Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Progress?

Er, well, it is rather slow, and a lot of it is going on in my head instead of getting banged into the PC. But progress there is, and I'm onto some serious keyboard bashing right after lunch. (This morning I was down the doctors, got positive news, so am feeling rather eager and enthusiastic for once. It's good to be in such a mood!)

I did have a really radical thought the other day, about changing the whole thing to first person. I reckon I can write quicker in that 'voice' and you get automatic exclusion of head switching which is no bad thing. Still considering as I'm not sure I'm comfortable in the style. Rewriting from one to the other ain't that hard, in fact it's quite a fun exercise.

Writing exercise is something I have been doing! In fact there's quite a fun Robin Hood project going on in the background, or rather on the laptop when the TV's boring me too much of an evening. Probably won't come to much, but the fact that I'm writing for myself, for pure pleasure is a massive step forward.

Anyway I shall see what progress I do make this afternoon...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Author Page at Amazon.com


Thanks to a tip from Sharon K. Penman - thank you Sharon! - I have set myself up with an author page at Amazon.com. It really isn't that hard to do and any authors out there might like to have a go themselves if they haven't already.
The one odd bit was that when the thing invited me to 'claim' my books it showed several that pretty obviously weren't written by Brian Wainwright. (Unless, for example, Amazon think that Susan Higginbotham is a penname of mine! - Susan will gladly confirm that it definitely isn't.)
I apologise for the photo (mine on the Amazon site that is). It was the best I could rustle up at short notice, as my resident official photographer has a habit of taking what she calls 'candid' shots. That is shots of me when I am wearing some kind of ghastly expression. This one makes me look like a mad professor, which is a relatively positive image compared to some.
For some reason Amazon won't accept photos of one with a pet. Which is a pity, as I am more relaxed with a dog about, and a greyhound is beautiful enough to divert the eye from my time-worn features...So here to make up for it here is one of me with old George.

Poetry Corner

I'm a great fan of the Shropshire poet A.E.Housman and today I found what seems to be a complete collection of his poetry on the web. Well worth a look!

Favourite lines? These from A Shropshire Lad.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Historical Accuracy

This topic is currently being discussed all over the place, and often more heat than light is generated in the process. Anyway, I thought I'd give my thoughts of the process and see what people think.

I have come to believe that it's impossible to create a 100% accurate historical novel, not least because we don't have all the necessary information. I've been studying the middle ages quite seriously since I was about 16 - in other words about 40 years - and what continues to astonish me is not how much I know, but how little. There are so many aspects to cover. To name a few - equine matters, archery, jousting technique, building systems, dress, social customs, sexual practices, politics, international relations and diplomacy, law, ships, armour...The list goes on and on, almost to infinity. Anyone - no matter how educated or talented - who kids themselves that they are an expert in all these fields is simply deluded.

OK, there are books and other sources for research. But research takes time - lots of it. And here's the breaking news. Even specialised experts, the ones who publish books on medieval pottery, or whatever, sometimes get it wrong. Historians have theories that other historians trash a few years later. What was historical orthodoxy in 1985 may well be 'outdated' now. Unless you keep up with every published book and article on your particular theme, you can expose yourself to error. If you've got the time and resources to do all that the chances are you won't have time to do any writing. You'll be a bit like a fellow I know who plans to build a super-accurate model of a local station. Last time I heard he'd built three coal wagons...

Then there's the little matter of language. Oh boy! How do you tackle that? People in the 14th and 15th Century spoke a different language to us, even when they called it English. Give your average reader a copy of Chaucer in its original form and see how much headway they make with it. Or even the Paston Letters (again in original form) which relatively speaking are easy peasy. Sorry, no one (except the odd eccentric) is going to buy a novel with the dialogue in that form.

So what do we do? Well I certainly don't think we should give up on accuracy. We should do our best, and not make stupid mistakes like having our medieval folk eating potatoes or drinking chocolate. Maybe we need to get together and check each other's manuscripts for particularly egregious errors. (My particular bĂȘte noire is when forms of address are incorrect - it really jerks me out of my suspended disbelief.) But let's not kid ourselves that we'll get everything absolutely right first time. The thing is, to at least try.

As for language, I think the best approach is the 'translation' one. In other words, it's a bit like translating Polish into English. You end up with modern English except for the odd Polish word put in for effect, or to cover a meaning that simply doesn't exist in English. The difference is you have to try to avoid modern idioms unless you're looking for comic effect. When wrote Alianore Audley I threw in all kinds of modernisms, slang and American usage becase I was deliberately trying to be funny. I was parodying the effect of language used in some medieval novels I've read over the years. It would have been equally comic to include a 'forsooth' or 'by my troth' every couple of lines. 'Tushery' I think they used to call it...