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Tag: Historical novel
Guest Post and Book Spotlight – Historical Fiction – Never The Twain – Jane Fenwick
Brothels and Prostitutes by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby
Brothels and prostitution feature in the opening of my new book Never the Twain. Men have used prostitutes since time began. There is even one mentioned in that very famous book The Bible!
Prostitution has always been a way for women to support themselves when all other means of earning a living have been exhausted. Very few women would have chosen this path had another option been open to them. In Never the Twain identical twins April and May find themselves in the unenviable predicament of being sold into prostitution.
Never the Twain is set in 1890 a time when it is easy to forget that women had very few rights. Women were considered chattel and on marriage were passed from their father’s care to that of their husband. Women like April and May, the protagonists in Never the Twain, had no male protectors and so had to make their own way in the world. April and May, through no fault of their own, are sold into prostitution so their actress mother can be rid of them. The acting profession in Victorian times was regarded as only a step away from prostitution and so it is easy to see why the twins’ mother would place them in the care of a Madam.
Educated women were still rare and middle class educated women rarer still. Had they been impoverished vicars’ daughters they would have found it relatively easy to get positions as governesses or companions. However, without a letter of reference they would have struggled to gain respectable employment. The twins could have taken work in domestic service or shop work but April and May would have found such work low paid and demeaning. Without means or protection their options would have been limited and falling into the poverty trap was a risk to avoid at all costs; once you lost the roof over your head there was no social security to fall back on. Once their “mother” died April and May were very much on their own.
Each twin had a different solution to their dilemma but ultimately the solution they agreed upon led to dire consequences. April knew that although they were educated it would be difficult to find respectable positions though she was willing to try. However, she allowed her twin to convince her to enter the brothel as a way of buying time – they were assured they would be untouched until their eighteenth birthday. It was a decision they would both come to regret.
Every port and harbour had their fair share of prostitutes. In seafaring towns prostitution was especially rife. Men who had been at sea for months had needs and a range of options were available for them to choose from when they were back ashore depending on their tastes and budget. From tuppeny streetwalkers to those who worked the inns, taverns and bawdy houses. And then there were the higher class brothels such as the one in Never the Twain, Mrs Jansen’s establishment where the higher ranks of the seafaring community, as well as the local gentry, were catered for.
In Victorian times gentlemen of rank often married for reasons other than love. The aristocracy, and increasingly the newly emerging merchant classes, often married to improve their finances and position in society. They married to join two influential families together or to gain the dowry of an heiress. Couples often married to unite two prominent families where one provided a title and the other party supplied the money. These misalliances often resulted in some gentlemen seeking their pleasures elsewhere especially once their wives had produced an “heir and a spare”.
For some, using “high class” brothels as opposed to regular bawdy houses offered ‘respectability’ as the brothels were often well-appointed almost like a gentlemen’s club. The girls were also thought to be cleaner and accomplished in the art of seduction. However, I found from my research, that some gentlemen liked “a bit of rough” too on occasions and would purposely seek out women of the lower orders as something different, a thrill!
The Victorian period saw the rise of a new class; the middle or mercantile class. “New Money” was made from newly emerging industries and manufacturing. The industrial revolution made enterprising men rich. My male protagonists Edward and Alistair Driscoll would have been part of this growth of the Nouveau Riche. Their fortunes had been made in the past from the slave trade and from importing tobacco from the New World – in this instance from Virginia. Now they were dealing in imports and exports and were adding to their fortunes.
Mrs Jansen boasted that her whores were “free from disease” and “practised in the arts of seduction”, something most men of position would appreciate. Men like Captain Edward Driscoll – being from new money – would have been the mainstay of Velda Jansen’s provincial brothel. In a port such as Whitby where a whore could be bought cheaply by any passing sailor, Mrs Jansen’s brothel would have been the epitome of class – if you weren’t from London that is. Anything which could attract her more wealthy clients would have been a boon for the avaricious Madam. So when beautiful, identical twin virgins were offered to her she saw the guinea signs flash before her eyes. She knew a marketable commodity when she saw it and here were two beauties ready for the plucking.
