Finding the Right Voice for Historical Characters

When I was writing The Count of the Sahara, the hard part was taking facts that were well known, but making the characters more than just a regurgitation of what was already known and their own writing. How do you make the dialogue real, and the people involved come alive?

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

As I explain in this interview on Lavinia Colins blog, I had one of those aha moments writers love to blab on and on about. You can read the interview here,  but basically the desert scenes between Alonzo Pond and Byron de Prorok came alive when I found the analogy: It was “Amadeus in the Desert.” Read the article and find out why.

I remember standing in the archives at the Logan Museum of Anthropology when I had the epiphany.  The Logan’s exhibit on this expedition is opening soon, and if you’re in the area check it out. Meanwhile,  you can read the article on Lavinia’s site.

Full disclosure, Lavinia is a fellow writer for our publisher, TheBookFolks and a very good writer of Arthurian fantasy.

Does Historical Fiction Include Fantasy?

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.- F Scott Fitgerald.

Yeah, I’m a freakin’ genius.  I love historical fiction that is researched and full of interesting details. I also love fantasy (yes, I’m a sword and sorcery geek, sue me.) These two ideas come together, and often seem to clash. A good case in point is the sub-genre called “Arthurian fiction.”

From my earliest memories, the story of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have thrilled me.  But was Arthur an actual historical character? If so, what about Merlin, who was a magician, after all? This has led to a schism between those who love “Arthurian Fantasy” and a more factual, history-based approach. Two of my favorite current writers take opposite approaches to the same source material.

Jack Whyte, the author of The Camulod Chronicles painstakingly researches his

Was Arthur real? Jack Whyte’s carefully researched books are an amazing take on the story you think you know.

books and places them in a gritty, dark period between the fall of the Roman empire, and the beginnings of that bizarre mix of Celts and Saxons that created pre-Norman Britain. I love his stuff: dark, philosophical, as close to “realistic” as something lost in the fog of time could be. If you’re not reading him, you should be. Just saying.

Lavinia Collins, on the other hand, writes Arthurian fantasy full of magic, sex and a Celtic/feminist approach. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not like she doesn’t know her history. The background of the stories is well researched and true to the period. She just chooses

Was Arthur's sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn't it?
Was Arthur’s sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn’t it?

to use the known history of the time as the starting point to spin a great yarn. Does that mean it’s not “historical fiction?” She has written a wonderful blog post about that dilemma in fact. Click here to read it.

A case in point is where Excalibur came from. Jack says it was forged from the metal that came  from a meteorite, so it had unusual properties. According to Lavinia, it was forged by a woman blessed with magic in the caves under Avalon.

Is either “true?” Does it matter? I prefer to just enjoy them both. How about you?

So, Hotshot, who’s publishing your book?

When I announced that my first novel, “Pith Helmets in the Snow” was going to be published, I got a lot of questions about who the publisher was.  The answer, is TheBookFolks in the UK.

I have two reasons for telling you this:

First, I swore I wouldn’t self-publish my first novel. And I’m not–quit asking.

I have nothing against self-publishing. In fact, two of my best selling books are self-published. There’s a part of me that’s all about “death to the middleman and seize the means of production,” and all that. But I swore with my first attempt at a novel, I wanted someone other than my blood relatives to think I could write. I wanted an agent and a “big six” book deal. If not that, at least a “real” publisher.

Basically, I wanted someone I wasn’t related to validating my talent. I also know that my ego basically demands someone kick my butt in the editing process to have the best possible outcome. Left to my own devices, my book would be an embarrassing wreck.

While I didn’t find an agent, I did find a publisher who really believes in the book, sells books all over the world, and who seems to be hoodwinked into thinking I can write. A thousand blessings on his house and camels.

Secondly, I want to introduce you to the company I’m keeping.

The first thing I did after sending Erik the full manuscript was to check out the other writers in his stable. I can tell you that I’m in good company.  I have read a lot of indie books lately, and most of them are abysmal. There isn’t one of the four I read that didn’t “deserve” to find readers, although some I enjoyed more than others. That’s what reading is about, right?

More than that, I am proud to be in their company. Thought I’d just share them with you.

Only 24 and she can write circles around me. If you like Arthurian fantasy ( I do) and hot sex (no comment) you’ll enjoy the first book in what will be a great trilogy.


A creepy action thriller set in Britain.









A creepy Sci-fi murder mystery set in Australia. Never read one of those, have you?
A crime thriller spanning 50 years of British life. Really dug the tone and the twists.


So there you have it. I hope that answers the question and helps you find some new authors to check out.

Don’t let the weasels get ya down.