WWI – what are YOU reading?

Starshine by John WilcoxIn my little world of writing novels set in WWI, the month of May 1914 marks the opening chapter of Lies Told in Silence. When I first began writing this story, I did not imagine publishing it during the centenary of that dreadful war’s commencement. However, hundreds of other authors and publishers had that very plan such that readers are now faced with a plethora of fiction and non-fiction choices.

Roughly a month ago, Lucy Byatt, Features Coordinator for the Historical Novel Society, asked me to help develop an article featuring recent WWI novels, exploring their themes and other aspects for the society’s August magazine. Rubbing my hands with glee – yes, I know I’m obsessed – I agreed straight away and now have five novels to read and consider in the next six weeks.

What I want from you, dear readers, is your thoughts on reading about WWI. EVEN IF YOU HAVE NEVER BEFORE VENTURED A COMMENT, PLEASE DO SO by answering any of the following questions.

  • what fiction or non-fiction have you recently read or are you planning to read about WWI?
  • why are you interested in WWI?
  • what themes appeal to you in your WWI reading?

The Care and Management of Lies by John WilcoxMany thanks … here’s the list I’ve agreed to read for the HNS article:

  • The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
  • The Storms of War by Katie Williams
  • Starshine by John Wilcox
  • A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
  • The Russian Tapestry by Banafsheh Serov

PS – feel free to share this post so others can respond too

2013 – what a year!

When I think back, I’m sure I’ll remember 2013 as the year my husband and I published Unravelled – what an adventure that has been and I’m planning to do it all again this year with Lies Told in Silence! 

Beyond that accomplishment, 2013 was a year of meeting many new people on Facebook, Twitter and A Writer of History and a year of reading more books than any other year I can recall. Some of these books emerged from the top authors of the 2012 historical fiction survey. Others came from being a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. A number were book club selections and recommendations from family, friends and blogs I follow. Most were historical fiction although a few non-fiction and general fiction crept in.

What strikes me is that I learned something from each and every one of them. My copies, whether electronic or not, are full of notes and underlined passages – a particularly beautiful scene, a well drawn character, a lyrical passage, a subtle moment of tension, a unique way of describing someone, a seamless flashback, strong dialogue, effective voice. Then there are notes about too many adverbs, slow pacing, telling rather than showing, awkward phrasing, too much historical detail, inconsistent voice and so on.

A lightbulb goes on: I’m learning from what works and what doesn’t work. Here’s to further learning in 2014, enhanced friendships with the writing community, more connections with readers, attending my very first HNS conference, interesting insights from 2013’s historical fiction survey and another exciting book launch.

Here’s to all of you who have encouraged me, connected with me, shared a laugh, given advice and offered support! Wishing you the very best and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Reading up a storm … historical fiction, of course

During the last two months amidst the hectic activity of promoting Unravelled and running the 2013 historical fiction survey, I’ve done a lot of reading. Almost all of it historical fiction.

Although some appealed to me more than others, all are enjoyable reads and will have their fans in the different sub-genres that constitute historical fiction. (For an interesting look at these sub-genres, check out Reading the Past for Sarah Johnson’s blog post and presentation.)

My personal favourites were: A Spear of Summer Grass (intriguing characters, taught romance and beautiful Africa), Life After Life (novel ‘what if’ concept and great writing), Blood & Beauty (Borgia Italy with all its passions, deceits and displays of power), The Painted Girls (Paris in the late 1800s, gritty and compelling), Rules of Civility (exposes the realities of making it in pre-WWII New York), and Letters from Skye (connecting both world wars, an epistolary novel done extremely well).

Reading historical fiction is a passion for me. I’m drawn to superb writing, strong, rule-breaking characters, stories with energy and events that unfold with intensity, believable romantic plot lines that aren’t formulaic or predictable, WWI and WWII timeframes and historical details that transport me to the time and place without being overdone.