Historical Fiction Panel - July 18, 2012 discussion

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What interests you about your era of history?

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Patrick Brown | 5 comments Mod
For the authors: what first interested you about the era of history you write about in your fiction? Was there an initial story or character you found particularly fascinating?


message 2: by E (new)

E Willse (ewillse) | 1 comments Adding to that question: What are some of your favorite resources for research? (Favorite helpful libraries, books that really helped? Books and resources you might recommend as an intro?)


Jen (RevJen) (RevJen) | 7 comments How often do you consider moving outside of your preferred era? Would you move from the Renaissance to World War I, as an example? Or do you remain within the specified period perpetually?


Lori | 7 comments I assume you've traveled to some of the places you write about. How do you feel when you're standing where the people you write about have stood, and where was the most intense place you have traveled to been in this regard?


message 5: by Michelle (last edited Jul 12, 2012 06:43AM) (new)

Michelle (MichelleBJ) | 2 comments Hi - What provides your main inspiration: a period of history, a specific event, a place or a character? Thank you.


Rebekah (Hawkgirl4077) | 2 comments What is your favoirte research tool?


Jinny Hunter (jshunter) | 1 comments Have you ever (or how often have you) started research on one person or event and ended up writing the story about a different person or topic in that period of history? What drew you to change topic?


Linda Ulleseit | 2 comments How do you decide where to draw the line between fact and fiction? I mean, your books are heavily researched, of course, but where do you say enough, it's okay to make up a bit here because it IS fiction?


Laura LeMoine (lauralemoine) After reading the last Queen, I realized that Charles the V was her son, and Catherine of Aragon his Aunt, what I wonder is, when Catherine of Aragon was asking Charles the fifth for help concerning her husband's Henry the Eight "Great Matter" was Juana Catherine's sister still alive, and if so did Catherine know she was a prisoner in her own Castle?


Amanda | 1 comments What initially draws you to an era to begin to research it and then write about it?


Alma Katsu | 26 comments Jen (RevJen) wrote: "How often do you consider moving outside of your preferred era? Would you move from the Renaissance to World War I, as an example? Or do you remain within the specified period perpetually?"

Hi Jen! Moving around history is what I love to do best. While my first novel, and the first in a trilogy, was pretty much confined to New England, it moved from 1797 to the present day (though there was a piece of backstory that dipped to 1349 in Hungary). But the following two books, The Reckoning and The Descent (2013) move along the Silk Road, go back to medieval Venice, take a long pause in renaissance Naples, even to the Boxer Rebellion.

Readers and writers are probably either drawn to one place or period, or like me, promiscuous with time and place. I find I tend to go to instances in time that fascinated me when I was young. An interest in Kipling (and the Flashman series and other odds and ends) led me to an interest in British colonialism, for instance.


Alma Katsu | 26 comments Rebekah wrote: "What is your favoirte research tool?"

Old college textbooks. My first novel, The Taker, is set half in Maine, pre-statehood. I was having a hard time finding out which parts of the state were settled when, and other details, when I stumbled across used college textbooks being sold on Amazon. These had been written specifically by universities in Maine for use in their state history courses. They turned out to be quite a bonanza of information.


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Patrick wrote: "For the authors: what first interested you about the era of history you write about in your fiction? Was there an initial story or character you found particularly fascinating?"
I became infatuated with Richard III when I was in my early twenties and read Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time." Before that, I would say my favorite period had been the Regency--loved Jane Austen and (in a lesser category!) Georgette Heyer.


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Amanda wrote: "What initially draws you to an era to begin to research it and then write about it?"
See my reply to Patrick!


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Alma wrote: "Jen (RevJen) wrote: "How often do you consider moving outside of your preferred era? Would you move from the Renaissance to World War I, as an example? Or do you remain within the specified perio..."

I have stayed in the Wars of the Roses period because I have lived, breathed and eaten it for the past 15 years and have amassed quite a library on it. It terrifies me to go out of my comfort zone, to be honest, and I cannot understand how some authors can jump around in the matter of a year or so. I would want to be as well versed in another period as I am in this one before I tackled something. But I'm thinking about it .... ;-)


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Jen (RevJen) wrote: "How often do you consider moving outside of your preferred era? Would you move from the Renaissance to World War I, as an example? Or do you remain within the specified period perpetually?"
See my addition to Alma's reply, Jen. Sorry, I haven't quite got the hang of this yet! Technology-challenged should be my second name!


