Why Write Historical Fiction?

Christine Hancock is my publishing ‘twin’. Her book, Bright Sword, was published by The Book Guild on the same day as The Promise: January 28th 2018. We write in different genres and have followed each other’s journey over the past six and half months. Christine has kindly agreed to guest on my blog today and explain something about historical fiction and why it’s got something for all writers and readers.

Why Write Historical Fiction?
When I started to write it seemed like the obvious thing to do. All my life I have read historical fiction. I don’t know why. To escape? To learn about the past? Perhaps I just thought the stories were better. I have enjoyed other genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Romance (when I was young.) Horses (when I was very young), but I always returned to Historical Fiction.Bright Sword by Christine Hancock
So, what actually is Historical Fiction? The Historical Novel Society defines it as:
To be deemed historical (in our sense), a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research).
For example, if you want to write a book set in the 1960s, it is historical if you were born after that period, or if you were alive at the time, living in rural England but are writing about life in the USA. If you want to write what happened to you, if you remember it, it is something else.
After that, anything is allowed, any period and any place. It can be of any genre: romance, detective, adventure, biographical. Psychological thriller? It also includes sub genres such as time slip, alternate history and fantasy.
Some people aren’t interested in the past. They say only the future is important. But if we recognise that what happens today has happened before – in one form or another, we can learn how to deal with it, or live through it. I suppose that applies more to straight history books, but why not learn and enjoy the experience at the same time?
There is so much in the news to worry us nowadays, people want to escape. This is where historical fiction comes in.
Why concern yourself with the details of Brexit, when you can stand beside King Harold and his warriors at Hastings, defending your country against the Normans? Probably not the best example!
Worried about Trump? Imagine trying to survive in the court of Henry VIII or in Rome under Emperor Nero.
Weather too hot? Acclimatise yourself beside the Nile in Ancient Egypt or cool down at a 17th century Frost Fair.
Fed up with queues to see a doctor? Discover the problems of avoiding the Black Death, or any illness or accident, at almost any time before our own.
If you just want good read, why chose historical fiction?
The basic plot of a romance is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl. How interesting it can be when the clothing are tight breeches and a beautiful silk gown and when the hero must fight for his lady’s honour with a sword. There is so much space for misunderstanding when your character has to wait for the post instead of texting from his iphone.
People say to me “But don’t you have to do a lot of research?” Yes, but it depends on what you are writing. If it is a novel about the life of someone famous, Ann Boleyn, to take an overused example, you need to know every single fact – get it wrong and someone will notice and tell you!
Christine HancockI’m sure writers of modern fiction have to do a lot of research: What car does my character drive? What clothes does she wear? What is the “in” drink to order? Then in a few years it is all out of date.
I write about the Anglo-Saxons in the mid tenth century. No need to work out which make of car they drove (a horse or they walked) what clothes they wore (tunic, long for women, shorter for men and cloak in cold weather) or which brand of ale or mead they drank. So long as I have the right king on the throne and avoid killing off a real-life character before their time, it’s fine.
Oh, and don’t have them eating roast potatoes with their dinner!
Never tried historical fiction? What do you enjoy reading? There’s sure to be something similar set in the past. You may never return to the present day.

Thank you, Christine. You’ve tempted me to give history a chance!
Christine Hancock lives in Rugby, Warwickshire and is a long term family historian and leader of her local history group. Byrhtnoth, the main protagonist in Bright Sword, is based on a real warrior who died in the 991 Battle of Maldon, made famous by the Anglo-Saxon poem of that name.
Bright Sword is available in bookshops and from all the main online retailers, including Amazon.
Read Christine’s blog or follow her on Twitter.

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Armistice 100 Days

Sunday November 11th 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War 1. There will be many events to mark this important occasion and to thank those who lost their lives for us. These include 10,000 people marching past the Cenotaph in London (ballot applications to be part of the march close 12th August) and mass church bell ringing across the nation.

Poets are also playing their part in the 100 days leading up to the centenary of the Armistice. Every day a 100-word piece of writing, known as a centena, will be published by the Imperial War Museum. In each piece, the first three words are repeated at the end, as the conclusion. Each centena will focus on an individual who lived during the First World War and the impact the war had on that person. The aim is to look at people from every part of society. Katie Childs from the museum told the Sunday Times, “By releasing a centena each day, I hope that we are able to demonstrate the very different experiences of the First World War, and the impact it had on people and places long beyond the Armistice.”

The first centena was published on Sunday 5th August and was written by Angus Grundy from the perspective of Leopold Lojka. Lojka was driving the car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated. Ferdinand’s murder led to the First World War. The second centena is by Therese Kieran and is about a Belgian embroider who spent the War in Ireland. I find today’s centena by Miranda Dickinson particularly moving. It’s about a bride married during her new husband’s 48 hour leave from the army. He returns to the front line and she goes to pose for a wedding photograph alone.

Follow the daily publication of the centenas on the First World War Centenary Website. You are also encouraged to write your own centena and share it on social media.

These pieces of writing are a fitting memorial to those who lived through such turbulent times and perhaps they’ll inspire some of us to get creative before November 11th 2018.

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The Promise at 99p plus a Bookbub Promotion

Today marks the six month anniversary of the publication of The Promise on January 28th 2018. Coincidentally, the publishers have lowered the e-book price to only 99p for a VERY limited time and also secured a Bookbub promotion to publicise the price drop.

Bookbub is a service which helps e-book readers to discover free or discounted books in their favourite genres – so if you like a bargain it’s worth signing up to their newsletter which is circulated in the UK, Canada, Australia and India. Bookbub promotions are a paid for service, open to self-published books as well as those published by large and small publishing houses. It is a competitive submission procedure and Bookbub receive far more promotion applications than can be used in the newsletter. In order to choose the featured books Bookbub considers things like reviews, sales, the cover, the formatting and other variables – so I’m excited and pleased that The Promise has been selected and is getting this coveted exposure!