Sometimes prostitutes are portrayed as being happy with their lot or “the tart with a heart” but the reality was seldom so straightforward or agreeable. The girls were effectively slaves and the Madams ruthless. You can probably guess what would happen to one of Mrs Jansen’s “clean girls” if she became infected by a punter or when she lost her looks. Her only choice would be to walk the streets for business. As a result her life span would be considerably shortened. A girl would put up with a lot to keep herself from plying her trade in the dangerous ginnels and inns of Whitby so whatever the punter wanted the punter invariably got. The Madams would turn a blind eye to most things, even if this meant the girls were brutalised. So long as the gentleman did not spoil a girl’s face – the Madams would not be pleased if one of their precious girls were to be disfigured. Very occasionally a girl would get “lucky” and a punter would pay for her sole use or set her up in her own establishment as his mistress. Rarer still was the gentleman who married a whore.
In Never the Twain I wanted to show how devastating it would be for two relatively well brought up, educated young girls like April and May to find themselves in this frightening and dangerous situation. The twins, had they been ‘launched’, would have been sold to the highest bidder and thereafter used and abused day and night until their beauty faded. Such an end for the girls who were only valued for their beauty and bodies would have been shameful. In Never the Twain we see April and May struggle to survive the brothel but their lives soon become marred by jealousy and greed, betrayal and murder.
Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.
The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.
Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.
But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?
April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI
Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.
Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!
Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.
When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.
Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.
Swift Six Author Interview – Mary Anne Yarde – Historical Fiction
Name: Mary Anne Yarde
What attracts you to the genre in which you write?
I grew up surrounded by the rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset — the famous town of Glastonbury was a mere 15 minutes from my childhood home. Glastonbury is a little bit unique in the sense that it screams Arthurian Legend. Even the road sign that welcomes you into Glastonbury says:
“Welcome to Glastonbury. The Ancient Isle of Avalon.”
How could I grow up in such a place and not be influenced by King Arthur and his Knights?
I loved history from a very early age, and this passion has grown rather than diminish. I wasn’t ever going to write anything other than historical fiction. I love the research and the romance of bringing a time long gone back to life.
What piece of writing advice do you wish you’d known when you started your writing adventures?
Be patient and be prepared to make a lot of mistakes, particularly when it comes to marketing. It really is a huge learning curve, and there are always new things to learn. Writing a book and publishing it is a marathon, it is not a sprint.
If you could have dinner with any famous person or character, who would you choose?
Just one? Oh no, if we are going to do this, then we are going to do it right. I would host a party and invite everyone!
Who has been the greatest influence on your own work?
That is a difficult question to answer. I am not sure. I think I was fortunate growing up where I did. History and legends surrounded me. Would I have written an Arthurian series if I had not grown up where I had? I am not too sure.
Do you think the e-book revolution will do away with print?
I think there will always be room for both. Personally, I favour ebooks. For the most part, they are not as expensive, and they don’t take up so much room.
Which 3 books would you take to a desert island and why?
I am going to have to choose carefully. Let me think…
The first book that I would take is surprisingly not a work of historical fiction. I would take The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. I love this book. The Horse Whisperer is a very emotional book. It is a story about love, loss and hope.
The second book I would take would be Jane Austen’s, Mansfield Park. Mansfield Park has always been a firm favourite. I am not too sure why I just like the story.
I would also try and sneak a series into my backpack if I could, and that would be Bernard Cornwall’s Sharp series. This is my all-time favourite series. The narrative is so rich, and the story is brilliant.
Author bio and book synopsis
Please introduce yourself (250 words or so):
Mary Anne Yarde is the multi-award-winning author of the International Bestselling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the fall of King Arthur, The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Briton and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed.
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury — the fabled Isle of Avalon — was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
Tell us about your book(s) – title, genre etc. (short)
The Du Lac Prophecy (Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles) By Mary Anne Yarde
Two Prophesies. Two Noble Households. One Throne.
Distrust and greed threaten to destroy the House of du Lac. Mordred Pendragon strengthens his hold on Brittany and the surrounding kingdoms while Alan, Mordred’s cousin, embarks on a desperate quest to find Arthur’s lost knights. Without the knights and the relics they hold in trust, they cannot defeat Arthur’s only son – but finding the knights is only half of the battle. Convincing them to fight on the side of the Du Lac’s, their sworn enemy, will not be easy.
If Alden, King of Cerniw, cannot bring unity there will be no need for Arthur’s knights. With Budic threatening to invade Alden’s Kingdom, Merton putting love before duty, and Garren disappearing to goodness knows where, what hope does Alden have? If Alden cannot get his House in order, Mordred will destroy them all.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Anne-Yarde/e/B01C1WFATA/
Review IX – Andrew Weston – Sci-fi/Military/Time Travel/Historical
IX by Andrew Weston
Historical/Military/science fiction/fantasy/time travel.
