Taking the long way through the hills, he made a sharp turn into the overlook and skidded to a stop, tires sliding on the gravel. Pulling the emergency break, it felt as though it would fracture in his hand. The percussion of his shoulder into the door sent it flying open, recoiling back into him as he exited.
He tore into the forest, stumbling along the narrow overgrown pathway leading to the ridge. The trees thinned, and then opened onto the broad ledge of an overlook. The heels of his shoes scrapped the rock face as he came to a standstill. The only thing he could hear was the sound of his breathing straining under the demands of his descent. The town of Mornington lay below, asleep. Only the occasional porch light dotted the shadow of homes sprinkled along its perimeter. Above the sky glowed indigo into purple with impending day. It was still an hour away, but the turn of the earth allowed first light to seep into the blackness.
Eyes scrolling to the sky, he looked at the winking stars spread across the path of the Milky Way in artist’s stroke of genius. God, but he lived in a beautiful place. Why did it seem suddenly flat, cardboard? He drew the resinous air in through his nose expanding his lungs until they ached. Holding his breath for a moment, it burst out of him in a mirthless laugh. His shoulders shook with the violence of the emotion erupting from him. Abdomen contracting, he wiped at the corner of his mouth.
“God forgive me, Carrie.” The words tore from his chest. “I can’t.”
When We Were Amazing
A Novel by: Christine London
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release: November 11, 2011
Editor: Fiona Young-Brown
Line editor: Antonia Tiranth
Cover artist: Delilah K. Stephans
Buy Now through MuseItUp Publishing
Coming soon to Amazon.com
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Friday Night November 4th, an international representation of Muse authors gathered for a welcome aboard to celebrate the first year in business of this exciting new company.
Publisher, Lea Schizas and Promotions Goddess, Litsa Kamateros set a splendid scene in a Montreal Greek restaurant. Every author had the opportunity to speak in personal introduction. Thank you gifts were given to Lea and Litsa as well as received from these two wonderful 'boss ladies' to each author.
Nancy Bell awards gifts to Lea and Litsa
Karen Cote dresses Heather Haven
Sandra Clark dressed by Madeleine McLaughlin
Our colleague, Karen McGrath was remembered.
And authors from around Canada and the United states got to network with each other—up until now, faces only known from the internet.
(Oh yeah...and there were (real) cheesecakes...lol)
Saturday Afternoon a Mega book signing was held at Zellers Super Store in Pointe Claire. Each and every author was thrilled to be able to meet and greet the public. There shining faces and pride in their work showed…
Charles Mossop Christine London
Barbara Ehrenthreu If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor Carolyn Samuels’ freshman year becomes a series of lies to cover Jennifer Taylor’s terrible secret in return for popularity.
Charles Mossop The Devil At My Heels A modern murder mystery with a historical twist.
Kevin Craig Summer On Fire Summer…fire, bodies, murder, enemies and lies. Is it too much for three friends to handle? The race is on…
Grace De Luca Betwixt and Between Suspended between two worlds, teenager Michael must set out on a Quest in order to return to Earth. The only way home is through a fantasy land of adventure, suspense, and incredible experiences-- the world of Betwixt and Between.
Heather Haven A Wedding To Die For PI Lee Alvarez knows better than anyone when Cupid’s wings start flapping, love and murder can’t be far behind.
Arlene Webb Ashes Lyle holds his murdered brother and wants his life to end too. When the unbelievable happens, he’ll sacrifice anything to avoid the final stage of grief, and comes to learn life is just beginning.
Madeleine McLaughlin The Mountain City Bronzes How far will a community go to protect the safety of their children when they start to disappear?
Karen Cote Erotic Deception Told she’d never have children…abracadabra, she’s pregnant. Would the man she loved disappear when he found out? (Adult Content)
H.M. Prevost Desert Fire After Nick Chevalier stumbles across a plane crash in the middle of the desert, the dying pilot slips him military secrets that a ruthless terrorist is determined to possess.
