Welcome

Welcome to the world of adventure, love and war. You’ve entered 17th century England. It’s a time of civil war, social upheaval, conspiracies and intrigue. In the world of historical fiction, this is gold.

Explore my blog and discover articles about 17th century Britain, creative storytelling, and my writing.

Join me in this journey. I intend to pique your interest.

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Author Spotlight: Anna Belfrage

annna_belfrage-2015Continuing my conversation with the contributors of the Historical Novel Society’s anthology, Distant Echoes, I’ve invited author Anna Belfrage to chat about her short story, The Sharing of a Husband.

Anna has somehow managed to tap into the magic elixir of being a literary powerhouse. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Graham Saga (8 books and counting), the King’s Greatest Enemy series, has been involved in four anthologies, and maintains a regular blog.

Her short story, The Sharing of a Husband, portrays a woman in Utah who is forced to accept the introduction of polygamy by church decree and how that changes her relationship with her husband.

Welcome Anna and thank you for returning to my blog!


Q-2

I’m always amazed at the breadth and width of your historical knowledge. From Spain to Scotland and now to America. What made you want to tell this story of a woman grappling with the early days of the Mormon church?

Anna: I am fascinated by the history of the Mormon Church, sprung from a mixture of religious and utopian fervour. As I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in Salt Lake City, I have quite a few Mormon friends, and we’ve spent a lot of time discussing various aspects of their faith, my faith, all faiths. The story of Ellie was inspired by a biography, the story of one Robert Taylor who is considered one of the founding members of the church and who, due to the requirements of his church, took a second and a third wife even if he always reserved the lion’s share of his affection for his first wife. It was evident while reading the biography that plural marriages caused a lot of strain, not only on the wives, but also on the man. I think my Ellie is an attempt at trying to understand just what it would feel like to be the first wife, somehow set aside when a new wife arrives.


Q-2Hillary Mantel once said that historical novelists often falsely empower female characters. What are your thoughts on your main character, Ellie, as she contemplates a difficult and unpalatable choice?

Anna: Ellie doesn’t really have a choice. She has children to look out for, and her family is very far away. So Ellie’s dilemma is really not what to do but rather how to cope. Eventually, she gives in and adapts. What else can she do?


Q-2Historical Fiction often draws parallels between the present and the past. Is this true of your story, and if so, how?

Anna: I think we still live in a world where some women are have few rights and no liberty and must simply accept their lot in life. Plural marriage still exists in some cultures, and I bet it is always hard to be displaced by someone younger and prettier in your husband’s bed.


Q-2As a novelist, what are some of the challenges of writing a short story?

Anna: The need for brevity. Every word has to count. So it’s kill, kill, kill your adverbs and excessive adjectives.


Q-2 Which comes first–character or plot and why?

Anna: In this case, the plot came first—because I’d been thinking so much about that biography I’d just read. Usually, I’d say it’s the character (who is generally doing something either very stupid or dangerous when we first meet up).


Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. And yes, Edmund of Woodstock appears quite frequently. The first book, In The Shadow of the Storm was published in 2015, the second, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016, and the third, Under the Approaching Dark, was published in April 2017.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she’s probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

More about Anna on her website or on her blog!

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About Distant Echoes

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Gripping and thought-provoking stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society.

A new anthology of nineteen award-winning and acclaimed historical fiction short stories.

Distant Echoes brings you vivid voices from the past. This haunting anthology explores love and death, family and war. From the chilling consequences of civil and world war, to the poignant fallout from more personal battles, these stories will stay with you long after the last page.

This selection of winning and shortlisted stories from recent Historical Novel Society writing awards includes The House of Wild Beasts by Anne Aylor (winner of the Historical Novel Society Short Story Award 2014), Salt by Lorna Fergusson (winner of the HNSLondon14 Short Story Award) and Fire on the Water by Vanessa Lafaye (winner of the HNSOxford16 Short Story Award).


If you enjoyed this interview and wish to hear about another contributors to Distant Echoes and their inspiration, check out my author spotlights:

Also check out Anna’s thoughts of mixing romance with historical fiction in the Love and History series (click here).

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The benefits of a critique group

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Recently, friend and fellow author, Sharon Overend, was invited on CBC Radio One to talk about the CBC’s short story contest and her current writing group. Sharon is one of the best short story writers I know. Her stories grab you at the opening and will not let go until the very end. Her short fiction has won awards, made it into literary journals and has even been nominated for the prestigious Journey Prize. But instead of focusing on the CBC annual contest, their conversation turned to the value of a writing group.

