First, link time! Tricia Tighe of Damsels in Regress, another history and writing related blog we follow, has an interview with me and a review of Courtship and Curses which you might enjoy.
I’ve sometimes thought about why I write what I write. I guess it’s something all people who create wonder about—what draws us to write this particular book, or paint that particular painting, or put this specific sequence of notes into a song. For me and my love of historical fantasy—well, the history part is obvious: the past is one of my biggest passions, and always has been. But no matter what I try to write, an element of fantasy always creeps into it. I can’t help it, it just happens; I attribute it to the fact that the very first chapter book I read as child was called The Little Witch, and it imprinted on me somehow. I have a couple of ideas for straight historical books…but you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me if some fantasy elements still managed to worm its way into those stories while my head is turned. Sneaky stuff, that magic.
Of course, some historical settings just seem to beg for the addition of magic. I think it’s because when we study history, we’re looking at the “big”, dramatic aspects of the past. And things just doesn’t get much more dramatic than 1815. Think about it for a moment: England was breathing a sigh of relief at not being at war for the first time in nearly twenty years, only to wake up one morning to find that Napoleon had somehow slipped away from house arrest on Elba and had marched across France and retaken his throne without firing a single shot. Moreover, the anointed and crowned King of England had gone mad, and his drama queen of an eldest son was now in charge. Writing about larger-than-life events and historical figures (*coughDukeofWellingtoncough*) just calls for larger-than-life plotting…and what’s larger than life than magic?
So Courtship and Curses got written because I wanted to play with 1815 and with the character of Lady Parthenope (Persy and Pen's mom) as a teen herself. I chose not to make her the heroine of the story because I tend to write about characters trying to find their place in the world, and Parthenope is one of those fortunate individuals who seems to have been born knowing where she belongs. So she is there to support Sophie, my heroine, who is having a heck of a time finding herself after losing her mother and sister, her ability to walk without a cane, and her magic. Combine that with the events of 1815, and there's quite a bit to write about!
On a related note, this is why I tend to feel that historical fantasy dating any later than 1945 doesn’t work well—the events of modern times just don’t have that larger-than-life feeling to them, even though, realistically speaking, many of them are far “bigger” than the events of 1815. It’s all a matter of perception.
Okay, I’m getting boring and serious here. Are there any points or periods in history that you think would make a terrific historical fantasy story?
Don’t forget—all commenters this week will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Courtship and Curses. Just sayin’….