Richard Burns Sweet Chocolate’s First Taste A young white soldier’s first encounter with a woman, a black woman in the racially turbulent southern US in 1979...a hooker? (Adult Content)
Sarah Durham (left), and daughter (right) The Powers A woman with a wounded past is awakened by an ancient warrior angel to fulfill a destiny meted ages before man...
and Lycan Moon A cursed seventeenth century man’s life is turned upside down when a Seattle columnist comes to town in search of a legendary werewolf
Nancy Marie Bell Laurel’s Miracle YA FANTASY Laurel isn’t out to save the world, just her mom from cancer.
Editor Natisha La Pierre
Lea Schizas Autism Epidemic Shaking the System A helpful guide to sensitize people on autism.
The Halloween Dino Trip Jillian Waylan planned the perfect Halloween party until things go a bit...wacky?
Litsa Kamateros Autism Epidemic Shaking the System A helpful guide to sensitize people on autism.
Joanne Elder Spectra
What happens when the fragile line between genius and insanity is drawn with the blood of an entire species?
Christina Schizas Ahtabat: Man’s Extinction What if you were told you had to abandon your home, your friends, your loved ones, your career, your money, your dreams, and most importantly, your life? And not only temporarily but indefinitely?
Lisa Forget (left)
Deathly Quiet Moira Murphy encounters a terrifying stranger who forces a new existence upon her - one that is deathly and quiet.
Christine London (right) Shadows Steal The Light It’s love at first sight for rock star Colin Dunlow when he runs into sultry jazz singer, Jenna Lindstrom, with a few complications. The woman of his dreams hates rockers and there’s someone who wants him dead. (Adult Content)
Sandra “S. J.” Clarke Mind Over Matter A mother faces her worst nightmare when she discovers her missing daughter is scheduled to die in mere days.
Bonella made an appearance.
Our living avatar, Karen Cote
Although there are books on the subject of How To Write Historical Fiction, which are useful, I am sure that novelists develop their own techniques.
I read history books and sooner or later something triggers my imagination. For example, I read that most of the English nobility disliked James II, his politics and his religion. After James fled to France, first his older daughter, Mary, and her husband and then her younger daughter Anne succeeded to the throne. Some peers refused to swear oaths of allegiance to James’s successors during his lifetime. Their refusal provided the historical trigger for my novel Tangled Love, first published as Tangled Hearts, which will be released on the 27th January, 2012.
After I decide on the period for a novel, I compile a chronological timeline with a narrow column on the left with the heading Date and two wide columns on the right with the headings National and International events.
Two of my dislikes when reading historical fiction about real or imaginary characters are historical inaccuracy, and characters who do not act in accordance with their time. Recently, I began a reader’s report on a historical romance. The first two chapters were so full of flaws that I returned it to the author with the comment that, although the plot is interesting, she needs to concentrate on research before rewriting it. I really don’t enjoy novels by authors who despoil history.
While I am working on a novel, I begin my research for the next one. I read about the economics, politics, social history, religion, clothes and everyday objects as well as reading fiction and poetry pertinent to the era. By the time I have finished a novel I have completed the groundwork for the next one in which I will use only a fraction of the information I have garnered. The advantage of such thorough preparation is showing the reader life as it was through my characters in an interesting way.
The more I research the more I realise how different modern day attitudes are to those of the past. However, even if attitudes and surroundings are different, we share the same emotions, love, ambitions, hope, hatred, envy, grief, hopelessness and misery.
As well as a difference in attitudes, there is also a difference in language which is a trap for the unwary author who should avoid sprinkling a novel with ‘la’, ‘methinks’ and ‘gazooks’ etc. In my novel, Sunday’s child, set in the Regency era, my well-born characters speak formally without contractions. In Tangled Love I use a few words such as oddsbodikins that give the flavour of speech in Queen Anne’s reign, and I avoid anachronisms.
I enjoy researching historical fiction through reading and visiting places of historical interest, including gardens, and also enjoy bringing the past and its people to life in my novels.