Writing groups can take different forms. They range from casual gatherings where there may be writing on the spot to more structured critique groups where a writer can get immediate feedback on their work. Sharon was discussing the inspiration that may be found through a writing group, and one thing she said particularly caught my ear:

“Sometimes the creative collective is enough to spur you on.” 

When I listened to Sharon’s interview about the power of a writing group, it reinforced for me what a gift it is to surround yourself with that support.

It got me thinking of my own experience. I’ve been with the same critique group for the past six years, and I consider that the decision to join was the best one I made for improving my craft.

The group is called Writing Is Hard Work. Though it perfectly captures a writing truth, it is not the catchiest of names, we all admit, but it does state what we do. If one was looking for a perfunctory pat on the back every time they strung together a grammatically correct sentence, this isn’t the group for them. No, our goal was to hone in on the weakness of the piece being examined to help the author strengthen their story.

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“Reynolds-Garrick between tragedy and comedy” by Joshua Reynolds – [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

And the discussion has never been boring. Some of our members have developed into budding thespians who dramatize exactly why a scene doesn’t work. Trust me, those performances stay with you. Over time, we could hear each other’s voices in our heads when we were heading down the same rabbit hole that didn’t work the first time. Sure, we’d offer praise when praise was due, and sometimes we did have to remind ourselves to focus on what was working with as much relish as what wasn’t working so as to help the author replicate their success.

Even though the feedback was direct and at times brutal, amazingly enough, I never left those evenings feeling discouraged. Instead, I’d feel revitalized and encouraged by their support, determined to rethink my story. They challenged me to dig deeper, and we all learned from each other’s mistakes. They also kept me writing.

The key, I believe, is the difference between constructive and detrimental feedback. The former has your improvement at heart, while the latter (intentionally or not) cripples your ability to continue writing.

Here are some thoughts on what makes for a constructive critique group:

  • They will give you space to explore what is wrong with your piece. Of course they will make suggestions for improvement, but there is an explicit understanding that you are the author and only you will know how to fix it. A healthy group will encourage discussions to explore what isn’t working. Think of Neil Gaiman’s advice: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” I keep this in mind all the time, and Neil is always right.
  • Holds your piece to the fire, not your feet. Writers are more likely to accept criticism and be open to suggestions when they’re delivered non-confrontationally and with respect. No good will ever be come of nailing the other writer to the wall or belittling them. Instead, they’ll simply shut down. There is a fine between being direct and crushing.
  • Considers the skill level of the writer. Some writers are at different stages in their development and when delivering feedback, it best to tailor your feedback to what the other writer can reasonably work on. It really doesn’t help to inundate a new writer with everything that they need to fix at once. Perhaps they have to work on the most pressing items, and when they have mastered that, drill down further on how to add those extra layers.
  • Inspires trust. At times, it’s hard to be honest with another writer, worrying that you will crush them. It’s easier to say that the piece was an enjoyable read but this won’t help that author improve. A thorough critique will attempt to drill down and examine the work from different angles. The group exists to help everyone improve, and the circle won’t work if there is no trust between members. If you don’t feel the group has your best interests at heart or they aren’t truly rooting for you, then there is no trust, and you should find a new group. It works both ways. Be honest and respectful.

Not every critique group works. Even ours didn’t work for many authors who decided to take a break and never made it back to us. You have to go where you feel encouraged, not discouraged. Also, it’s best to find a group where the members are mostly at the same level as you are and who like to read your genre.

And to leave you with what inspired me, here is the link to Sharon Overend’s interview on CBC Radio One. The link includes the full program, but if you jump to the 10:08 mark, you’ll get right to Sharon’s part. I hope this inspires you too!

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Featured banner image attribution:
(c) Can Stock Photo / bradcalkins

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Author Spotlight: Richard Buxton

Richard Buxton

I first “bumped” into historical fiction author Richard Buxton on the blog tour circuit. His novel, Whirligig, came out around the time as mine and, coincidentally, both novels dealt with civil war, though his tackled the American Civil War. I found it ironic that we were both interested in the war across the pond instead of the one closest to home. In my case, it would be my neighbour’s war, but still close enough.

When the Historical Novel Society (HNS) anthology, Distant Echoes, came out, I recognized Richard’s name amongst the contributors, and I was keen to finally read his work. I found his short story Disunion moving and heartbreaking, and it lingered with me long after I finished reading the last word.

I’ve invited Richard today to talk about Disunion and the inspiration behind his piece. Welcome Richard!


Q-2Tell us about some of the research that went into writing Disunion.