Soldiers from varying eras and vastly different backgrounds, including the IX Legion of Rome, are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing, and transported to the far side of the galaxy. Thinking they have been granted a reprieve, their relief turns to horror when they discover they face a stark ultimatum: Fight or die.
Romans, Native Americans, fierce Celtic warriors, Special Ops, American Civil War fighters – not a huge amount in common one would think. Wrong. Death is what they expect – but not necessarily what they get – at least not where and when they think. From differing backgrounds they are thrown into a war and a world far removed from Earth. The Horde have decimated the galaxy and the Ardenese for decades and now all that remains is myth and the hidden remnants of a once mighty civilisation. The 9th intake is the last best hope for the salvation of Arden, if they can put aside their differences. Technology far beyond ours brought expansion, then it brought war.
Action takes the fore in this adventure which encompasses military, historical, science fiction and fantasy. The characters are varied, at once both complex and simplistic, and often surprising. Death stalks the pages, but his companions are loyalty, courage and dignity. Well written with twists and turns, and a rather unexpected ending.
Great for fans of sci-fi, time travel fiction and historical.
Historical Fiction: Learning the Genre
Historical Fiction is a genre that intrigues me. I was drawn to Regency and Victorian era historical fiction by my love of Jane Austen and her novels. In turn, this interest moved me into the science fiction crossover of Steampunk, a type of alternate history. The creation of a historical world is similar to the creation of a science fiction or fantasy one. Many times authors will use a past civilization to be the fuel for their own fantastical creation.
To get you started in the genre, I have listed a few sites that I have found helpful in learning the foundation of historical fiction. Let your curiosity move you through time and space and experience more of the human condition than what we live in present day. By learning of the past, perhaps we will see more of our future.
Historical Novel Society
This is an organization devoted to…
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Character Interview Number Six – Soren Gormson – Historical/Paranormal
Tell Us About Yourself
Name (s): Soren Williamson (AKA Soren Gormson)
Please tell us a little about yourself. I was once a fearsome Danish warrior who killed more men than I can count. The name Soren is known far and wide for the victories that I won. I was a Berserker who fought without fear and had no equal on the field of battle. I came to Frankia as part of a huge fleet of warriors to raid the land and take control of Paris and its riches. We took Rouen and then continued on to lay siege to Paris. During the siege I had a violent disagreement with one of the Jarls (that was resolved by my blade) and I left the campaign to set out on my own. During my travels I did battle with evil creatures that were plaguing the land. I faced each of the beasts, and with the strength of my arm and the edge of my blade spilled their blood and put an end to their miserable lives.
I now live the quiet life of a fisherman with my wife and son. Although I am no longer raiding villages, my sword remains sharp and is always close at hand.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Tall, broad shouldered, rugged, hard.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? I do now. When I was going Viking with my fellow Danes I would kill anyone who stood in my way, and enjoyed doing it. But now I believe in protecting the innocent and destroying those who seek to harm them.
Would you kill for those you love? Yes. I have before and would again if needs be.
Do you like animals? I have not had much luck with animals, having tangled with wild boar, bear and sharks to name a few. I did make a nice cloak out of a bear’s fur once though. But I guess other than roasting them over a fire to eat, I don’t much care for animals.
Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? As a teenager I was knocked into the sea during my first battle and spent several years surviving on my own in a strange land. It was during that time that I grew into manhood and became a Berserker. I had to kill to survive not only became very good at it, but learned to love watching an enemy fall to my sword.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I have an ancient rune burned into the palm of my hand.
Tell Us About your world
Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. I live on the coast of Frankia in a village made up of both Franks and Danes who have learned to live together in peace. Our village is unique, however. Many of my countrymen continue to live the life of raiding and pillaging further into this land, as well as in places across the channel like Mercia, North Umbria, East Anglia and Wessex.
This is a time of war and conquest, where a multitude of different forces are fighting each other for land, wealth and power throughout the region.
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? Yes there are many religions and beliefs. Yet rather than bringing greater compassion and understanding to the world, these religions have been the cause of many of the wars being fought today. In fact, there is currently a battle between the Christians and what they call the “Pagan religions” like those practiced by my countrymen. Men continue to fight and die over their religious beliefs.
I was raised to worship the warrior gods like Odin, Thor and Tyr, but was later baptized as a Christian to worship their one true God. After learning many amazing truths from an ancient warrior, I developed my own personal faith which blends the two religions into one.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I hail from the land of the Danes and have travelled to the Norse lands and across the sea to Frankia.
Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? There are some that believe in magic and others who say that it is nothing but simple tricks meant to confuse the weak minded.
The Christians see magic as a sign of the devil and believe anyone who uses it is evil. I have learned to harness supernatural powers to both heal and destroy, and have seen other beings with the same abilities. I know that magic is very real, but it is the user who is either good or evil, not the power itself.
Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. Thor’s exploits against the Jotuns, Tyr sacrificing his hand to chain the great wolf Fenrir and Odin and his brothers creating the first humans are but a few of the legends told by my people.
Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Yes, I can personally verify that there have been Nephilim, Dark Nephilim, Demons, Demonspawn, Hellhounds and Dragons in this land. After the things I have seen and done battle with, I believe that many of the other creatures thought to prowl the night exist as well.
Book(s) in which this character appears.
Iron Song – Book Two of the Nephilim Chronicles
Author name:Travis Ludvigson
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Travis-Ludvigson/e/B00BNASEIG
Author Interview Number Thirty-Six – B.D Hawkey – Historical Romance
Welcome to B.D.Hawkey
Please tell us a little about yourself. I was brought up on a farm in rural Cornwall . When I was 17 I left home and started my nursing career, which lasted 25 years. I worked in an intensive care unit, minor injury unit and later as a health visitor. I had the privilege of being part of a person’s life during the most traumatic, frightening or uplifting time in their lives. After 25 years I changed career which has given me more time to write. I am married with two grown up children and two very happy dogs.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. Old Sins, Long Shadows is a Victorian romance set in Cornwall, England. It is about a young woman who begins a journey of self discovery and falls in love for the first time. However there are people in her life who want to do her harm and their actions have far reaching effects. It’s about abuse of power and how jealousy and idle gossip can have devastating results.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences? I love Cornwall and I’m very proud to be Cornish. It is very easy to be inspired by the beautiful country side, historical buildings and the Cornish people themselves.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? My father is a great source. He loves to talk about the past and he has given me many things that his mother used to have. I have a mangle, a cheese press, a butter churn and oil lamps including a Victorian horse plough! In my book there is a Victorian gaol, a Victorian Court House and a stately home. I have visited these buildings which are open to the public in Cornwall. I have seen the Victorian cells and walked through the Victorian kitchens. It makes writing about them very easy.
In what formats are your books available? Are you intending to expand these?Old Sins, Long Shadows is in print and kindle format. I’m interested in the audio version, I think my book would be good in that format but I don’t know how to achieve it.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I self-edited and then I passed it to two other people who also edited it. They were very good, but I did not pay them. I was advised by an agent to edit on paper and not just on the laptop. So I did, over and over again. It was amazing how many things you pick up. Next time I might have it professionally edited as it is not the part of writing I enjoy.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? I’m not sure. I think if the review is good it might be considered okay to say thank you. If it’s bad then perhaps I would maintain a dignified silence while I cry into a pillow.
Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? No, I need silence. I like to walk the dogs while I am thinking about what I will write but when I am writing I need to be by myself in a quiet room.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? The reader can experience what is going on in the character’s head; his/her thought processes, their insecurities, their understanding of the situation and their sensations. Personally I feel like I am in the story more than a film. I don’t play video games; I’m not quick enough on the controls and usually end up dying, crashing and losing.
What advice would you give new writers? Write about what you know. Write a little bit nearly every day. Write a story you would want to read and if you really believe it is a good story, be its advocate or your characters will never be free from your computer for others to meet.
What are your best marketing/networking tips? Facebook has been very helpful with support and marketing, particularly groups specifically for authors which can give advice to new authors.
Most authors also like to read, what books do you enjoy? I enjoy Winston Graham’s Poldark books. I enjoy historical romance the most which is why I chose to write it.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? When I was in my 30’s, and I thought no one was looking, I went on a tall children’s slide. My dress got caught on the slide at the top, by the time I reached the bottom my dress had torn all the way down the side seam. I had to walk home with one hand holding my daughter’s and the other holding my dress together. It was very embarrassing and I have not been on a slide since!
Book link:- http://www.bdhawkey.com/books.html
Website link:- http://www.bdhawkey.com/
Book Trailer:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht-o-QH7Cuk
Facebook page:- https://www.facebook.com/BDHawkey
Goodreads book page:- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18324816-old-sins-long-shadows
Goodreads author page:- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7219364.B_D_Hawkey
Year of Wonders – Historical Fiction Review
Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks. 17th Century Historical Fiction.