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Jinny wrote: "Have you ever (or how often have you) started research on one person or event and ended up writing the story about a different person or topic in that period of history? What drew you to change topic?"
No, that hasn't happened yet, but I do suddenly find a character (like Richard III's sister) in my research that then ends up being my next book.


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Michelle wrote: "Hi - What provides your main inspiration: a period of history, a specific event, a place or a character? Thank you."

Hi Michelle, For me it was a character: Richard III. The other books came as I researched him and found other female characters I wanted to write about.


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Lori wrote: "I assume you've traveled to some of the places you write about. How do you feel when you're standing where the people you write about have stood, and where was the most intense place you have trave..."
I love this question, Lori! I cannot even begin to write unless I have walked in the footsteps of my characters, seen the church on the hill, the bend in the river, the gargoyle in the church, or looked out over the landscape my characters would have seen. I thought Bruges would have given me the frisson I was seeking during my research for Daughter of York and The King's Grace. But it was standing outside Margaret's palace in Mechelen (now a public theater!) where I suddenly got a sense of her. It was cool. The other place where I felt a character all around me was on the ramparts of Ludlow Castle. This was where Cecily (Queen By Right) would have seen the king's army come over the hill to attack her husband, Richard duke of York. Loved that place!


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Linda wrote: "How do you decide where to draw the line between fact and fiction? I mean, your books are heavily researched, of course, but where do you say enough, it's okay to make up a bit here because it IS f..."
I wish you could have been at the Historical Novel Society's last conference, Linda, where I was on a panel that spent an hour discussing this topic. I know that I will not place any character in a spot where they were not on any given day. I don't mess with history! But if I can't find evidence that they were NOT in that spot, then I feel free to invent. For example, history tells us that Cecily Neville and Joan of Arc were housed in exactly the same castle in Rouen during Joan's trial. Of course, Joan was in the dungeon and Cecily of York in the royal apartments! There is nothing in the record to say these two important women met, but it seemed plausible to me that cecily might have made a charitable visit to the prisoners of Bouvreuil and thus have a few minutes with Joan. It was too powerful a scene to pass up!


Lori | 7 comments Piggy-backing on my first question, what has been the most exciting primary source document you can remember finding/seeing?


Alexandra | 34 comments Laura wrote: "After reading the last Queen, I realized that Charles the V was her son, and Catherine of Aragon his Aunt, what I wonder is, when Catherine of Aragon was asking Charles the fifth for help concerni..."

She was alive, there's no doubt of that...but she'd inherited her mother's depression and Ferdinand, her own father had given out that she was mad...Catherine would have been aware of it, but whether she would have given it much thought as being unfair or anything, I don't know...


Alexandra | 34 comments But as to my own question...do any of you remember what first piqued your interest in History as a whole and what drove you to write your first historical novel? What subject did you pick for that novel and why?


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Lori wrote: "Piggy-backing on my first question, what has been the most exciting primary source document you can remember finding/seeing?"

A book of hours that belonged to Margaret of York. It is exquisite.


Alexandra | 34 comments Anne wrote: "Lori wrote: "Piggy-backing on my first question, what has been the most exciting primary source document you can remember finding/seeing?"

A book of hours that belonged to Margaret of York. It is ..."


I'll bet! I remember seeing a Spanish Bible from 1602 once...and some original Lutheran pamphlets from 1525...I scarcely dared touch them!


Alexandra | 34 comments It's personalities that interest me...personalities and lives...That's why I chose to write my own Alternate History novel (written largely to amuse myself) around Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn...their personalities interest me...but how do you decide what events to write about...and once you've decided that, how do you decide whose eyes to portray it through?


Alexandra | 34 comments Or is it sometimes the other way around?


Jean V. Naggar Literary  (httpwwwgoodreadscomJVNLA) | 1 comments Do you ever find yourselves exhausted with the period you have written about previously? And if so- how do you decide what to write about next?


Alma Katsu | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "It's personalities that interest me...personalities and lives...That's why I chose to write my own Alternate History novel (written largely to amuse myself) around Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn...the..."

Deciding on your protagonist should be a definite choice. Funny, I'm working on a presentation I'm giving next week to a writer's convention on unlikeable protagonists and so have been spending a lot of time thinking about what makes a writer choose a particular protagonist. It really depends on the story you want to tell. The protag best situated to tell the story might not be the main historical figure--the queen, for instance--but someone in a position to observe her and know things she doesn't know, or bring a fresh innocence to the situation. Think how different The Great Gatsy would be if it was written from Gatsby's POV and not Nick Carraway's.