Richard: My approach for birthing short stories is to visit somewhere I’m interested in, preferably alone, mooch around for a day or two and see what stories emerge. Usually this means combining several places that fascinate me. Disunion was born of three days spent variously in the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville and in the Cades Cove section of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I had serendipitously sat in a train seat opposite the museum president, Joe Emert, on a previous trip. We got talking and when I returned to Tennessee the following year, Joe not only showed me around Cades Cove but also set me up a tour of the museum with the Director Cherel Henderson. Cherel, in turn, looked out a stack of letters and books from their archive that she thought would interest me. So essentially, my research was based on the generosity of strangers who have now become friends.


Q-2

Your story, Disunion, is about a family who refuses to take sides in the American Civil War. Most writers already have a side they would favour (or at least want to explore). What made you decide on this approach?

Richard: Essentially to illustrate how impossible it became for those who didn’t want to choose sides. They suffered just the same. The character of Zach is based on Alfred Greene of Hancock County. Greene hid in the hills just as Zach did to avoid having to fight. When he returned one night to visit his wife and child, he was killed by three neighbours, members of the Jones family. Greene’s bullet-ridden shirt is on display at the museum in Knoxville. The killing contributed to (or initiated, depending on which folklore you believe) a bloody feud that ran between the families for decades after the war.


Q-2You’ve also chosen to tell this story in the second person, present tense. I have to say I did not notice either the first time I read it – the narrative swept me away. Why did you choose this structure?

Richard: On the trolley of books and original letters looked out for me by Cherel Henderson at the East Tennessee Museum was a book called ‘A Very Violent Rebel’, the civil war diary of Ellen Renshaw House. Ellen was an ardent Confederate supporting the South and her diary is anything but neutral, but what a strong voice! Confederates and Unionists were both persecuted in Eastern Tennessee depending on which side held sway. Ellen’s voice stayed with me, but my narrator has a husband so I felt it would be much more poignant if she was addressing him. And present tense just seems to work better to instil tension. With past tense it’s all over and therefore safe, with present tense it’s still happening and the readers’ heartrate lifts a beat.


Q-2Historical Fiction often draws parallels between the present and the past. Is this true of your story, and if so, how?

Richard: So this is the nub of the story and of my experience in Tennessee. The day I spent in the archives of the Museum of Eastern Tennessee was the 23rd of June 2016. Full of new facts and full of Ellen House’s voice I returned to my motel in Gatlinburg and watched the Brexit result come in. Tennessee left the Union by a democratic vote though in Eastern Tennessee the majority wanted to stay. All that trouble and strife, all that disunion, ushered in by democracy and here was that prospect again in my own country. I was already well schooled in the Civil War, in the cost when political structures break down: in the case of the American Civil War, approaching three-quarters of a million lives. Disunion is rarely without a heavy cost no matter what the cause. The parallels were just screaming at me and the next day, Joe took me around Cades Cove, a community in the hills that would have been thriving before the war and would have had nothing to do with its outbreak far away. The cove’s churches and schools and graveyards are preserved but the community was pushed out when the Smoky National Park came into being. It’s a great place to imagine the past. When I returned to England in the aftermath of the Brexit vote there was that same discord, that same pressure to choose sides that was in Eastern Tennessee so long ago. It wasn’t so much a story that I invented, more one that was flung at my feet.


Q-2You are an English author who writes about the American Civil War. Why not the English Civil War? What is it about the American Civil War conflict that speaks to you?

Richard: Moving to the English Civil War would certainly save on airfares. I suspect that there is something exotic about a foreign land that we just don’t see in our own. Also there is something about the proximity. The American Civil War finished 150 years ago and is still in ‘handmedown’ range, word of mouth stories passed over just a few generations. It has great relevance for the 20th century and for now. Also, aside from a couple of battlefield visits, I am not well schooled on the English Civil War, a fact I hope to put right by reading your own novel.

I often ask myself what speaks to me about the American Civil War. I don’t know that I’ve ever provided myself with a satisfactory answer. I went to America as a student, an impressionable time. I always love to go back. When I started to read about the war in my late twenties I was amazed at the sheer scale, the long marches across the states, the larger than life characters. That war is many things but it’s rife with ambition, the same ambition and desire and bravery that drove Americans into the west, no matter the cost to themselves or to the Native Americans. I began to see that without understanding the war you can’t really understand the America of today. Most of my short stories relate to the war but are usually set afterwards, right up to the present, and try in one way or another to follow the echoes of that conflict. From the same three days, I conceived another story set in the war’s aftermath and that tries to illustrate how long it took for people to re-establish their lives after the war. For me ‘Distant Echoes’ could have been a title for my own collection, which is provisionally called ‘In the Shadow of the Mountain.’


