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How I write Historical Fiction: Advice from a Practitioner

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I could have called this short book How to Write Historical Fiction. It would arguably have been an accurate title. The book does tell you how to seek your inspiration, and where to do research, and how to find and develop characters, and how to write dialogue and description, and how to integrate the description of background into the main narrative. It even says somethin I could have called this short book How to Write Historical Fiction. It would arguably have been an accurate title. The book does tell you how to seek your inspiration, and where to do research, and how to find and develop characters, and how to write dialogue and description, and how to integrate the description of background into the main narrative. It even says something about how to find a publisher. On the other hand, the title would have created a misleading view of the book. When I pay for a How to book, I expect something that takes me, chapter by chapter, though what I want to learn. How to Write Historical Fiction needs to start with a chapter of encouragement. It needs to end with a list of the agents who handle historical fiction. Between these points, there must be practical advice on how to write coherent prose, and how to proof a typescript. How I Write Historical Fiction is a much better title. This book is a set of essays, interviews and reviews written between 2011 and 2014. Its most obvious faults are a degree of repetition, and a relentless puffing of my own works. I think these are pardonable faults. When you are answering the same questions, or making the same points, repetition is inevitable. As for the puffing, I wrote mainly to bring people’s attention to my novels, and it would have defeated this object not to mention them. In further mitigation, I suggest that the book does contain a great deal of sound advice about the craft of historical fiction. I have spent years dealing with the problems faced by everyone who tries to write an historical novel. How I deal with them has brought me much acclaim. More to the point, it has encouraged Hodder & Stoughton to commission six novels; and these have been translated so far into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Hungarian, Chinese and Indonesian. Perhaps I am doing many things wrong. At the same time, I must be doing some things right. Such being the case, I offer these reflections as encouragement and advice to anyone who is thinking to enter the most honourable craft that is at once the dearest joy of my life—only excepting my womenfolk—and the main provider of my daily bread. Post Scriptum As a further deterrent—or incentive—to the reader, I must say that neither this book nor my novels are for the prudish. Because I do not excel in such things, and because the Internet is filled with the writings of those who do excel, I prefer to avoid close descriptions of the sexual act. What I do not avoid is trying to show things as they are. One of the interviews republished here is with Ulisex, which is Mexico’s leading LGBT magazine. This began as an interview with an Irish gay magazine. It was not published in Ireland. The editor had one look through it, and told me, with rising outrage and hysteria, that his mother had been profoundly shocked by the explanations of the Latin sexual vocabulary and by the translations from the Epigrams of Martial. If you are disgusted by the English meanings of words like fello and irrumo and paedico and futuo and cinaedus and pathicus and tribas, this is not a book I would encourage you to read. Otherwise, you can find a complete listing of my novels in the Appendix. From Reviews of Books by Richard Blake From Reviews of Books by Richard Blake “Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.” Derek Jacobi, star of I Claudius and Gladiator “Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational.” (The Daily Telegraph) “He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed.


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I could have called this short book How to Write Historical Fiction. It would arguably have been an accurate title. The book does tell you how to seek your inspiration, and where to do research, and how to find and develop characters, and how to write dialogue and description, and how to integrate the description of background into the main narrative. It even says somethin I could have called this short book How to Write Historical Fiction. It would arguably have been an accurate title. The book does tell you how to seek your inspiration, and where to do research, and how to find and develop characters, and how to write dialogue and description, and how to integrate the description of background into the main narrative. It even says something about how to find a publisher. On the other hand, the title would have created a misleading view of the book. When I pay for a How to book, I expect something that takes me, chapter by chapter, though what I want to learn. How to Write Historical Fiction needs to start with a chapter of encouragement. It needs to end with a list of the agents who handle historical fiction. Between these points, there must be practical advice on how to write coherent prose, and how to proof a typescript. How I Write Historical Fiction is a much better title. This book is a set of essays, interviews and reviews written between 2011 and 2014. Its most obvious faults are a degree of repetition, and a relentless puffing of my own works. I think these are pardonable faults. When you are answering the same questions, or making the same points, repetition is inevitable. As for the puffing, I wrote mainly to bring people’s attention to my novels, and it would have defeated this object not to mention them. In further mitigation, I suggest that the book does contain a great deal of sound advice about the craft of historical fiction. I have spent years dealing with the problems faced by everyone who tries to write an historical novel. How I deal with them has brought me much acclaim. More to the point, it has encouraged Hodder & Stoughton to commission six novels; and these have been translated so far into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Hungarian, Chinese and Indonesian. Perhaps I am doing many things wrong. At the same time, I must be doing some things right. Such being the case, I offer these reflections as encouragement and advice to anyone who is thinking to enter the most honourable craft that is at once the dearest joy of my life—only excepting my womenfolk—and the main provider of my daily bread. Post Scriptum As a further deterrent—or incentive—to the reader, I must say that neither this book nor my novels are for the prudish. Because I do not excel in such things, and because the Internet is filled with the writings of those who do excel, I prefer to avoid close descriptions of the sexual act. What I do not avoid is trying to show things as they are. One of the interviews republished here is with Ulisex, which is Mexico’s leading LGBT magazine. This began as an interview with an Irish gay magazine. It was not published in Ireland. The editor had one look through it, and told me, with rising outrage and hysteria, that his mother had been profoundly shocked by the explanations of the Latin sexual vocabulary and by the translations from the Epigrams of Martial. If you are disgusted by the English meanings of words like fello and irrumo and paedico and futuo and cinaedus and pathicus and tribas, this is not a book I would encourage you to read. Otherwise, you can find a complete listing of my novels in the Appendix. From Reviews of Books by Richard Blake From Reviews of Books by Richard Blake “Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.” Derek Jacobi, star of I Claudius and Gladiator “Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational.” (The Daily Telegraph) “He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed.

22 review for How I write Historical Fiction: Advice from a Practitioner

  1. 4 out of 5

    Venetia Green

    I feel I've learned a lot about the early Byzantine Empire by way of this book, and perhaps a little about writing historical fiction. I've also received a crash course in ancient sexual mores and perused a couple of book reviews. Actually, I've enjoyed quite a few stretches of this higgledy-piggledy collection of articles and interviews, but do get the strong feeling that I've just been subjected to a prolonged marketing ploy ... I feel I've learned a lot about the early Byzantine Empire by way of this book, and perhaps a little about writing historical fiction. I've also received a crash course in ancient sexual mores and perused a couple of book reviews. Actually, I've enjoyed quite a few stretches of this higgledy-piggledy collection of articles and interviews, but do get the strong feeling that I've just been subjected to a prolonged marketing ploy ...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Venetia Green's summary says it all. Lots of repetition between articles. Venetia Green's summary says it all. Lots of repetition between articles.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David K. Nouvel

  4. 4 out of 5

    T.M. Tucker

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beric Dondarrion

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ian D Field

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beth Reilly

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sean Gabb

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Cardiff

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Frances C Doyle

  12. 4 out of 5

    Suanne

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kayleigh Kavanagh

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robert McLaughlin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kaylene

  16. 4 out of 5

    Damon Lord

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rodney M Shearing

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jen Burrell

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vito Lucido

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kahina

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharon L. Sherman

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Mitchell

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