Alexandra | 34 comments True. I never thought of it that way. You're right. I guess that's why I wrote my first novel (again, largely to amuse myself, though I did hand it out to friends and family) I wrote Anne Boleyn's rise and fall from the eyes of my own character, her little sister Eleanor...Nora, as her family called her, wasn't quite as caught up in the Great Matter as Anne was, but was involved enough to understand what was going on...I must have done it unconsciously...


Alma Katsu | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "But as to my own question...do any of you remember what first piqued your interest in History as a whole and what drove you to write your first historical novel? What subject did you pick for that ..."

I grew up surrounded by history. Colonial America, to be exact. And I didn't think it held such sway over me until I started putting The Taker together, and I realized that it had to be set in the post-Colonial period. I grew up around houses built in the 1700s. The settings, the clothing... I saw names from history on monuments and plaques on houses all around me. The Old North Bridge and the Old Manse (Nathaniel Hawthorne's house) were just down the street.
It wasn't a matter of choice; it just was to be.The Taker


Sandra Worth | 28 comments Hi Amanda,

pretty much the same thing happened to me that happened to Anne. I became enamored of Richard III. He's quite a guy and has quite a pull - forget the centuries!

Sandra


Sandra Worth | 28 comments Patrick wrote: "For the authors: what first interested you about the era of history you write about in your fiction? Was there an initial story or character you found particularly fascinating?"

I became fascinated by a character (King Richard III) and had to know everything about him. That's how I became interested in the Wars of the Roses. It's a very Arthurian time period with lots of turbulence and acts of valor.

Sandra


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Right, so I'm going to answer the first question then go from there. I became interested in Renaissance Europe in my childhood; I was raised in southern Spain, so I grew up around ruined castles, history was very alive for me, not distant at all. For some reason, I was very attracted to the Renaissance; I think perhaps because such strong personalities emerged, particularly women, as well as the revival of interest in ancient classics that had been lost. The Renaissance is the demarcation of the middle ages, when society shifts.


Sandra Worth | 28 comments E wrote: "Adding to that question: What are some of your favorite resources for research? (Favorite helpful libraries, books that really helped? Books and resources you might recommend as an intro?)"

Hi Patrick, university libraries are a major resource, and museums. There are probably PBS or Nat Geog documentaries on the subject, too.

Sandra


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments E wrote: "Adding to that question: What are some of your favorite resources for research? (Favorite helpful libraries, books that really helped? Books and resources you might recommend as an intro?)"

I do a lot on-the-ground research, so to speak. I travel quite a bit when I'm researching a book, and I consult both contemporary sources and secondary sources. Some of my favorite sources in the past have been, oddly enough, experts and curators, the people who offer tours of palaces, who know the history of a place inside and out; I've had fascinating conversations with curators and the like, who've really helped shape my vision of my character.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Jen (RevJen) wrote: "How often do you consider moving outside of your preferred era? Would you move from the Renaissance to World War I, as an example? Or do you remain within the specified period perpetually?"

I would move around if a story really attracted me. I actually am quite interested in other eras, and have several ideas outlined for future books. It all depends, ultimately, on how my publisher receives these ideas and whether they consider them viable.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Lori wrote: "I assume you've traveled to some of the places you write about. How do you feel when you're standing where the people you write about have stood, and where was the most intense place you have trave..."
For me, there really is no substitute for being in the places where my characters once lived. Though usually a lot has changed, the feel of the landscape is very important to me: I want to breathe the same air, so to speak. Also, nuggets of great information can be found while traveling. I've mentioned the curators: I couldn't have the same experiences via e-mail with them. One of my most memorable experiences was while researching The Tudor Secret; I had the chance to dance a galliard in Hampton Court's great hall. It was truly a spectacular feeling, to dance in the very hall where Anne Boleyn once captured Henry VIII's eye, where Catherine of Aragon presided; you could almost feel the history under your feet.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Michelle wrote: "Hi - What provides your main inspiration: a period of history, a specific event, a place or a character? Thank you."

It can be all of the above. Usually, however, it is a character; something about them that captures my attention.


Carol (carolbaughman) | 2 comments With the amount of resources available on the internet today do you tend to rely mainly on technology for your research or do you find that visiting the areas you're writing about is still the best way to get a feel for it.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Jinny wrote: "Have you ever (or how often have you) started research on one person or event and ended up writing the story about a different person or topic in that period of history? What drew you to change topic?"