Richard Buxton grew up in Wales but has lived in Sussex for the last thirty years. He is a 2015 graduate of the Creative Writing Masters programme at Chichester University. He studied in America during his twenties and tries to return there as often as he can for research and inspiration. His writing successes include winning the Exeter Story Prize, the Bedford International Writing Competition and the Nivalis Short Story award.

His US Civil War novel, Whirligig, was longlisted for the 2015 HNS award, and since self-publication this spring has been shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award. He is busy working on the next novel in the trilogy, The Copper Road. He would welcome publication interest in his novels or in his short story collection, In the Shadow of the Mountain, which was recently a finalist in the Sunshot Prose Award.

Connect with Richard through his website (richardbuxton.net), Twitter (@richardbuxton65) and Facebook.

 

 

Whirligig is available for purchase through Amazon (click here), and Battle Town is also available through Amazon (click here).

Disunion is published in Distant Echoes by Corazon books and is available as an eBook through Amazon (click here).

About Distant Echoes

Gripping and thought-provoking stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society.

A new anthology of nineteen award-winning and acclaimed historical fiction short stories.

Distant Echoes brings you vivid voices from the past. This haunting anthology explores love and death, family and war. From the chilling consequences of civil and world war, to the poignant fallout from more personal battles, these stories will stay with you long after the last page.

This selection of winning and shortlisted stories from recent Historical Novel Society writing awards includes The House of Wild Beasts by Anne Aylor (winner of the Historical Novel Society Short Story Award 2014), Salt by Lorna Fergusson (winner of the HNSLondon14 Short Story Award) and Fire on the Water by Vanessa Lafaye (winner of the HNSOxford16 Short Story Award).


If you enjoyed this interview and wish to hear about another contributor to Distant Echoes and their inspiration, check out my author spotlights:

Media Attribution: 

Banner (Image of Cades Cove, East Tennessee): Dallas Epperson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Guest Post by Tony Morgan: What if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded?

Today, I welcome Tony Morgan, another 17th century enthusiast. Tony writes historical speculative fiction set during the early Stuart era, specifically around the time of the Gunpowder Plot.

Tony’s first book, Remember, Remember the 6th of November, was a reimagining of the 5th of November Gunpowder plot. If you are interested in learning more about his debut novel, check out this guest post, titled “The Gunpowder Plot” (click here).  Tony’s follow up novel, 1617, recently came out and picks up twelve years later.

Join me in welcoming Tony Morgan who discusses how the history of England might have changed had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded.


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This guest blog explores what may have happened if the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 had been successful. Many believe England would have slipped into a deadly civil war between Protestant and Catholic factions. After all, this is exactly what happened across much of the rest of Europe in the 17th Century.

If the attack on the opening of Parliament had been successful, Protestant King James I and his sons, Princes Henry and Charles, would have been killed, along with many other leading establishment figures of the day.

But what would have become of the plotters led by Robert Catesby? Most (excluding Guy Fawkes) had left London by November 4th, with a dual plan of action. Firstly, they intended to start a popular Catholic uprising in the Midlands, rippling into other areas with strong Catholic sympathies such as Wales and the North. Perhaps, they hoped, they’d even get military support from Spain, despite the recently signed peace treaty. The second aspect of Catesby’s strategy was to kidnap the nine-year-old Princess Elizabeth, the elder of King James Stuart’s daughters, convert her to her mother’s religion of Catholicism and eventually place her on the throne of a new Catholic England.

However, irrespective of what was going on in London, things didn’t go to plan for Catesby and his fellow conspirators. They were now hunted men. There was to be no uprising and Princess Elizabeth remained at liberty. The plotters were pursued by militia, cornered, most killed and the few others captured. Fawkes was tortured in the Tower of London and eventually confessed.

King James lived on. Supported by his Secretary of State and spymaster general Robert Cecil, he renewed the clampdown on Catholic dissidents and the “recusants” who refused to attend compulsory Church of England services. A Catholic minority survived but England became increasingly a Protestant dominated nation.

What may have happened if Parliament and the King had been destroyed? Catesby and the other conspirators would still have been killed. No doubt there would have been reprisals on both sides but did the vast majority brought low by plague and poor harvests have the stomach for a civil war? Hopefully not. Perhaps the country would have sought a different path.

Eventually Princess Elizabeth would have become Queen. In this parallel time-line she wouldn’t have married Frederick of Palatine and become the “Winter” Queen of Bohemia for less than a year. She would have been the Queen of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Most likely she’d have retained her Protestant religion but her advisors may have recognised the importance of unity in avoiding civil war and/or seeing off potential invasion from Spain or France. In these circumstances Queen Elizabeth II could have introduced a policy of religious tolerance, where the Church of England remained Protestant but people were free to worship in the church of their choice.

