Another amazing blog tour which I am incredibly excited to be a part of stops by 'A Spoonful of Happy Endings' today, namely the tour for Gill Paul's latest release 'No Place For a Lady'. The e-book version of the novel was released on the 4th of June and the paperback version will follow on the 2nd of July. I honestly can't wait to pick up 'No Place For a Lady' which sounds like an intriguing historical read. I have a special guest post from Gill herself on the blog today, in which she tells us all a bit more about why she writes historical novels. Be sure to check it out below!
Why I write historical novels
By Gill Paul
How on earth did I get into this? It would be so much easier to write fiction set in the present day, in the town where I live, based on characters I know, but I must be a glutton for punishment because I seem to be stuck on writing historical novels, with No Place for a Lady my fifth so far.
I blame my mother. She was a Jean Plaidy fan so my first taste of adult books was reading her Tudor and Stuart series with their old-fashioned illustrations of ladies in fancy gowns on the covers. Mum also loved the Sunday night historical dramas on the tele so I sat with her through series like Jewel in the Crown and the original Poldark, long before Aiden Turner ripped open his shirt. We liked Antonia Fraser biographies and we wept over Gone with the Wind, Gandhi and Schindler’s List. As a teenager I had quite a crush on Charles II, fantasising about being one of his mistresses, before progressing into my Anne Frank phase. I always wanted to be a novelist, and when I started writing my passion for history led me straight back to the past.
The first problem with writing historical fiction is the huge amount of research you have to do. Some writers don’t bother with the minutiae but I like to get every single detail correct: the clothes, the food, which mod cons they would have had, the social etiquette, the way they spent their leisure time. My readers let me know if I get the teensiest little thing wrong (thank you for that, by the way – I can always correct the ebooks). Because of this, I have usually been researching for about six months before I even start the first chapter so that’s why I could never produce more than one book a year, and No Place for a Lady is my first in two years. It’s not that I’m sitting at home twiddling my thumbs… honest!
When working out the plot, I stick to the sequence of historical events, so that roughly determines the structure. I couldn’t have Florence Nightingale eloping with a Russian general. Heavens, no! I have lots of real-life characters in there and feel a responsibility to represent them accurately. Where possible I get experts to check them: the director of the Florence Nightingale Museum very kindly read the proofs of No Place for a Lady and corrected a few things for me.
Historical novels shouldn’t ever feel like a history lesson. I like to immerse myself completely in the period and know a huge amount that I will never use so that I can tell the story with just enough detail to set the scene and keep it effortless for readers. It’s tricky when there’s a complex political backdrop, as with the Crimean War, which is why I’ve got into the habit of writing a ‘historical afterword’ for those who want to know more – but you can also skip it if you prefer.
So why do it? Because history has all the best stories. You simply couldn’t make them up. As the old adage goes, truth is far, far stranger than fiction. I love the fact that people 160 years ago were motivated by the same human emotions that drive us today, so they behave in ways we can empathise with. I like taking my characters and putting them in extreme situations to see how they react. And what could be more extreme than putting two genteel middle-class Victorian ladies in a chaotic, gory war zone, 1,500 miles from home?
Hope you enjoy 'No Place for a Lady'! Thanks so much for having me on the blog!