Category: historical fiction (Page 1 of 2)

Guest posts round-up

I’ve been guest posting on various blogs to spread the word about Evangeline and the Spiritualist. Take a look at my posts below.

 

Evangeline and the Spiritualist – out NOW!

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of Evangeline and the Spiritualist – Episode 3 of The Antics of Evangeline. Available from today at Amazon.

A sarcophagus, séances and seed cake, Evangeline is back with another adventure.

Mrs Picklescott-Smythe’s mummy unwrapping soiree doesn’t quite go to plan, and for once it’s not Evangeline’s fault. 

Evangeline is a seventeen-year-old ex-urchin and aspiring world-famous inventress, recently resettled in Marvellous Melbourne with her long lost father, the Professor.

It’s the infamous spiritualist, Madame Zsoldas, who interrupts the party with a sinister warning and she is not the only who feels something strange.

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Birching, medieval peasant life & Norse names: random writing research

I’m in the midst of Nanowrimo and closing in on 50k. Hoorah! I dip into research as I write and so I thought I’d share a few random links for interesting things I’ve researched during the past few days. My Nanowrimo manuscript is fantasy, so I’m going all medieval on your arse.

Birching

The use of birch rods for punishment and birches were always my favourite tree. I now look at them in a different way.

birch-245533_640

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Interview with Annelisa Christensen – the Popish Midwife

I do love a bit of historical fiction and today, I’m talking with UK author, Annelisa Christensen. Some might know her from the weekly writers’ game, #1linewed, and some might know her from her blog, Script Alchemy, but she’s hoping that we’ll get to know her as the author of her debut novel The Popish Midwife: A tale of high treason, prejudice and betrayal.

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Why I write steampunk?

In my last post, I proposed my own pithy definition of steampunk.

But why does steampunk appeal to me? Why do I write steampunk?

airship-800px

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Writer’s Residence in a Scottish Castle – interview with Margaret Skea

Hmm…who would like the opportunity to write for a month in a Scottish castle?

Um…me.

So when I heard that Margaret Skea – fabulous historical fiction writer – had secured a residency at Hawthornden Castle, I was overcome with jealousy.

I caught up with Margaret after her experience and she shares a glimpse into the writing fellowship program at Hawthornden Castle as well as the imposed periods of silence, broken boilers in February and eating porridge from a pewter bowl.

Hawthornden Castle

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Recent reads – Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain

After I finished reading Merivel: A Man of his Time by Rose Tremain, I read a review on The Guardian website. A commenter described Merivel perfectly. He/she described Merivel as “an arse.” And that’s exactly what he is. A bumbling, pompous, foppish buffoon of a man. But also completely hilarious.

I can’t remember the last time I chuckled so much throughout a book. I was not expecting such a funny book. I laughed along with Merivel with his complete lack of self awareness and self-obsession. I’ve not read Tremain’s first Merivel novel, Restoration, I just picked up this book at a sale and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Merivel is a 17th century doctor and friend to the King (or perhaps more like the King’s fall guy/idiot friend). Merivel is filled with melancholy and middle aged angst, spending his time moping around his manor house, until he decides to try his luck in Versailles with the French King. By happenstance, he meets a wealthy Swiss aristocratic botanist and follows her back to her mansion in Paris to become her plaything until the husband comes home. Then Merivel’s daughter becomes ill and he rushes home to tend to her. On the way, he saves a bear from death and transports it back to Norwich.

This sounds like a romp and it is but the book is wholly more literary than I’m giving it credit for. And there’s quite a bit of sex.

I was impressed and awed by Tremain’s characterisation of Merivel, a big well-rounded character, raw and embarrassing, yet poignant. A character I will not forget.

If you like literary historical fiction with fools, sex and bears. This is a book for you.

www.theonlywayisreading,files.wordpress.com

Recent Reads – The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

It’s historical mystery time. The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch is a cracking fun read, filled with action and fight scenes. Plus I learned some stuff about 17th century hangmen.

The Dark Monk is set during a particularly grim winter in Bavaria. The local foppish medic, Simon, is assisting his father to cure an outbreak of influenza, while the local hangman Jacob is dealing with highwaymen. His feisty daughter, Magdalena, is having a tryst with Simon, although relations with the hangman’s daughter are frowned upon by the local community.

