Thursday, October 23

Guest Post: Interview with Ginger Myrick, Historical Fiction Author

Ginger Myrick

It's always nice when other writers stop by my blog!

Today, I'm delighted to host Ginger Myrick, winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012 and author of five historical novels. She is also one of the most supportive writers I've met through the Historical Fiction community, dropping everything to bail confused bloggers (that would be me) out where necessary.

Ginger writes in a number of different time periods, so I thought I'd kick off by asking her about that:


Welcome, Ginger! You've written five novels so far, which is very impressive. Out of those, which is your favourite?

I am currently working on number six! Each book is like a child and has something special about it that I love. The Welsh Healer has a twist of magic and incorporates British myth and folklore.
Work of Art is an updated Cinderella story with a dark twist. But for the Grace of God is my take on Christian values and an argument for human equality, two things about which I am passionate. Insatiable, the Marie Antoinette book, is a dark rollercoaster ride through 18th century France on the verge of revolution, with all the drama that setting entails.

But I would have to say that El Rey is closest to my heart. It was my first book, the first time I experienced that strange gift of inspiration. I didn’t know how long it would last, and so I threw everything I had into that story. It’s nearly 600 pages and the biggest reflection of me as a person. Basically, it’s my life story fictionalized, and that lends itself to favoritism, or at least it’s more personal than the others. There is also a sense of freedom in that book—with a sea journey and horseback rides on rolling green hills—that I find utterly intoxicating.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Hahahahaha! I still don’t consider myself a writer and avoid using that title as much as I can, although my husband bandies it about with alacrity. I suppose my attitude stems from the fact that I never aspired to any of this. One day out of the blue, I had a sudden inspiration for a story, so I sat down and began to type. El Rey was the result, and here I am a couple of years later working on book number six. Although the term writer is debatable, there is no denying that I have produced five novels, so novelist is a term I tolerate a bit better.

 Have places inspired your stories?

In order to write convincingly, I need a good visual in front of me, but I’ve only been to the places I’ve written about via the internet. When I began scouting a location for El Rey, I fell in love with Terceira.
Terceira
It’s an island in the Azorean archipelago, a Portuguese territory. The island chain is volcanic and sits in the Atlantic Ocean, so the scenery is dramatic with steep coned peaks sloping all the way down to the shore along with the rolling green hills mentioned above. It’s also covered with hydrangea, always a plus for someone who loves flowers.

As you can tell, I get swept away simply by the idea. I have a standing invitation to visit, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to take advantage of it. I have a Labradoodle who would pine away for me if I left him for more than a few hours! I would also love to see the Seven Wonders of Wales, which also held me quite enchanted as I wrote about them.

Which historical person would you want to meet and why?

I have always been fascinated with John of Gaunt, probably because Katherine by Anya Seton was the book that lit my fire for historical fiction. I have even made several subtle homages to that work in El Rey. I have always been intrigued by John’s complex character, his strong ambitious side juxtaposed with the tenderness he held for two of his wives, Blanche of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford. He did everything right, but could never quite succeed in the things he held most important. He acted honorably enough, but he still could not win the love of the English people.
John Wycliffe reading his translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt.
Ford Madox Brown
Yes, he hungered for a crown and married a foreign princess—a Castilian one—in hopes of sitting a throne, but how is that different than any other prince of the time? I guess I am sort of carrying a torch for him, but don’t tell my husband. Even if John of Gaunt has been in the grave for over 600 years, hubby would still be jealous!

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your writing?

That would have to be a sentiment expressed in a personal email that my writing helped a friend through a major loss. She said that El Rey allowed her to finally cry where she hadn’t felt free to do so while holding her family together during their crisis. To know that I have touched someone in such a profoundly personal way is priceless. It’s what I hoped to achieve from the start.
Another cool thing is that I’ve had readers ask me if I am Portuguese, Welsh, or Irish, insinuating that I must have some connection with the cultures I have written about. This gave me untold satisfaction in regard to The Welsh Healer, because the folklore and traditions run so deep. I figured I must have done a good job if people thought I had grown up with the beliefs of such an isolated people.

On a bit of a side note, The Welsh Healer was catalogued into the library at the Madog Center for Welsh Studies where I had some translation done for the book. I’m not going to lie, that definitely made me feel legitimate! People have even treated me like an authority on Marie Antoinette, but I am only learned on a given subject for as long as I am writing about it. When the research for a project is finished, I go back to being a Jack(ess?) of all trades, master of none.

What’s next for Ginger Myrick?