The country could have become a shining beacon against the dark clouds of religion-fuelled war which were descending over the rest of Europe. There would have been dissenters. There always are. Puritan Protestant and Jesuit Catholic extremists, agents from enemy nations such as Spain or France, all would have wished to undermine such a stance, unseat and potentially assassinate the young queen.

In addition, Elizabeth would have needed to put right wrongs in her own kingdom across the water in Ireland where her father’s policies of “plantation” had given Protestant settlers too much power over the indigenous Catholic population. An envoy would be needed who could start the peace process to bring about the beginning of an end to the ongoing troubles there.

The history surrounding the Gunpowder Plot was the setting for my debut novel “Remember, Remember the 6th of November”.

The discussion above is the historical backdrop to my second book “1617”. In this story Queen Elizabeth selects Sir Everard Digby to be her peace envoy but he’s a man with a secret past she must never discover.

Digby travels to Ireland and faces shipwreck, attack from both sides and unwanted attentions from a Puritan assassin, whilst in London a plot is hatched against the Queen by an unholy alliance of Puritans and Jesuits. Both groups are manipulated by a deadly French female spymistress, Linda Blanchet, who has her own reasons for wanting Digby dead. With all this happening can Queen Elizabeth and religious tolerance survive?

I hope many readers enjoy finding out about the times of the 17th Century, the places and most of all the people as much as I did writing about them.


About 1617

Final Book Cover 1617

What might have happened if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded…

Queen Elizabeth has transformed England into a centre for religious tolerance but conflict is brewing across Europe and there are continued troubles in Ireland. A peace envoy is needed. Sir Everard Digby appears the perfect choice but he’s a man with a secret past which the Queen must never discover…

Where to find Tony Morgan’s books

1617 is available in Kindle through Amazon here.

Remember, Remember the 6th of November is available in Kindle and Paperback through Amazon here.


Tony Morgan is a Welsh author living in North Yorkshire in the UK, near to the birth place of Guy Fawkes. His books have been described as a perfect read for lovers of the works of C.J. Sansom and S. J. Parris and anyone interested in how historic events have shaped our own times.

Connect with Tony through his website (6thnovember.com) and Twitter (@MorgantheBook)

 

 

Posted in 17th century, Author Spotlights | 3 Comments

From swashbucklers and witchfinders to radicals and whores – the best of the 17th Century on the screen

Here’s a great list of 17th century inspired films curated by The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote that I wanted to pass along. Some I’ve seen and fully endorse. Alatriste, for example, is as well done as the Earl’s Regiment states (and bonus: Viggo acts in flawless Spanish!). Others I haven’t yet seen but have always wanted to. Time to start tracking those down.

When the nights get long and cold, you know what I’ll be doing this winter.
If you’ve watched any of these films, let me know which one and what you thought of it.

The Earl of Manchester's Regiment of Foote blog

From continental wars and revolutions to major advances in science and political ideas, the upheaval and conflict of the 17th Century produced many stories that filmmakers have attempted to retell on the big and small screen.

While ancient Rome and Edwardian country manors have always been more popular settings with audiences, the era of Cavaliers and Roundheads has not been without its own collection of films and television serials.

In the first of a two-part feature about the 17th Century on the screen, our member David Rowlinson takes a look at ten of the very best…

1) The Moonraker (1958)

Very much a part of the height of the swashbuckler era of filmmaking, The Moonraker tells the story of a mysterious Royalist hero on a mission to smuggle Prince Charles out of England after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester before Oliver Cromwell (played by Dad’s Army’s John…

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Author Spotlight: Christopher Cevasco and a new HNS anthology

CevascoPhotoI had the pleasure of meeting Christopher Cevasco at the 2015 Historical Novel Society (HNS) conference in Denver. At that time, Christopher’s era of interest was Early Medieval, but I later learned that his literary interests are quite diverse and eclectic. During the following year’s conference in Oxford, Christopher’s story, THE HAPPY ISLAND, was short-listed for the 2016 HNS Short Story Contest. The story is set in the 1800s and deals with Shanawdithit, the last surviving member of the Beothuk people of Newfoundland.

THE HAPPY ISLAND was selected to appear in an anthology titled Distant Echoes, published by Corazon books, which will be released on September 25, 2017.

I’m particularly interested in this story given than I’m from Canada, and exploring Newfoundland (also known as The Rock) has been on my bucket list for ages. It’s the only Atlantic province I haven’t been to. I look forward to experiencing this rocky, wild island through Christopher’s story.

