Historical musings…

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I’ve been embroiled in the commercial side of my trade this last week or so…trying everything I can think of to get people interested in the Bold Strokes Books event in the UK in July. If you’re thinking of coming to event, you can now follow us on Twitter and add us on facebook. I’ve sent more e-mails than I’ve kept track of this week, with flyers attached. I really really want this to be a bigger event than last year. Not to raise my own profile, or to sell books…those things are nice, but not of primary importance. What I want is for aspiring writers to be inspired to keep writing…for queer readers to know there are more books out there written for them than they think…to bring a community together with a shared love of books and writing…

Do I sound idealistic? Good. It’s better than cynical. 😀

Oh I’ve been editing too. My new historical novel. But it’s got to the point that I’m just reading and making no changes…so time for a break from that too, methinks…

Anyway, I decided it’s time to think about something else. So a blog post called to me…I asked my facebook friends for questions they would like me to answer in a blog a few days ago. My fellow history lover Melissa McGuire asked me this: “What historical character would you most like to meet? What time period would you most like to explore in a novel?” Thanks Melissa! 😀 I’ll try to answer now. Although this could be an endless essay on one of my favourite topics if I let it run away with me!

What historical character would I most like to meet? It’s a hard one. To begin with, does it have to be someone well known? Historical figures usually are. Kings and Queens, heroes who made their name with some feat of daring or great invention, some clever battle plan or inspired work of literature…But if you’ve read my books, Truths or Ghosts of Winter you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the ordinary people and the untold stories…I’d love to have a chat with someone who watched the execution of Anne Boleyn in the crowd…with a factory worker during the industrial revolution… with a soldier on the field at Waterloo…with a maid in a Victorian household…

Truth is, I love history so much that virtually any historical figure, famous or not, would hold my interest. But, for the sake of an answer to this question, I can think of a few of the more famous names. In the world of literature, tempted though I am to say Shakespeare, or Jane Austen, it’s actually Lord Byron I want to meet. Would he live up to his “mad, bad and dangerous to know” reputation, given to him by Lady Caroline Lamb? Would he be as handsome as he was thought in his day? Just what did go on with all those women, and those handsome boys? I want to meet the man who gave the adjective “Byronic” to the world. I remember standing in the church where he is buried (in Hucknall, near Nottingham) and wishing I could conjure him into life.

Lord Byron

Outside of literature…well…The Duke of Wellington, just to see if he’s as obnoxiously intelligent as he seems to have been…Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights…”Mad” King Ludwig of Bavaria, to see if he really was mad…

The list could go on and on. But I must just mention the one woman who has always intrigued me, from my earliest days of understanding history. Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I

 

Strong, powerful, in many ways tragic, the woman who defined an age, a golden age for this country. I would be terrified of the woman. But I would love to meet her too.

Okay, that was more than one figure. I hope you’ll forgive me… 😀

Now for the second part of the question…what time period would I most like to explore in a novel? This is just as hard! My favourite historical period is, without a doubt, from the French Revolution in 1789 to the end of the Regency in 1820. I love everything about the history, culture and literature of this period. Romanticism, the Napoleonic Wars, Jane Austen, the industrial revolution and the growth of the cities, the rise of the Gothic, the Enlightment…everything about the time fascinates me. I connect with it in ways I don’t entirely understand. The historical part of Truths and the historical novel I’m working on now are both set in this time period.

However, I’m not limited to one period! When I first thought of writing historical novels, it was the Tudor period I wanted to explore. All the power and poltics, life on a knife edge, a time of great discovery, hugely significant kings and queens…And at the moment, I am planning a late-Victorian novel, with all the decadence, anxiety, aesthicism and Gothic sensibilities of the fin de siecle period.

And yet, if I had to choose one period of history to explore…I would say the 1920s. That few short years between the two world wars, when Britain was already changed beyond recognition by the tragedy of World War One, but optimistic, full of the spirit of modernity, a drive to avoid the mistakes of the generations before…It seems such an exciting time. But all so futile. One shiny, glistening decade before the Wall Street Crash and the Depression…before the devastation of World War Two which followed…To explore that, to capture the spirit of that time in words, is something that is very much one of my writing ambitions.

1920s

I hope that answered your question Melissa! 😉

Now, I am going back to my editing. Otherwise known as banging my head against a wall constructed out of my own words…

Oh and Ghosts of Winter is out NOW!!! 😀

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3 responses »

  1. This is an amazing blog Rebecca! I am eagerly awaiting whatever you write concerning any of the eras you mentioned!

    I, too. would love to meet and talk to the ‘ordinary’ people from the past… hear the untold stories… see into the hearts and minds of the people who lived, loved and lost… make sure their unique experiences are never forgotten, because they deserve to be heard. That’s what I love about your books. The characters may be created in your wonderful imagination… but you make it easy for me to believe they were once alive… that their stories matter. Thank you! 🙂 You have a true gift, my friend!

    • Thank you Cindy! It means a lot to me that you enjoyed reading it and took time to comment too!! 😀
      And thank you for what you said about my writing too…what you described is one of the important things I always hope to achieve when I write something historical…a glimpse into the past, in a way you don’t get in the history books…
      😀

      • I think you’ve gotten it right each time! You write characters I care about… and I love learning their personal histories… feeling their emotions… seeing their world through their eyes… Yeah, you get it right!! 🙂

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