I have just begun writing another book in the Insatiable series.

This will actually be the first volume—Marie Antoinette’s story being number four—in what looks like a six part rewrite of French history. My WIP centers around Catherine de’ Medici and will explain the genesis of the mysterious plague turning ordinary French citizens into the mort-vivant. I had originally intended to write the books in chronological order but thought I might garner more interest with such a flamboyant figure as Marie Antoinette. It didn’t quite work out the way I anticipated, but everything in its time.

In closing, I would like to thank the lovely E.M. Powell for hosting me and all of you who took the time to listen to me ramble on. I am grateful for your time and interest. You are what makes this journey worthwhile.

As do you, Ginger! Thanks so much for providing such interesting insight into your writing world.

 Winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012, Ginger Myrick is the author of five novels: But for the Grace of God, Work of Art, The Welsh Healer, El Rey, and Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ L’Amour: Marie Antoinette. A Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core, she hopes to show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.

Visit her website at www.gingermyrick.com
You can find all her books on:
Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, October 16

Fair Rosamund, Mistress of Henry II

Fair Rosamund
John William Waterhouse, 1916
Public Domain

King Henry II has a deserved infamous reputation for extra-marital affairs. Documented evidence exists of several liaisons, some of which produced illegitimate offspring, with women rewarded financially for their services to the King.

By far the most well-known of Henry's mistresses is Rosamund Clifford, the young woman who is often referred to as Fair Rosamund. A less flattering contemporary description comes from Gerald of Wales, Henry's acerbic chronicler, who refers to her as 'that rose of unchastity.'

You can find out more about her on my post for English Historical Fiction Authors by following this link:

English Historical Fiction Authors: Fair Rosamund, Mistress of Henry II:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the new medieval thriller with Sir Benedict Palmer, somebody is trying to murder the Fair Rosamund. Henry summons Palmer to find out who is responsible. But as Palmer races to secure the throne for the King, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated...

You'll have to find out what happens next in THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT, published by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01.2015

You can pre-order it here:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk


Thursday, September 25

Sisters in Crime September Blog Hop


Yes, I write historical thrillers. Much of what I blog about is the historical part, less so the thriller part. Not any more! For I have been tagged by fellow Sister in Crime Member, H.A. Somerled as part of the September SinC-Up. You can read her post on her musical muses here.

The blog co-ordinators at SinC posed some great questions, so here's my choices.

1. Which authors have inspired you?

For thrillers, it has to be Tess Gerritsen. She's a thriller writer that I read and think, 'Damn! Why can't I do that?' She writes great female protagonists that have their feet firmly on the ground yet can really piss people off too. (yay, Detective Jane Rizzoli!)There's no pink, no wittering on about shoes and no needing men to rescue them.


One of my all-time favourite novels is Robert Harris's Pompeii. You don't get many water engineers who are heroes, but Marius Attilius Primus most certainly is. Harris showed me in this book the thrilling story telling that can result when ordinary (fictional!) people are caught up in extraordinary historical events.
Pompeii
2. If someone said 'Nothing against women writers, but all of my favourite crime fiction authors happen to be men', how would you respond?

Tess Gerritsen. Kathy Reichs. Tana French. Karin Slaughter. Agatha Christie. Patricia Cornwell.Val McDermid. I got those ones out in one breath. And I have plenty more breath left.

3. What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?

The best part is those wonderful scenes that just pour out as if someone else is doing it. Finding a solution to a plot problem that is far, far more entertaining (and grisly!) than in the original synopsis.

The most challenging is when it doesn't fly. When the writing is sat there like a muddy lump and I am boring even myself. I carry on, then delete. I should learn to delete faster.

4. If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

Learn your craft. Like any apprenticeship, you need to learn which nuts and bolts fit together. If you don't, nothing works quite right. Worse case scenario, it falls apart.

Use the fantastic resources that are writers' organisations. Like Sisters in Crime. Like Romance Writers of America. Like the Historical Novel Society. Whatever your genre/cross-genre is, there will be an organisation for you. The support, the expertise, the sharing the frustrations, the generosity of other members: all this will help you greatly.

Yes, it costs to join. But not a great deal. And they're worth their weight in gold!

I'm now tagging fellow SinC member, Judith Starkston to write her September SinC-Up post. Judith writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire.

Her novel, Hand of Fire (Fireship Press September 2014), tells Briseis's story, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad. There was more to her than the handful of lines Homer gave her. Imagine a woman who can both challenge and love that most conflicted of heroes, the half-immortal Achilles.

