- Email me
- Nail Your Novel: books
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Who am I?
Posts Tagged historical fiction
My guest this week used to be a classical violinist. She says music informs every word she writes, expressing states of feeling that she then strives to render in words. Her novel is a biographical story about the little-known author Dorothy Richardson, who pioneered the stream of consciousness technique, although she is overshadowed today by Virginia Woolf. In the novel, Richardson is invited to stay with a friend who is married to HG Wells, which is the start of a tangled and tumultuous affair. It’s a novel full of love and loss, with a soundtrack to match. She is Louisa Treger and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack – and if you comment you could win a copy of her novel.
Betrayal, classical musicians, Dorothy Richardson, HG Wells, historical fiction, loss, Louisa Treger, love, music for writing, The Lodger, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Virginia Woolf, writers who were musicians
My guest this week grew up in thrall to wild west movies, especially the ones with epic theme music. Many years later, she was reading some history books as research and stumbled across the freed slaves who were conscripted to fight the Indian Wars. Those early movie memories with their sweeping soundscapes came back to her, along with a more bitter kind of song – gospel music and spirituals by Nina Simone, Paul Robeson and Sam Cooke. She emerged with a mission to, as she puts it, tell the story of the Civil War from the other side. She is Tanya Landman, her novel has been shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie Medal, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
Bob Marley, Buffalo soldier, Carnegie Medal, Civil War, Deep South, epic theme music, freed slaves, Gone With The Wind, gospel music, historical fiction, history books, how to write fiction, Roz Morris, slavery, Tanya Landman, Tara, Tara's Theme, writing with music
My guest this week has a taste for the adventurous. Her novel is set in the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies in 1717, and her characters are unwittingly pulled into a hazardous sea journey. The music that sustained this imaginative voyage is epic and foreboding, but not without its lighter elements. My guest discovered in her research that sailors used dance to ward off boredom on the interminable days at sea, so she wrote a scene to the soundtrack of a reel. But it became more than dance; when the characters shrugged off their tensions they began to behave in unexpected and delightful ways. In case you’re imagining it’s all lace, beards and cutlasses, though, there’s a distinctly modern note at the end: Moby makes an appearance (no, not the whale). The author is Dianne Greenlay (one of my co-conspirators at the League of Extraordinary Authors) and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
adventure, adventure stories, authors, background music, Bourne movies, Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, characters, Desert Island Discs, Dianne Greenlay, Dvorak, hazardous sea journey, high seas, historical fiction, Immediate Music, League of Extraordinary Authors, Moby, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, pirates, playlist for writers, Poitin, Roz Morris, Samuel Barber, The Congress Reel, The League of Extraordinary Authors, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, West Indies, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
My guest this week has written a novel of exiles – artists, sculptors and musicians displaced from their home countries by the border shifts after World War II. The central character is doubly exiled, born between genders at a time when such things were poorly understood. Music helped her create their personalities, guide her research and develop their histories. She drew on a rich heritage of opera, jazz and folk – and even composed her own folk song for the novel. She is Kathleen Jones and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
artists, authors, Ben Webster, Catherine Cookson, Cosmopolitan fiction prize, Croatia, deepen your story, Desert Island Discs, Europe, exile, Fay Weldon Award, folk, folk music, folk songs, Gilad Atzmon, Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House band, hermaphrodite, historical fiction, Homeland War, Homeland War Lenka, intersex, Istria, Istrian folk songs, Italy, jazz, Kathleen Jones, Kaštela, literary fiction, literary novels, Middlesex, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, opera, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, sculptors, Slovenia, The Centauress, The central character, The Undercover Soundtrack, Tuscan folk songs, undercover soundtrack, WH Smith bestseller, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music, Yugoslavia, Zenobia
My guest this week describes his writing as a constant state of striving – to achieve the same visceral punch of great music. His books come to him that way too – protagonist, thread and plot in one hit. In fact I’ve actually seen this thunderbolt descend; I was with him on a course one day when he told me he’d just overheard a conversation that gave him an entire plot and its characters in an instant. After that comes the hard work, of course, and music helps him return to that state of fever. The novel he is talking about this week is the first in a crime series, set in the final years of Moorish rule in Spain, and its soundtrack is full of sweat, guitars, lutes and bass. He is David Penny and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, bass, Counting Crows, crime, David Penny, Desert Island Discs, Grace Potter, guitars, historical crime, historical fiction, historical thriller, Joe Satriano, John Hiatt, literary fiction, literary novels, lute, male writers, Moors, murder, murder mystery, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, neil young, playlist for writers, protagonist, Roz Morris, Spain, surgery, The Red Hill, The Undercover Soundtrack, thrillers, Tinariwen, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
My guest this week says music has always been a companion to his writing. He drafted his first book in restaurants, bars and cafes while travelling the world, and now he turns to music to settle into the writing mood. In his fiction he likes to explore the bittersweet, the unresolved, the questions, the dark side of a strength, and draws inspiration from the songwriters and performers who can break your heart in three minutes flat – while fitting the shape of a tune. He is David Gaughran and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
American Idol, authors, Band of Gold, Bessie Smith, Bill Withers, Bob Dylan, Bobby Gentry, Dave Van Ronk, David Gaughran, Desert Island Discs, Diana Ross, emotional resonance, Ernie Ford, Freda Payne, Game of Thrones, historical fiction, Johnny Cash, Lee Christmas, literary fiction, literary novels, male writers, Mercenary, Motown, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, non-fiction, Ode To Billy Joe, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, science fiction, Special AKA, The Band, The Pogues, The Supremes, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
My guest this week used to regard music as a mostly-ignorable atmosphere. Then one inspirational moment changed everything. She was listening to Mike Oldfield when a character leaped, fully formed, into her imagination – an enigmatic pirate of the Caribbean, skilled with a cutlass and a roguish smile. This character also proved a turning point in her career, as her agent advised her that the adult readership did not want stories about pirates. But so strong was her conviction about the character that she wrote him anyway – and thus her indie career was born. She is Helen Hollick, her novels are the Sea Witch series, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack. All say ‘arrr’.