If you fancy putting your own book forward for a Bookbub promotion have a look at this checklist to see what sort of thing the selectors are looking for. There is no charge to submit to Bookbub, you are only invoiced if the book is selected.

To take advantage of this less-than-half-price 99p offer on The Promise, be quick (I don’t know when the price will go back up!) and grab it from one of the following retailers:

AMAZON

APPLE

GOOGLE PLAY

BARNES & NOBLE

If you’re ‘real book’ person, the cheapest place I’ve seen the book is WH Smith where it you can also do click and collect to save the delivery charge.

The Promise by Sally Jenkins

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Seriously Awkward Campaign and Competition

Do you remember being sixteen or seventeen years old? How did you find it? The best of us find the transition from child to adult difficult, there’s the pressure to conform with our peers, the pressure of exams and the pressure to decide on the next step in our lives. Imagine how much harder this time of life must be for those more vulnerable than ourselves, those suffering mental health problems, domestic abuse and worse.

The Children’s Society is running the Seriously Awkward Campaign to urge the Government to do more to help vulnerable teenagers through this transition time. Part of this campaign is a short story competition. Entry is free and is in two age groups: 16 to 25 year and 26 years plus.

First prize in each age group is “expert advice and feedback from a top literary agent and writing gifts. Young winners will receive exclusive advice and feedback with literary agency Darley Anderson and adult winners with David Higham Associates. The runners-up will receive a selection of writing gifts.”

Stories must be on the theme of 16 and 17 year olds. This brings to mind Young Adult fiction but the competition doesn’t appear to be restricted to that, the website suggests you can write from an adult point of view too such as parent, teacher or social worker.

The word limit is 2,000 and the closing date is 31 August 2018. Don’t forget to read all the terms and conditions!

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Orion on Tour

UK publishing is London-centric – the majority of our big publishers and agents are in the capital. This year Orion Books attacked that problem by going on tour and taking publishing to other parts of the country. At the beginning of July they were in Birmingham and I went along to see what they were doing.

Orion Books on Tour

My book swag!

The event was held in a smallish function room in the Cosy Club. It was busy, noisy and (given our current heatwave) very hot! There were complimentary drinks and nibbles plus a table heaving with brand new books. The latter were free for the taking, as many as we wanted – guess who was glad they had a fold up shopping bag to hand!

I talked to Orion publishing, editing and marketing staff. I renewed my acquaintance with historical fiction author Joanna Courtney I said hello to the presenters of the Brum Radio Book Show and chatted to book bloggers, readers and the manager of a Waterstones’ branch.

It was definitely worth going and not just for the books! I learned that some books published by a company as big as Orion have a zero marketing budget but that social media, used in the right way and with the right contacts, can work wonders. I learned that book bloggers are really nice people with a genuine passion for books but are often drowning under the number of review requests they get! I learned that authors with big book deals still get anxious about their writing ability and crave company during the long days of being a full time writer.

Finally, I noticed there were far more women than men in the room – does that mean more women than men love books?

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Brexit Poetry

The word Brexit can elicit strong reactions from the calmest, most even-tempered of people but it rarely inspires poetry. Now is your chance to convert your own feelings on the UK leaving the EU into verse.

Holland Park Press is running a Brexit poetry competition. It doesn’t matter on which side of the fence you stand or even if you’re still sitting on that fence. You can write about what being a European means to you, you can be angry or you can play devil’s advocate. The important thing is to touch, inspire or even frustrate the judges with your poem.

First prize is £200 and the winner and runners-up will be published online.

Poems can be up to 50 lines long. Entry is free and the closing date 31st December 2018 – so there’s bags of time to perfect your masterpiece! Don’t forget to read the full terms and conditions.

 

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Titles and Trademarks

There is no copyright in titles. A quick search on Amazon has shown me that there are at least ten novels with the same title as mine; The Promise.

However, difficulties can arise if the words in your title have been trademarked by someone else. I came across two incidents of this recently.

Firstly, I met someone to whom this had happened. The author’s publisher was contacted by the lawyer of a company who had trademarked a phrase very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the title of this writer’s book. The company used this trademark to identify a series of books rather than a single book. The company’s lawyer threatened legal action if the title of my acquaintance’s book wasn’t changed. This meant my author acquaintance and their publisher had to decide whether to get into a legal battle, which could be costly, or whether to change the title of the book, stand the cost of destroying the existing copies and reprinting.

Secondly, I came across an article about a romantic novelist who has trademarked the word ‘cocky’ for use in book titles. Faleena Hopkins has self-published a series of romance novels featuring the Cocker brothers and each has the word ‘cocky’ in the title. Following her trademarking, Faleena has asked several other romantic novelists to remove the word ‘cocky’ from their book titles. This hasn’t gone down well and a petition has been started to ask the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the ‘cocky’ trademark. See the full Guardian article for more details.

I am not a lawyer and if you have any specific questions or concerns in this area you should seek professional advice from a qualified person or a reputable organisation such as the Society of Authors. However, from some internet research, it seems to that:

  • Individual book titles cannot be trademarked but the name relating to a whole series of books can e.g. Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • Trademarks are generally registered at a national level but there are mechanisms to register them in multiple countries.
  • Trademarks are generally registered to apply only to a certain range of products or services such as chemicals, vehicles, printed matter etc.

More information can be found at:

The UK Copyright Service

Secure Your Trademark

Trademarks (gov.uk)

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