Visit Judith's website at: www.judithstarkston.com





The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling historical thriller. Find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. Find it here!

Thursday, September 18

Book Review: Witchcraft in Europe 400-1700

Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History (Middle Ages Series)Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When writing historical fiction, it's always important to access historical research that's as accurate as possible. My fiction is set in twelfth century England and research into events or issues can present challenges with the passage of some eight centuries.

I wished to include the issue of witchcraft or, to be more accurate, sorcery in my current novel. Many books on witchcraft/sorcery tend to concentrate on later centuries but I was thrilled to find entries in this book that covered the time period I needed.

This book chronicles the rise and fall of witchcraft in Europe over 1,300 years, starting (as per the title)in 400 A.D. It presents contemporary accounts and primary documents. While of course these are at times more challenging to follow, the translations are accessible for the non-expert (such as me!).

There are notes on each entry, along with meticulous attribution of sources. There are also suggestions for further reading.

My only quibble would be the lack of an index as it makes finding specific issues a bit more laborious. But it is a minor criticism and certainly should not put off anyone who is interested in reading reliable information on the subject.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 14

The Joy of Reenactment: Medieval Clothing


As a historical fiction writer, so much research is done through written materials or inanimate objects stored in museums. Such resources are of course marvellous but there is one type of research that is very special in bringing history to life. I am talking of course about reenactment.

Earlier this summer, I was very fortunate in meeting a group of medieval reencators, Historia Normannis. Historia Normannis is a 12th century reenactment group, focusing primarily on the events between the reign of Henry I and King John and they bring history to life in a historically accurate, engaging and exciting way. And not only that, they were unfailingly patient and generous in giving me lots of time and answering innumerable questions.

You can read the answers to all those questions here:
English Historical Fiction Authors: The Joy of Reenactment: Medieval Clothing:

E.M. Powell is the author of The Fifth Knight, a medieval thriller based on the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. You can find it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk

The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be released by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01.2015. 

Visit her website at www.empowell.com or her Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 9

My Historical Novel Society Conference 2014


Okay, it's finished. I'm back from HNS London 2014. I'm over-tired and fractious plus very cranky that it's all over. A bit like a toddler post-birthday party, except perhaps not quite so sticky. Perhaps.

In order to keep the magic alive, I'm posting my highlights. There could conceivably be hundreds but I'll confine myself to these few.

Highlight #1: The Poppies at the Tower of London


I made some time to go and see the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower. It's one of the commemorations to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. It is truly inspiring and moving. These are words that have had their currency severely devalued in recent years. In this case, they properly apply.

Highlight #2: Imaginary Friends:

We writers all love our social media, don't we? We warble on for hours to each other, directing our warbling to a photograph of a person whom we hope is real. 

Anna Belfrage @Anna_Belfrage
Mark Patton @markpatton1
& Lisa J Yarde @lisajyarde












But guess what? You go to an event like #HNSLondon14 and find out that THEY ARE!



And they're even nicer in real life than they are in cyberspace. That's a tall order, for in cyberspace they are unfailingly generous and supportive in their sharing and tweeting and mentioning of my stuff.
Derek Birks @Feud_writer
Mary Tod
@MKTodAuthor
















Michael Dean @MichaelDeanAuth
& Stephanie dos Santos @ByStephRenee
Charlie Farrow manages to do this while also organising and running the conference. And she was always charming and smiling like this:
Charlie Farrow @charliefarrow1
All weekend. Personally, I would have been throwing furniture by Sunday p.m.

Highlight #3: Meeting Cathy Rentzenbrink (@CathyReadsBooks)

Cathy is well known as director of adult literacy champions Quick Reads and associate editor of The Bookseller. During her fascinating Reaching Out to Readers workshop, she talked about being the first reviewer for major titles. That responsibility would have me sitting in a comer with a towel over my head, but she was utterly modest.

I also had the good fortune to speak with her writer-to-writer. She has the most heart-breaking memoir coming out in 2015. It's about the catastrophic injury suffered by her brother as a teenager and the unimaginable decisions her family had to take about ending his life. No, it's not historical, and no, it's not fiction. But I'll be reading it.

Highlight #4: Being a Loser:

Yes, I was long listed for the Short Story award. No, I didn't win. Lorna Fergusson was the very worthy recipient. I was just happy to be among fellow losers (heh) Christopher W. Cevasco and Laura Purcell. 
Mr. Cevasco does not possess a Twitter handle. Call the writing police!
Laura Purcell @Laura_D_Purcell

Highlight #5: Gin & Syphilis:

For the panel 'My Era is Better than Yours', the audience voted for the Georgians. One strongly suspects that a fondness for gin and syphilis is some kind of mass wish-fulfilment on behalf of authors. 

