Interview with author Julia Brannan

I’m delighted today to welcome historical fiction author Julia Brannan to my blog. Julia is the author of the Jacobite Chronicles, a six-part series set around the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland in 1745. The sixth and final instalment, Tides of Fortune, is due to be released next Tuesday 6th March and is available for pre-order from today. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first five books, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the series ends. I got the chance to ask Julia some questions about Continue reading

The importance of setting in a novel – and an insight into mine

Having an identifiable setting in a novel is key for helping the reader feel grounded in the space and time of the story. For that to happen, the writer must establish the novel’s time period, cultural climate, geography, and interior and exterior locations. This kind of world building is especially essential in genres like science fiction and fantasy, where the setting could be vastly different to what we’re familiar with, but I think it is also vital for historical fiction, because stepping two hundred (or two thousand!) years into the past is still stepping into a world unlike our own.

My historical fiction series, A Matter of Class, takes place during the first half of the 19th century and the first instalment, A Class Apart, is set in rural Ireland in 1828. I have placed a lot of emphasis on constructing the setting in the book so that the reader will feel comfortable within the environs of Continue reading

The preferences of a writer’s palate: fancy meal or messy takeaway?

What do you like to see when you open a menu? Perhaps you are attracted to a dish that is described in elaborate language, seasoned with exotic terminology, and served like art on a plate. Or maybe you prefer a more humble bill of fare and don’t mind how sloppy it looks so long as it tastes delicious.

This is sometimes how I view reading books. I would put literary classics in the fancy meal category and more lighthearted material in the messy takeaway category. Both can appeal for different reasons but, like the food they represent, both offer Continue reading

This book really makes me want to become an editor

I’ve read a book that has left me itching to attack it with a red pen, so much so that I’m going to dissect it here and say what I would have done if I had been the book’s editor. This is not to say that I thought the book was all bad – in fact, I really liked its premise and judged it to have a lot of potential. It was the execution of the story and the writing that left me disappointed. So, rather than looking at this as a criticism of what the book was, I’d rather view it as a lament for what it could have been.

Alert No.1: In writing this post, I do not claim to be better than professional editors working in the industry. This is my subjective opinion which stemmed from my reading experience of the book in question.

Alert No.2: To speak about the book’s strengths and shortcomings, I will be revealing much of the storyline. Therefore don’t read on if you’d like to avoid spoilers!

So what’s the book? It’s called So Much Owed by Jean Grainger, a work of historical fiction set in Ireland and Continue reading

Giving up on a book – when do you make that call?

Up until very recently, I was a firm believer that you should always power through a book to the end, regardless of its appeal, length or quality. This principle was motivated by a number of factors, including:

  • a simple desire to find out what happens
  • a respect for the time and effort the author has put into producing the work
  • a sense of completion at the end that aligns with my inbuilt impulse to neatly box away everything in life

Unfortunately, I have encountered a book which has forced me to abandon this enduring cornerstone of my existence.

Prior to Continue reading

Why historical fiction for me? And which genre for you?

It fascinates me that there is such a range of genres in fiction and non-fiction and that people can be so tempted by some and so repelled by others. Crime, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, comedy, horror, and more – there’s no accounting for taste. Today I’m going to talk about why historical fiction calls to me. But I would love to hear what draws you to your favourite genre too!

Having sampled many different genres over the years, I have come to identify historical fiction as my top choice in both reading and writing. I enjoy historical fiction because Continue reading

‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel

My next book review is of Wolf Hall, a historical fiction novel by Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. It is a fictionalised biography of Thomas Cromwell, a lower class man who rose to become one of the most powerful players in the court of King Henry VIII.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Cromwell’s rise to power took place as Henry VIII tried to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in order to marry the beguiling Anne Boleyn. This led to Continue reading