Because it happened: How not to write historical fiction

When I started writing the first dirty draft of Traitor’s Knot, I was so focused on the details of the events, that I often neglected the human reaction to the drama. It’s understandable given that there is so much pressure to get the historical facts nailed. Historical fiction writers have the advantage of knowing what happened to their subjects, but sometimes that knowledge blunts the suspense. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for other genres, with perhaps the exception of memoire. Science fiction and fantasy–your imagination defines what or what doesn’t happen. Contemporary or romance, ditto. Thrillers? You guys are…

The Countess of Carlisle

This article was originally posted on the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) site on May 4th, 2017. For more in-depth articles on British history, visit the EHFA. You won’t be disappointed. One of the most intriguing characters in historical fiction is Milady de Winter of the Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas depicted her as a lethal spy whose loyalties were sold to the highest bidder, notably the Cardinal Richelieu. The inspiration for Milady was a socialite and renowned beauty of her day, Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle. Though Lucy was not an agent of Cardinal Richelieu, she held court at a…

Tudor House: 17th century life

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step back into the 17th century? Last summer, I had the pleasure of getting a guided tour of the English Civil War era landmarks in Weymouth by local historian, Mark Vine. What was then the twin towns of Weymouth and Melcombe, separated by the quayside and a bridge, today it’s simply Weymouth. One of the must see haunts is the Tudor House, a beautifully preserved Elizabethan home. It’s situated by Brewers Quay on the harbour, and if you account for the fact that the quayside has been expanded in modern…

Storytelling makes us human

Have you ever wondered what makes us special? I recently watched a Ted Talk, by Yuval Noah Harari, What explains the rise of humans, where he explores the basic question about what makes us human. Chimpanzees are our closest relative, sharing 99% of our DNA, and yet we are as different to them as the sun is to the moon. Why? According to Harari, humans differ from other animals because we can cooperate in large numbers and with great flexibility. How do we do this? Through our imagination. Animals use their language to describe objective reality; in contrast, humans exist in a “dual reality” consisting…

The Royalist Highwayman

Today marks the anniversary of the capture of Captain James Hind, infamous 17th century highwayman. Captain Hind served as the initial inspiration for my highwayman, in as far as he was a staunch royalist who became famous for targeting Roundheads. There was a great deal written about him around the time of his capture and years after his death. Most was fiction, though all of it was highly entertaining. This article was originally written for the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) and appeared on the blog a year ago. I thought it a fitting tribute to repost it here on this day….