In the meantime, Christopher has stopped by to chat about his inspiration and research for THE HAPPY ISLAND. Welcome Christopher… 


Q-2

You write fiction inspired by history, but your many credits include a touch of horror or fantastical. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Christopher: Yes, more often than not, I’m drawn to history when I write, so most of my stories are set in the past. Most of the time I also find my stories taking a decidedly dark or weird turn, such that when the story is finished it feels more like dark fantasy or horror than anything else. I think this is probably because I’m less drawn to the stories of people’s interaction with other people than I am to people’s interaction with some intangible force such as mortality or inner demons or spirituality (or the lack thereof). I’m interested in exploring characters who are struggling to find their own place in the world or who are undergoing a crisis of faith or conscience or who seek to reconcile themselves to seemingly overwhelming obstacles or crushing defeat or great loss. All or most of these subjects tend to get a bit dark. Which is not to say my stories don’t also feature hope or beauty or joy, but the end result is more likely to find a home in a venue publishing dark fiction.


Q-2Your story in the anthology is about the woman Shanawdithit, the last surviving member of the Beothuk people from Newfoundland. What inspired you to write this story?

Christopher: I was inspired by the true personal story of Shanawdithit. Although it ultimately contributed to their collective demise, her people remained fiercely true to their cultural ideals, passively and sometimes actively resisting assimilation in a way that helped preserve their historical legacy. Because of Shanawdithit’s own personal strengths and contributions, particularly the drawings of scenes and artifacts and geography she made in her final years, we know more about the Beothuk today than we do about many other indigenous North American cultures that went extinct after contact with Europeans or with other encroaching indigenous peoples.


Q-2Tell us about some of the research that went into writing Shanawdithit’s story.

Christopher: My most important resource was the body of preserved sketches mentioned above–drawings made by Shanawdithit’s own hand–which provide an important insight into the way her mind worked, those things that were important to her, etc. I was already familiar with some indigenous Arctic cultures, particularly with the extinct Tuniit/Dorset people who thrived in Greenland and elsewhere before being displaced by the Inuit and to a lesser extent with the Sámi culture as it existed in northern Norway during the 11th century; I’ve written stories and novels featuring both. But this was the first time I’d written anything about the Beothuk, so I also needed to educate myself on what was known of their culture through various archaeological studies. To add realistic color to my scenes of Beothuk life, I also made a careful study of the flora and fauna of Newfoundland as it would have existed in the early 19th century. Then, for my story’s bizarre but true coda, I found I had to educate myself on the particular types of bombs being dropped on specific locations at specific times during the London Blitz!


Q-2Historical fiction often reflects the commonalities between the modern world and the past. Is this true for your story, and if so, what are the themes that reflect the present?

Christopher: The struggle to preserve cultural identity is one of the important themes in my story and is something that continues to take many forms today. We see it in questions about cultural appropriation of traditions, fashion, and symbols, in the wholesale destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, in the resistance against ongoing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the U.S., and in the efforts to preserve vanishing regional languages and dialects such as Irish Gaelic and Genoese, to name just a handful.


Q-2How does your setting influence your character?

Christopher: The Beothuk changed to adapt to the loss of their coastal environment when the European settlers on Newfoundland pushed them inland. The food they ate changed, their ceremonies and traditions and forms of construction had to change; all of these changes brought with them an unavoidable change in perspective and mindset. On a more personal level, Shanawdithit lived the first part of her life in a more natural setting among her own people and the final years of her life in a more Euro-centric domestic setting. Forced to navigate her way between these worlds both constrained the choices available to her and allowed her opportunities to creatively adapt. She never gave up on her own culture entirely and seemed to find subtle ways of asserting her selfhood even when utterly isolated from her origins; I wanted to illuminate this inner strength and resourcefulness in my story.


About DISTANT ECHOES

21641190_1007936026013115_2134195830907754876_o

Gripping and thought-provoking stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society.

A new anthology of nineteen award-winning and acclaimed historical fiction short stories.

Distant Echoes brings you vivid voices from the past. This haunting anthology explores love and death, family and war. From the chilling consequences of civil and world war, to the poignant fallout from more personal battles, these stories will stay with you long after the last page.

This selection of winning and shortlisted stories from recent Historical Novel Society writing awards includes The House of Wild Beasts by Anne Aylor (winner of the Historical Novel Society Short Story Award 2014), Salt by Lorna Fergusson (winner of the HNSLondon14 Short Story Award) and Fire on the Water by Vanessa Lafaye (winner of the HNSOxford16 Short Story Award).