This was a book I picked up for the Historical Fiction Coursera Course mentioned elsewhere and I can see why it was chosen.
This is a very emotive book and not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of tragedy and death but there is so much more – love, hope, fear, hate and pretty much every emotion one can think of. It was all the more moving as it is based on true events.
Set at the time of the Black Death in a small village called Eyam, in rural England, the author has done a lot of research to paint a vivid picture of the 17th Century, with all its religious turbulence, simplistic way of life and the fears of the inhabitants. Plague was a very real, very misunderstood disease which killed very many people and indeed in this microcosm of society the death count is high. The people of the village decide to shut themselves off in their village – no one is allowed in or out, in the hope they will not spread the Plague further. It is no light decision as this means they must help themselves, and as the death count rises find skills they did not know they possessed or go without.
Told from the point of view of an intelligent and resourceful widow it also shows the trials a woman might face, especially one with knowledge such as herb-lore or other teaching. Anna Frith is not your usual servant, nor is she content to be and the book is as much about her journey of self-discovery as it is about the plague itself.
There are some harrowing revelations and as Anna finds herself the male main character loses himself.
Well written the characters are engaging, poignant and varied. Some are likable and some are most certainly not.
Why not 5 stars? I was not entirely convinced by the ending, although it did wrap up well enough I thought it could have given a hint of what happened in Eyam. It also seemed a little rushed.
I would recommend this as an interesting and emotional read for those who like historical fiction, 17th Century history and books about resourceful women.
Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction – Course Review
I was introduced to Coursera by my partner who suggested the writing course – Crafting an Effective Writer – might be of use to me. These MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses are free and provide an insight into various subjects, from history and writing to science and philosophy. The writing course was fairly basic but it never hurts to go over what one knows and fill in gaps. That course will be discussed elsewhere. Below is my review of the Historical Fiction course run by the University of Virginia and Professor Holsinger.
Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction
This course appealed to me as a reader of historical fiction and a writer of fantasy. There are elements shared by both genres and it is never bad to consider how someone else sees the world in their books. The course begins with an overview of the origins of the historical novel, and what is expected within the genre. Historical fiction is diverse, from romance to tragedy and semi-biographical accounts.
Definition: “A genre of imaginative narratives set in the past whose authors make a deliberate effort to convey chronologically remote settings, cultures, and personages with accuracy, plausibility and depth,” Bruce Holsinger.
So what does this mean? Fiction set in a real scenario, for example ancient Rome, or Civil War America featuring fictional characters, or even real persons speaking with the author’s voice. One of the visiting authors discussed emotions – emotions rarely change and thus it is plausible to assume a character would feel a certain way in a certain situation. The characters, or scenarios are not real, but the background is, as it were. Some well known Historical Fiction texts would be Gone with the Wind, The Other Boleyn Girl, or The Last of the Mohicans. As you can see these are a diverse mix of subjects by diverse authors.
Historical Fiction continues to be a popular genre but in many ways it is very complex. World building is necessary in any novel but in the worlds of Historical Fiction the world is often there, for the researcher to find. It needs to be convincing – the ‘accuracy’ factor of Professor Holsinger’s definition. The key is research – what did people of that era eat? How did they live? What transport did they use? What religion did they follow? Whilst this is the case in world building for other genres because this world is real the accuracy needs to be there. Unconvincing scenarios will throw a reader out of the story. Research is more important here than perhaps elsewhere.
Plausibility is an important factor for a writer, even one who writes fantasy, after all much can be explained with magic but not all. Even magic has to have a basis in the possible, to understand the impossible one has to understand the possible. Fantasy worlds are often based around Middle Ages Europe or ancient Eurasian cultures and so knowledge of these eras and cultures is helpful. Depth of course is a necessity, both in the worlds we create, and read and the characters which inhabit them. Shallow characters are weak, and the reader may end up not caring about their fate. This is true of any fiction. Historical fiction, in its basis in fact, has to work doubly hard to attain this, especially with popular or well-known personages.
There was a conversation on the forums about the ethical side of interpreting real events from the point of view of someone who did not exist, or claiming a person who did exist dealt with situations in such a way which was unreal, or possibly unreal. The key here is FICTION, the writer is not saying it was so, only that is MIGHT have been so. There is, of course, the risk that adherents of the personage may disagree.