The local church is under renovations and the opening scene finds the death of the parish priest. Did he overindulge on honey cakes or was he poisoned? Prior to his death, he sent a mysterious letter to his sister. He had made a discovery in the renovations. What has he found? Why are there three monks in dark habits roaming around?

The pace of this novel is fast, the characters interesting and rounded with great strong females in Magdalena and the dead priest’s sister, Benedikta. But what I found most compelling was the detail of the background of 17th century rural Germany and the role of the local hangman in the community, as both the executioner and local healer. This was all new fascinating information to me.

All in all, I can recommend The Dark Monk for people who like fast paced mysteries with some education on the side.

Recent Reads – The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

I’m on a real historical fiction jaunt and my most recently finished novel is The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. Originally published in 1982, this was re-released in 2013 with additional author notes.

This is the re-telling of the story of Richard III, a large monstrous figure, who Penman feels was wrongly treated by history and this is her version of the events. I’m no history buff (which makes my sudden penchant for historical event even stranger, more on that later) and had little more than a passing knowledge of Richard III and his story – his caricature as a deformed Machiavellian king. I came to this story with an open mind and went along for the ride. And it was a rollicking ride over 1,200 pages, keeping my interest along the whole way. Others with pre-conceived ideas about the “real” Richard III may not have as much fun as I did. With her excellent storytelling, I could suspend my disbelief and go along with Penman’s tale of a man betrayed by his friends and history.

The novel starts in 1459 and is split into four books; Edward, Anne, Lord of the North, Richard by the Grace of God.

I was surprised how two-thirds of the novel was devoted to the reign of his brother, Edward. Perhaps this build-up was what kept my interest, I was waiting to find out what happened when Richard actually became King. The battle scenes are lively and colourful, providing great insight into the battle strategy and the bloodiness of medieval wars. The politics and alliances are wild and tempestuous, outstripping any of the political shenanigans in modern day.

I struggled occasionally with the names of the characters but this is where the facts constrain the author. There were far too many Edwards, Georges, Johns and Richards. Then titles were awarded, then stripped. Who is Earl of Warwick now? Those medieval people needed more variety in their names.

The female characters were strong, from the equally evil Marguerite d’Anjou to Elizabeth Woodville and Richard’s own mother, Cecily Neville. The book highlighting the influence of strong women in the shadows and mainly left out of history. My interest waned a little with the love stories, but I do have a heart of stone.

The book concludes with Penman’s author notes and a 2013 update following the discovery of Richard’s remains under a carpark in Leicester.

I highly recommend this book for great storytelling, pace and character. But I will leave the believability of Penman’s version of events up to you.

www.amazon.com

Now, why am I obsessed with historical fiction at the moment? My current theory is I enjoy exploring how well formed and believable characters respond to great moments in history. Seeing from a personal perspective makes the bigger historical events more real. As a reader, I have the benefit of dramatic irony and knowledge of what’s to come, I am better informed than the characters and I’m curious to see the effect on their lives and how they’ll react. In some part relating back to my own life and wondering how would I have responded if my husband was killed in battle and I had to seek sanctuary in a church, or if the Russians came into my town after WW2. I also learn a bit of history along the way.

Do you like historical fiction? Why does it resonate with you?

Recent reads – Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

It’s historical fiction time! I first picked up a Ken Follett book in a secondhand bookshop when travelling through Nicaragua. I was looking for a big thick saga to read by the pool and Pillars of the Earth ticked all the boxes. Follett has been a guilty pleasure ever since.

Edge of Eternity is the latest Ken Follett novel, the third in his Century series, continuing to follow families in Russia, Germany, the UK and the US from 1961 to 1989. This is another doorstopper of a book, running over 1,000 pages (yay Christmas holidays, otherwise this would have taken me months to read) but there’s an awful lot of history crammed inside.

I was entertained right to the end, keen to see how the characters reacted to the events of 1989, considering a significant amount of the book was set in Eastern Europe. These sections were particularly interesting to me. However Edge of Eternity is weaker than Follett’s previous novels. Many characters were thin with the focus more on the historical details. Tania, the Russian journalist, was one of the exceptions and Maria Summers, the African-American bureaucrat. Although at the end, Maria’s regrets had my feminist alarm bell ringing. I was also surprised there was no mention of Chernobyl, although I guess Follett could not have included everything, otherwise it would be a 2,000 page book.

All in all, not as good as Pillars of the Earth or Falls of Giants, but still entertaining enough to keep me gripped for 1,000 plus pages.

edge of eternity

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