Available as an eBook through these online stores: Amazon UK, Amazon USAmazon CAAmazon AUS

If you enjoyed this interview and wish to hear about another contributor to Distant Echoes and their inspiration, check out my author spotlight:


Christopher M. Cevasco writes fiction inspired by history. He is a 2006 graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and a 2007 graduate of Taos Toolbox. Chris was also the founding editor of the award-winning PARADOX: THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORICAL AND SPECULATIVE FICTION from 2003 to 2009. His own short fiction has appeared in such venues as NIGHTMARE MAGAZINE, BLACK STATIC, and the Prime Books anthologies SHADES OF BLUE AND GRAY: GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL WAR and ZOMBIES: SHAMBLING THROUGH THE AGES. He is seeking representation for a recently completed novel of murder and political mayhem in Viking-ravaged England as well as for both a psychological thriller about Lady Godiva and a novel of English resistance and rebellion in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest. After eleven years living in Brooklyn, NY, Chris and his wife now live in Myrtle Beach, SC, with their two children. For more about Chris, please visit www.christophermcevasco.com.

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Ours To Know: Omniscient Voice and the Divine Arrogance of It

Today, I welcome Gonzo author, A.B Funkhauser to the blog to discuss her favourite point of view style, the omniscient voice. For those who aren’t familiar with ‘Gonzo’, I like to think of it as Noir humour.

If you’re a writer, you’ll know all about the point of view options we use to tell our story. The omniscient point of view was the mainstay of literature for centuries up until more recent times when it fell to the victim of the dreaded ‘writing rules’.

Recently, writers have been challenging this ‘rule’, given that some of the best literature in history was written with an omniscient voice. Some authors, like A.B have unapologetically bucked the trend from day one.

A.B Funkhauser is the author of Heuer Lost and Found, Scooter Nation, and her latest, brand new release Shell Game comes out today from Solstice Publishing. You’ll find an excerpt immediately following this article to whet your appetite.

Take it away, A.B!


seven years

If you are like me, then you like to be “in” on things before the masses catch up. Don’t apologize. Most of us are this way. Whether it’s a sale or a hot real estate tip, we like to be there first. We like to know before the others do.

And that is what omniscient voice is all about.

Omniscient, the Oxford Dictionary tells us, originates from the “early 17th century medieval Latin omniscient–‘all-knowing’, based on scire* ‘to know’.”[1] In literature, it means eye in the sky, unseen thing, or, my favorite, the essential ‘tell’.

Shakespeare made regular use of ‘asides’ through foils that happily co-conspired with the audience. Netflix and co-producers Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey do the same thing with HOUSE OF CARDS. In both cases, characters speak directly to us imparting sensitive information from behind the backs of others. The omniscient narrator does this too, and we feel privileged for it, not just because it gives us a first class ticket to the front row, but also foreknowledge that plays on another of human nature’s guilty pleasures: the Schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is one of those nifty German words that sums up in a few vowels and consonants, an idea that would take far more than 140 characters in the English language to convey. To wit: it is a “pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune.”[2] Weird, yes, but who doesn’t love to see the underdog triumph at the expense of a conniving rube before it happens? I certainly do.

Let’s face it: sometimes a writer needs to say it to get on with it.

The unseen thing or eye in the sky can move seamlessly from pleasant distraction (the dulcet tones of the late Joanne Woodward as she narrates us gently through the tony parlors of America’s 1 per cent in the film THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993) ) to the Dickensian essential tell: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, etc., etc., etc…”

Whether used for comedic purposes or to set a scene where suspense or angst clearly follows, the omniscient voice is a handy companion to both writer and reader because it is a fellow traveler that does the driving. Passengers get to the appropriate destination every time:

“…And there was The Soldier, a southerner, an ex-Green Beret who’d got rich in Vietnam and brought his money north. He’d have too much to drink like he always did and start drawing parallels between north and south and rich and poor and the indigenous and the transplanted.

And that’s when someone would take offence.”[3]

There’s no hidden trick to writing omniscient, though there are probably a few useful “how to’s” out there that will gladly hint at it. For me, omniscient is a happy accident born out of too much black and white television and an above average amount of Thomas Hardy growing up.

Reader or writer, lover or hater, omniscient is a device. Like others, it is subject to fashion in the same way poor semi-colon is, for example. Omniscient voice, I’m told, is no longer de rigueur. It is ‘old,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘confusing,’ and just not done in the 21st Century.

But draw closer. I’ll let you in on a secret: Read a lot, watch the tube, and then listen for that strange music that gives you an added advantage. You know that sound. It’s right there in the room with you right next to the elephant.

