Since I happen to read a lot of historical-fiction, I found it as no surprise when I started thinking of writing a full length novel that it would be of that genre. It was more of a challenge to find the setting, the time period, the historical event to write about. It didn’t seem prudent to look to ancient history even though Egyptians, Greeks & Romans fill my bookshelves both with historical and fictional tomes and while I may know a bit about those civilizations, I felt more comfortable tackling something closer to home. Besides, I have come to know a few authors(via social media) who are much more attuned to those time periods than I could ever be. The same holds true for the Dark Ages, medieval Europe, the Crusades, The Norman conquest of Britain, etc,etc. Fortunately for me there is an abundance of material to choose from in the forming of the United States and the historical sites are a lot closer to me than the Roman ruins in Europe and Britain. 🙂
The French and Indian War turned out to be the perfect precursor to the colonies breaking free from King George and that in turn spurred my idea for a series of novels that would follow a fictional family through American history in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name of the family, Mallory, I took from my own family history. My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Mallory and she hailed from central PA. (Altoona) where Clash of Empires primarily takes place.
One of the more enjoyable parts of writing about a historical event or period is that the writer must learn about that which he is going to write. One book I found to be an excellent source was Empires at War by William M. Fowler.
With the information gathered from this book I scoured the Web for information on the battles and the personalities involved in this, the real first world war. Websites maintained by the various forts and historical sites proved to be lucrative places to learn. Also invaluable were the various pages devoted to Native American life and history; especially when finding names and learning about the daily life of the Mohawk, Shawnee, Ojibway, Ottawa and the many other tribes affected by the war. Wikipedia was also an important source, so much so that I even ponied up a few bucks for this incredible site. These tools were relied upon heavily when writing about a historical character. I tried to represent them as truthfully as possible, e.g. most British officers had a disdainful attitude toward the colonial troops at their disposal and that trait is evident in men like General John Braddock, Colonel Munro, etc, etc. For the person of George Washington I attempt to show him as an intelligent and compassionate man and leader. This period of his life is one of learning the craft of war and learning the craft of dealing with politicians, important steppingstones to the man he will become. In the case of the Ottawa war chief, Pontiac, I found extreme opinions on his actual part in the conflict called Pontiac’s Rebellion. I chose to portray him as a sort of Vercingetorix, uniting the tribes in order to overthrow their new masters, the British.
However, a writer does not live on research alone. Nay, the author must still call upon his/her muse because stuff still needs to be made up.
Often times when I am working on my book I amaze myself at some of the things that I come up with. I’ve come to the conclusion that at least some of the material has to be inspired so I’ve adopted the stance that I have a Muse that does the inspiring(the picture above is one of the 3 or 9 Muses – depending on who you read the number varies – this one is probably Clio the Muse of history). From Wikipedia: ‘The Muses, the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne(memory personified). Hesiod’s account and description of the Muses was the one generally followed by the writers of antiquity. It was not until Roman times that the following functions were assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes:Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyric poetry), Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore(dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), Urania (astronomy).’
I imagine that I have been inspired by more than one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne but Clio seems to be the most likely given my penchant for my lifelong reading about and studying history. Sometimes I portray my relationship with my creative sources as being a fickle and often a frustrating one. Fickle because many of the thoughts and ideas for the story come when I cannot write them down as I am behind the wheel of my car…frustrating as there are periods of time when I can think of nothing at all to add. Still, however, I am more pleased than pissed with their involvement.
Having chosen which battles or events I want to portray I now have to plan what part(s) my fictional characters will play without disturbing the historical event too much. An example of this is the ill-fated attempt by General Braddock to take Fort Duquesne(Pittsburgh) from the French. In this battle my fictional characters do play a part as they utilize the woodland skills I have given them and as scouts for the colonial militia they are instrumental in helping the historical character of Washington in keeping the rout from becoming worse. This type of integration of my fictional characters with the historical ones does present challenges as I do not want to distort the event yet I want the result to be a compelling read.
Among the many challenges facing me in putting together a full length novel was concocting enough material to fill the spaces between the war chapters. After all life continues in some fashion even in a dangerous frontier. So in addition to writing battle scenes full of action, gore, death and bravery there were also other things like character development in some of the other human endeavors. My characters had to feel friendship, loyalty, betrayal, success, loss and to my surprise they had to find love. I don’t know what was harder to pen, the battle stuff or the romance; both were fun to figure out. In chapter one we see a romantic relationship between Liza and Henry that had it’s roots prior to the beginning of the book. I like the way it played out with Liza being the more forceful one; I also had fun with their dialogue – I just can’t seem to write without having some humor involved. There are a couple more love stories that involve the two brothers, Daniel and Liam. I don’t know that I originally intended to have as many romances as I have but the thought occurred to me that if I wanted to carry this story on into a family saga covering over 100 years then I needed characters having sex and having kids. Now don’t get all in a tizzy, nothing graphic mind you just pure and wholesome descriptive behavior. 🙂