authors, Avalon Graphics, Bronwen Harrison, Desert Island Discs, Enigma, Helen Hollick, historical fiction, inspirational moment, Jesamiah Acorne, Loreena McKennitt, Mike Oldfield, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, pirate adventures, pirate fiction, pirate novels, pirate stories, pirates, Pirates of the Caribbean, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, Sea Witch, soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans, soundtrack to Master and Commander, soundtracks, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, USA Today bestseller, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing to music
Ideally we’d all write from personal experience, but most of us have much bigger imaginations than our pockets, lives, bravery levels or the laws of the land can accommodate. So we have to wing it from research.
Ghostwriting is the ultimate rebuke to the idea that you write what you know. We pretend all the way, even down to our identity, outlook and heart. When I was ghosting I became a dab hand at travel by mouse – there was no way the publisher paid enough for me to jet to my book’s location. Or would spring me out of jail.
So here are my tips for bridging the experience gap.
Good first-hand accounts
Obviously the web is full of blogs about just about anything. They’ll give you up-close, spit-and-sweat details from those who are living the life. But look further afield. Good memoirs and novels will not only provide raw material, they’ll show how to bring a place alive on the page.
There are scores of books published for writers who want to bone up on unfamiliar areas – whether crime, ways to kill or die, historical periods and what might be possible in steampunk. Or how to write a vampire novel. Some of you may know I’m an obsessive equestrian, and Dave’s roleplaying fraternity used to ask me constant questions about what you could do with horses until I wrote this piece for them.
What everybody else may already know
If there are famous books or movies that tackle your subject or feature your key location, get acquainted with them. Some readers hunt down every story that features their favourite keywords. They will not be impressed if you miss an obvious location for a murderer to hide a body, or an annual festival that should muck up your hero’s plans.
Flickr is wonderful for finding travellers’ snaps. But don’t discount professional photography. The best captures the emotional essence of a place, not just the visual details. I wrote one novel set in India and found a book of photographs of the monsoon. Those exquisite images of deluge gave me powerful, dramatic scenes.
Before the days of broadband, my go-to was National Geographic on searchable CD-ROM. I bought it as a Christmas present for Dave many years ago and probably you can now get the same thing on line. Sublime photography and descriptive writing that will get your fingers tapping.
Befriend an expert
Misapprehensions are inevitable if you’re appropriating others’ experiences. If possible, tame an expert you can bounce ideas off – especially if you’ve hung a major plot point on your theoretical understanding. When ghosting, I could ring my ‘authors’ for advice, but they weren’t always available so I found other sources to get my facts straight.
You’ll be surprised where these experts could be hiding. I never noticed my neighbourhood had a diving shop until I needed to write scenes featuring scuba. They were flattered and excited when I asked if I could pick their brains for a novel. When I was working on My Memories of a Future Life, a friend mentioned her family knew one of the BBC Young Musicians of the Year. Voila – I had an introduction to a concert pianist. Right now, I’m recruiting high-altitude climbers and pop musicians. Say hi in the comments if you know any.
What do you use to write what you don’t know? Share your tips in the comments! And do you have any research needs at the moment? Appeal for help here and you may find your perfect partner!
authors, crime, deepen your story, fiction, Flickr, gaming, ghostwriting, having ideas, historical fiction, historical novels, how to find experts, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, literature, memoir, My Memories of a Future Life, National Geographic, photography, photos, publishing, research, Roz Morris, scuba, steampunk, The Mountain Novel, thrillers, travel, travel memoir, unblocking, where to get ideas, Write what you know, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
My guest this week says music helped her slip away from 21st century family life into the volatile, simmering Key West of 1935. Her novel features a half-Cuban woman who goes to work for Ernest Hemingway (who himself once said he used words the way that Bach used notes). She is Erika Robuck and she’s on the Red Blog talking about the Undercover Soundtrack for Hemingway’s Girl.
1935, authors, century family, cuban woman, Erika Robuck, Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway, Hemingway's Girl, historical fiction, historical novels, how to write a novel, inspiration, Key West, literary fiction, Mexico, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, publishing, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
‘I want you to feel what my characters feel; music helps me do that’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, VR Christensen
My guest this week is a fan of BBC literary adaptations and describes music as a ‘necessary luxury’ in her writing process – magnifying the worlds of her characters, helping her to wriggle inside their plights and their conflicts. She is historical novelist VR Christensen, author of the bestseller Of Moths And Butterflies and she is flitting over to the Red Blog today with its Undercover Soundtrack.
arts, authors, deepen your story, historical fiction, how to write a novel, inspiration, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Of Moths And Butterflies, publishing, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, VR Christensen
I post 4 to 5 useful writing links per day… and other stuffMy Tweets
- ‘The planes, the explosions, the dust, the calm’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Kerry Drewery July 28, 2015
- Self-editing masterclass snapshots: Characters are grief stricken – how do I stop that becoming monotonous? July 26, 2015
- ‘Close your eyes and listen with your hands’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Tawnysha Greene July 22, 2015
- Self-editing masterclass snapshots – ‘My drafts are too brief’ July 19, 2015
- ‘The atmosphere to express the inexpressible’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Rebecca Mascull July 14, 2015
- Writing unforgettable characters – guest post at Vine Leaves Literary Journal July 13, 2015
- Self-editing masterclass snapshots – how much will you write to create your book? July 12, 2015
Sign up for my newsletter
See what I did there…