Adult, unapologetic and all for omniscient,

I am

A.B. Funkhauser

*English legal blah, blah, blah concerning writs and facias that have nothing to do with heel pain. (If you get the joke, then congrats are in order—you’re “in on it.”

[1] Google, of course.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Heuer Effect, coming Fall 2018.


Introducing A.B Funkhauser’s new release: Shell Game

SHELL GAME COVER 1

From the award-winning author of HEUER LOST AND FOUND and SCOOTER NATION and brought to you by Solstice Publishing…

SHELL GAME

Carlos the Wonder Cat lives free, traveling from house to house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Known by everyone, his idyllic existence is threatened when a snarky letter from Animal Control threatens to punish kitty owners who fail to keep their pets indoors. The $5,000 fine / loss of kitty to THE MAN is draconian and mean, but before Team Carlos can take steps, he is kidnapped by a feline fetishist sex cult obsessed with the films of eccentric Pilsen Güdderammerüng. Stakes are high. Even if Carlos escapes their clutches, can he ever go home?

SHELL GAME is the third novel in the Unapologetic Lives Series. Funkhauser’s previous works won the 2015 Preditors and Editors Award for Best Horror, the 2016 Summer Indie Book Award for Best Humor, and the 2016 New Apple E-Book Award for Best Horror and Best Humor.

Excerpt

“You know why I’m here?” she asked, feeling shy.

He smiled broadly, making her feel self-conscious. She averted her eyes.

“Poonie, darlin.’ I have no idea why you’re here. It wasn’t the question I was expecting.”

She buried her nose in her cup, pondering ways to get out of the hole she’d just dug. After a lengthy silence, she decided to go for it, hoping that she was speaking to a broader mind.

“I was looking for Zoltan. He and I—you know—became something of an item—you know—while you were gone…um. It’s all buggered up. I mean, I buggered it up. I was pretending to be something I’m not, and I—”

Bill took the cup out of her hand and stole a sip, something quite unexpected, but ground-breaking.

“You don’t have to explain anything to me, my dear. I should probably explain a thing or two to you.”

Poonam held her breath. Did Bill Caley know about his wife and her husband?

He took a deep breath, let it out, and took a seat opposite her. Then he took her hand. “It was wrong of me to do to you what I did. But Bronagh was so bloody insistent. She’s a good woman. She was a good woman. And then she kinda lost her way.”

“Bill!” It was the only thing she could think to say.

“Let me finish. The renovation I could easily blame on her. Say it was all her idea. But the truth is, I wanted it too. I thought it would bring us closer. I never thought about what all the dust and noise would do to you, especially after you’d lost Sikander.”

She hung her head.

“I’m sorry. ‘Lost’ is such a stupid word, but I’m not good at these things. Neither of us is, which is why we dodged the funeral and you.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m managing.”

“It’s not okay, my darlin.’ It’s not. Your mummy gave me right and proper shit for not seeing what was going on in front of me. I’m so sorry.”

He was clueless. Now it was Poonie’s turn to not know what to say and say something anyway. “Bill, what are you doing in Zoltan’s trailer?”

“Ah, there’s the rub,” he said. “The rub. You know it? Shakespeare used it all the time.” He pulled his hair back into a pony tail with a multi-colored scrunchie—one of Lou’s, she guessed—but in Zoltan’s world, one couldn’t be sure. “I’m here because I’m apart.”

She reached for the shared cocoa cup. “A part? You’ve joined the collective?”

“No, no. You misunderstand. I’ve grown apart—from my wife.”

Poonie nodded. “The rub.”

“Yes! No! She’s rubbed me the wrong way—yes. But this time, something else has happened. I’ve grown apart. I’ve grown apart from my life.”

Poonie thought of Sikander’s pre-deceased wanderlust. “It seems to be epidemic around here.”

They talked for several minutes: the man, uttering the usual platitudes about it ‘never being too late;’ she, about her own kind of homespun wisdom designed to get to a point.

“The renovation has stopped?”

“Yes,” he said. “Bronie’s Irish pension had its limits, I guess.”

Poonie nodded, coming out of a thought. “I never had a foreign pension. I was born overseas, but I left when I was young.”

“I don’t have one either,” he chuckled. “And neither did Bronagh. Came out of the blue.” He cracked his large knuckles. “I gotta hand it to her for going after it. I don’t have that kind of patience.”

“Neither do I,” Poonie said, lying.

Nothing comes out of the blue, least of all, a pile of money.


Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it. A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”

Funkhauser’s debut novel, Heuer Lost and Found, is the winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, is the winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and the winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016.

Contact with A.B. Funkhauser through her website, www.abfunkhauser.com, Twitter (@IAMFunkhauser)  and Amazon (click here).

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