Highlight #6: Happy Pitchers:

This has to be the best part of the whole conference. I met so many writers who had pitched to editors and agents and who had had a 'yes' for fulls, partials and proposals. In an industry that can be 'no', 'no' and 'no' for years, getting the Y-word is such an achievement and an enormous confidence booster. I can't wait to hear how everyone gets on!

Till next time, all. I'm going for a lie-down...


The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling historical thriller. Find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. Find it here!



Thursday, September 4

A Beginner's Guide to the HNS Conference 2014

Yes, it's finally nearly here! Just the one more sleep before the Historical Novel Society's London 2014 Conference kicks off. From Friday 05 to Sunday 07 September 2014, all #histfic roads lead to the University of Westminster. Exciting times, yes?

But I'm sure there will be some folk attending who haven't quite yet achieved excitement. Probably more like a heady mix of dread/terror. For if you are a conference newbie/first-timer, the prospect can be absolutely terrifying.

Us writers are, by the virtue of what we do, a fairly solitary lot. We like to be alone, doing the words on a page thing. We may poke our heads above the parapet on social media. A bit. But the advantage of that is you don't even have to leave the house. Heck, if you choose your social medium (look, correct singular) wisely, you don't even have to get dressed.

Not so with the dreaded conference. You, as a newbie, have chosen to spend three days among living, breathing, sweating human beings. Lots of them. That you've never met. Who will all ignore you for three days and nights, and you will spend any free time alone in your teeny-tiny room, weeping for the time when you can back to being...alone.

Now, that would be just silly. And as a writer, you're probably able to conjure up far more elaborately hideous circumstances than that. Which would be a great shame and will keep you awake all night tonight.

This will be my third HNS conference. I may have done a bit of fretting prior to my first one.

So in the spirit of HNS support and co-operation, here are my pointers for a successful conference:

  • Everyone will be labelled. Even you.Not in a judgy way, but as in a wearing a name tag way. This really helps in that initial panic of trying to remember the names of multiple strangers.  And it means that people will know your name, too! (It also helps with identification gaffes. I once attended a classical music concert where I hassled a polite man into fetching me a chair. Turned out he was the conductor.)
  • Say hello to whoever is sitting next to you. They won't bite. If they do, change seats.
  • I write across genres, so go to different conferences. Thriller conferences tend to be a little testosterone-heavy. Romance ones favour oestrogen. HNS is more likely to have people arguing for hours about who first invented hormones. It's nice. And very relaxed.
  • There will be beards. The men will have some too. (I include myself in this particular heh-heh. My tweezers are packed.)
  • But if you have forgotten your tweezers/tights/good shirt/herbal tea bags: don't panic. The conference is in London. There are shops. 
  • Special notes for those travelling from abroad. For my countrymen and women travelling from Ireland: DO NOT BRING FOOD. No matter how many times your Mammy put rashers/sausages/brown bread in your suitcase, you need to now stop. London has food. It really does. For those coming from the US/Canada: you can drink the water. There will be no ice. At least no communal ice. People would just steal it.
  • If you're pitching to an editor or agent, try to remain calm.They are not waiting to catch you out or pour scorn on you. They want to hear about your book. Having said that, you might want to have something else in the locker as well. I pitched to Marcy Posner (a sweet, gracious lady) at the 2010 conference. I had honed those words to memorised perfection. Arrived in, every syllable ready. She smiled and said: 'Tell me about yourself.' I couldn't remember. The label came in handy. 
  • There will usually be weapons. 
  • If you have chosen an amusing Twitter handle like @Henrysseventhwife or @Historywhore or @Colossalmeatsword, I appreciate you never contemplated having to say it aloud. But you have nobody to blame except yourself. 
  • If you don't have arrangements for evening meal times, ask someone if you can come along with them/their group. That is a completely accepted way of doing things at conference. (Just not at home time).
  • Tell Richard Lee he's a good egg.
  • Enjoy spending time with a group of like-minded, enthusiastic individuals who love this marvellous thing that is Historical Fiction.

Simple, eh? See you there!

E.M. Powell is the author of The Fifth Knight, a medieval thriller based on the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. You can find it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be released by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. Visit her website at www.empowell.com or her Facebook page.