Yes. When I started writing my book on Catherine de Medici, I actually was going to write about Mary of Scots. It was while researching Mary's time in France that I became fascinated by Catherine; I decided she interested me more at the time, because I knew so little about her other than her bad reputation.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Linda wrote: "How do you decide where to draw the line between fact and fiction? I mean, your books are heavily researched, of course, but where do you say enough, it's okay to make up a bit here because it IS f..."

I draw the line at differing accounts of the same event: if 2 out of 3 experts disagree, then I often feel that I have to make my own decision. I also of course fictionalize thoughts, emotions; though I base my character's personalities on what we know about them, I do take license in interpreting their actions. I also compress time on occasion, to move the plot along. Fiction is real-life with the tedium taken out; I can't cover every single moment, so I have to decide what I'm going to tell and what I can't.


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Laura wrote: "After reading the last Queen, I realized that Charles the V was her son, and Catherine of Aragon his Aunt, what I wonder is, when Catherine of Aragon was asking Charles the fifth for help concerni..."

Juana was alive when Catherine of Aragon was fighting Henry VIII. Juana died in 1555, but she may not have even known what was happening to her sister. After the Comuneros Revolt in Spain in 1520-21, Charles V cracked down on the Spanish people and in particular on the conditions of his mother's imprisonment; as the revolt had aimed to free Juana and restore her to the throne as one of its goals, he made sure Juana was kept under strict control henceforth. We can date much of Juana's true madness from this event; what her own son allowed to be done to her is truly chilling.


Sandra Worth | 28 comments Hi Lori,


Great question. How do I feel? Exhilarated! It’s hard to describe what it means to be there, in that spot, knowing they stood there, just as you do centuries later. My most intense on the Wars of the Roses was at Bamborough Castle. The fortress is pretty much rebuilt, and the original part is the medieval armory. My historical figure, John Neville Lord Montagu (main character in Lady of the Roses), had been Constable of the castle during a very turbulent time in his life. The armory had only one window, a long narrow one looking out to the North Sea. I placed my hand on the stone embrasure, and looked out to that vast expanse of water, knowing I touched what he had touched and was seeing what he had seen. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Sandra


C.W. (CwGortner) | 27 comments Lori wrote: "Piggy-backing on my first question, what has been the most exciting primary source document you can remember finding/seeing?"

A letter that went between Isabella of Castile and Torquemada, in which she expressed doubts concerning his tactics toward the conversos. It demonstrated that she indeed questioned him and disagreed with him at moments; it helped flesh out one of the more controversial parts of my novel.


Sandra Worth | 28 comments Michelle wrote: "Hi - What provides your main inspiration: a period of history, a specific event, a place or a character? Thank you."

For me, it was a charcter who leapt up from the page into my heart and took me into England's Wars of the Roses. Six books later, another historical figure from the Eastern Roman Empire tugged at my heart, and I followed him into the beautiful geographic setting of Greece and Turkey.

Sandra


Sandra Worth | 28 comments Hi Jen,
I go where my heart takes me. I’ve written six books on the Wars of the Roses, and my new novel is set in the Eastern Roman Empire.
Sandra


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments Alexandra wrote: "It's personalities that interest me...personalities and lives...That's why I chose to write my own Alternate History novel (written largely to amuse myself) around Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn...the..."

With my first book, I wanted to tell the story of the real Richard III and not the Shakespearian one, but being a woman who has a hard time understanding men (sorry C.W. but I do!), I wanted to see Richard through a woman's eyes. Anne Neville (Richard's wife) has never grabbed me as a strong character, but once I found out Richard had had two and possibly three bastards, I decided to invent the woman with whom he might have had them. We know two of them were born before his marriage to Anne, so I figured she may have been someone he fell for but wasn't good enough to marry. With the King's Grace, I took the one line in history that tells us Grace Plantagenet "bastard daughter of King Edward the Fourth" was on the funeral barge of Edward's queen, Elizabeth Woodville, as one of two gentlewomen, and created my protagonist in order to tell the story of Perkin Warbeck (see, another man!) who was a pretender to Henry VII's throne. The books is really about who was this pretender, but it was also Grace's story with her half-sisters and their mother, the queen, that drove it.


Anne (Gloucester) | 42 comments C.W. wrote: "Jinny wrote: "Have you ever (or how often have you) started research on one person or event and ended up writing the story about a different person or topic in that period of history? What drew you..."

I'm glad you did decide on Catherine, CW! There have been TOOOOOO many books on that silly Mary ;-)


Carol (carolbaughman) | 2 comments Do any of you find inspiration in music while writing and if so, what are your favorites?


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Historical Fiction Panel - July 18, 2012

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