PGW and the Romantic Novelist

Just over a week ago I asked an expert why     P G Wodehouse seemed so out of sympathy with the romantic novelist. Did he know one?

romantic novelist Barbara Cartland

This is where I should probably admit that I have a sneaky image of a young Barbara Cartland pursuing him. Well, PGW was a big name when he visited London in the 20s and she was a newbie author and playwright.

If they did meet,  I would put good money on him evaporating sharpish. He had perfected the technique. His family called it the Wodehouse Glide. But nobody I’ve come across has offered any evidence of Wodehouse encountering a romantic novelist in real life.

The expert said, quite rightly, that PGW was pretty brisk on the subject of all sorts of pretentiousness. And, anyway, PGW handed out as many knocks to male poets as he did to female novelists. Continue reading

Altering History : is it OK in Historical Fiction?

cranium silhouetted against question markAltering History. In other words, changing what actually happened into something that didn’t happen; or didn’t happen in quite that way; or happened at a different time…
Is it OK for an author of historical fiction to do that?

Always? Sometimes? Never?

Does it depend on what the alteration is? Some think it’s OK to alter small things, relating to minor characters, but not decisive things relating to really important characters.

Some might say an author can do whatever he or she likes, provided the reader knows what the author has done. In other words, the author has to come clean.
Others don’t care, as long as the end result is a good read.

Altering History : a Big Deal for Queens

Continue reading

Reader, I married them (while researching the rake)

statue of a rake?As anyone researching the Regency period knows, the rake — the real Regency rake — was dangerous, unscrupulous and sometimes even a vicious womaniser.

I am very sorry, dear reader, if I have shattered your illusions.

Many of us like the fantasy of “taming” a bad boy, but most of us know in our hearts that it is nigh on impossible. Not quite impossible, of course. There are exceptions to the rule, but these are probably as rare in real life as the number of real live dukes in existence (which may be material for another story, another time).

silhouette of man's head in question markquestion mark being broken by handThere is always something to research for a new book. Often it seems obvious — military history for instance, when one sets a book around the Battle of Waterloo; or costume details for the period.

We have to invent a history for each of our characters. It may not feature in the actual book, but it is very necessary. As my latest book has proved. Continue reading

In Praise of Dirty Drafts

This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.

First draft libraryI remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.

The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all  around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.

First draft cafe napkinOr sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.

When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper — including a cafe napkin once or twice.

By now, dear Reader, you will have realised two things: Continue reading

Roman Soldiers on the Frontier : Tough or Tedious?

Hadrian's Wall Roman frontier

Hadrian’s Wall : Britannia’s northern frontier

The Roman Frontier? We Brits immediately think of Roman soldiers stationed at Hadrian’s Wall to defend the empire against painted marauders (the Picts or picti) from the barbarian north.

We imagine their life was cold and wet and miserable. Some of them certainly sent letters home to Rome to ask for warm woollen socks. Clearly northern Britannia was not a place for short tunics and sandals.

Hadrian's Wall Roman frontier

Hadrian’s Wall: not exactly warm and cosy?

On the German frontier, the weather was warmer than Britannia, especially in summer. Short tunics and sandals would have worked just fine.

But guarding a frontier against a potential enemy — who (mostly) didn’t attack — was probably 99% boredom.

So how did the soldiers fill their time? Continue reading

Armistice Day

Today is very special because it is both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. It is, of course, also the centenary of the end of fighting in the First World War.

“Armistice” is an interesting word. It is a temporary truce during which warring parties meet to discuss possible peace. I remember my grandmother telling me that, before she told me anything else. I was very small. Armistice Day - old radio

The emotions coming out of the radio into the small suburban sitting room awed me. And so did those of the two elderly ladies, tough as old boots in my previous experience, who were both damp-eyed.

From them I picked up a terrible sense that we had made peace at the very last moment. And that we might not have. It has stayed with me ever since. Continue reading

A Dog : A Writer’s Best Friend?

The Dog in Fiction

Dogs are very popular with writers. Think of fictitious ones like Heyer’s Italian Greyhound, Tina, in The Grand Sophy, Bulls Eye the fighting dog belonging to Bill Sykes in Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Timmy, the fifth member of Blyton’s Famous Five. Even Conan Doyle’s “gigantic hound”. We love them all.

image of Italian greyhound but not Heyer's Tina

Not quite Heyer’s Tina

The Dog in Sarah’s Life — Willow

Many writers have dogs of their own (some, like Liberta’s very own Sophie, have cats, but that, as they say, is another story). I must hold up my hand. I have a dog.

Sarah Mallory and her dog Willow

Sarah with her faithful friend

First things first, let’s get something straight. Willow is a dog. Yes, yes, I hear you say, we can see that.

He is a male dog. He looks so elegant, even pretty, and being called Willow, it is no wonder that many people think he is a girl.

We adopted Willow as a rescue dog when he was just over three years old. We thought it would be better to keep his name than change it to something more, er, butch, such as Bouncer or Max.

Adopting Willow was one of those serendipity moments that happen, sometimes. Continue reading

Award-Winning Historical Author Joins Libertà this Weekend

Hot News!

Libertà will have a fourth bee buzzing in the hive from this weekend.

She’s the award-winning author of dozens of historical romances and she has a worldwide following of fans. Among those fans — needless to say — are the other three members of the hive.

Who is this prolific author? Is she one of your favourites? Find out in her first blog here on Sunday 4th November. Not long to wait, is it?

Subscribers will find out who she is first, in Saturday’s Libertà newsletter.
Can’t wait to find out? Just use the Subscribe button in the top right of our sidebar.

More Blondes

More Blondes feet in fountainIn my post on Fictional Blondes I promised that there would be another piece on More Blondes with further consideration of the phenomenon in the works of Raymond Chandler and other 20th Century masters.

So here it is.

MORE BLONDES FROM CHANDLER

More Blondes The Long GoodbyeIn 1953, Chandler wrote what was possibly his masterpiece – The Long Goodbye. The narrator is again his honourable loner private eye, Phillip Marlowe. He still battles the forces of corruption, injustice and conflicted loyalties. He is as clever, wary and tough as usual. But he is not invincible  – and this time the police arrest him for murder.

But this is a darker book than its predecessors. It is full of damaged people. Two in particular must have been very close to what Chandler felt himself to be: the self-doubting alcoholic writer, Roger Wade, and a psychologically wounded war veteran.

And it is this book, heartfelt and dangerously close to home, in which Chandler/Marlowe has a substantial digression on blondes – and it’s not for fun. Continue reading

Roman Germany : Dark and Dangerous? Or Delightful?

Roman Germany? What picture does it conjure up for you? Mile after mile of dark, trackless forest with a hostile warrior behind every other tree, waiting to kill you?Roman battle against Germanic tribes from film Gladiator

Yup, that was what I thought, too.

Varus Massacre (Varusschlacht), Otto A Koch, 1909

Varus Massacre (Varusschlacht), Otto A Koch, 1909

Probably I’d been watching too many films like Gladiator with that opening forest battle [above] and all those barbarian attackers.
Or reading about Falco’s bloody struggles in Germania in AD71 in The Iron Hand of Mars. In that story, Falco finds links back to the massacre of the legions in AD9 where up to 20,000 Romans died.

The massacre is depicted in this painting [right]. You’ll note Germanic warriors complete with winged and horned helmets.
It’s by a German painter, too 😉

For me, that battle always conjures up an image of Augustus butting his head against the wall and crying, “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions.”

So partly because of those cultural influences, I had assumed, without giving the question much thought, that Romans in Germany would always be watching their backs and that their lives would be pretty basic. Continue reading