One prototype historical story was Xenophone’s Cyropaedia (4th Century BCE) – a fictionalised account of Cyrus the Great of Persia, although this was not a novel but a fictional political treatise. (George Saintsbury). Saintsbury later assess the Greek and Roman myths, Icelandic myths, the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and culminates in the works of Sir Walter Scott. Although Saintsbury’s work is now little outdated the basis is there for what we now regard as vital for the historical fiction novel (The Historical Novel). There is some assumption that there is a fictional element within established history and this can be distinguished from historical non-fiction.
The latter parts of the course discuss specific works and feature online interviews with authors who discuss their books.The authors are very frank in their discussions and it is a good insight into the writing process, the importance of research and the motivations of a writer. As a reader the course offers some excerpts and full novels which, otherwise, I may not have considered. There is a lot of reading required, in a fairly short timescale, and I admit I fell behind with this. I am not convinced all the reading is necessary. The seminars with the visiting authors are not great quality and at least one I ended up watching with the subtitles on as the video kept dipping out.
The Love Artist by Jane Allison (see review linked below); The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (dealing with witchcraft); The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (dealing with the plague in an English Village); Fever by Mary Bethe Keane (dealing with Mary Mallon – typhoid Mary) and The Ghost Bride by Yangsee Choo (dealing with the Chinese traditions of the afterlife).
Plus supplementary readings from Dickens, Faulkner, Walter Scott, William Wells Brown and several more.
I feel the course could benefit from running for longer, enabling students to keep up with the reading, however this Coursera course is free and a good insight into the genre, writing and research. I will continue to post the reviews of the reading as I complete it. If you have the time I would recommend this course – I found books I would not otherwise have read and the discussion forums were lively. As the final assignment was dealing with archival sources and encouraged students to think of a story around the one they sourced who knows, perhaps something will come from that.
So what next? I am signed up for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World which starts in February. As I am also taking a history course at the same time I expect to be kept very busy! https://www.coursera.org/course/fantasysf
- The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction (historythrutheages.wordpress.com)
- Historical Fiction Resources (historicalfictiongenreguide.wordpress.com)
- Your Research to Write Historical Fiction. (iamanauthorimustauth.wordpress.com)
- Historical Fiction Assignment (riotthill.wordpress.com)
Review – The Love Artist – Jane Alison
The Love Artist – Jane Alison
Historical fiction/mythical fiction/romance
I picked this up for an online course about Historical Fiction and it covers the basis well enough. Set in the period of Emperor Augustus it charts the mysterious exile of the poet Ovid and his missing Medea manuscript. Exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea Ovid meets the mysterious Xenia, who is a good deal more than she first appears, witch, seer, almost ethereal in her ways, but at the same time very innocent and troubled.
This story contains so much – love, jealousy, intrigue, the quest for immortality and most important – metamorphosis. These themes are interwoven, metamorphosis changes love to jealous, obsession to failure, politics to hatred, and past and future all cleverly done with reference to Ovid’s own Metamorphosis. Almost bordering on fantasy or magical realism it must be remembered this is set in a time when magic and was considered real and our own beliefs and concepts should be put aside when reading this, to truly enjoy it.
A lot of research went into the book, including visits to modern Rome and retracing footsteps, visits to museums, reading of primary archives, including Ovid himself and it shows. Although in places it is not a hundred per cent accurate the overall descriptions are sound, building a vivid world in both Tomis and the more decadent and corrupt Rome.
The love affair was intense but did meander a little towards the end, it was interesting to see the shift however, from the happiness in Tomis and early on in Rome to the jealously and distrust at the end. As Ovid’s work culminates so does their affair. Each is the other’s muse but in many ways each is unaware. They are looking for immortality, the quest to find the essence of it. Ovid wants to know if his work will live for ever and Xenia will not tell him, she wants to find the essence of life and he is repelled by this. Their affair is complex, and ultimately destructive as was the history of Rome itself.
There were a few weaknesses – there were quite a few repeated phrases, which worked for a while but did get a little irritating, I also found the ending a little unconvincing – there was a build up to a plan and then the epilogue turns it on its head. The ending also seemed a little rushed.
A bit more could have been explained about the relationship between Julia and Ovid and why Julia behaved as she did. This was covered but almost as an afterthought. A bit more from her point of view would have been nice. A little more about the role of magic, and why it was illegal would also have added.
Overall 4 stars.
- The Reason for the Introductory Myth from Ovid (centurionbykengire.wordpress.com)