Comps, cover letters, editors, agents

I know I gave you guys an update last week, but it feels like it has been months. Maybe it’s because I just keep forgetting to tell you about all the awesome stuff that’s been happening. Such as… historical fiction writer, Fiona Mountain, is now following me on Twitter!!!

Cadence twitter Fiona Mountain follower

If you remember, I recently mentioned how much I loved her novel, Rebel Heiress (also known as Lady of the Butterflies), so I was gushing when I saw my Twitter notifications!

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way…
Despite still being sick, I feel so much better this week. To all those concerned, it’s okay, don’t worry. My blood test results came back — all negative.

Now to the important stuff
It seems things are progressing a lot more quickly now since finishing Eleanor. I’m further into my comparable works list, I’m taking a course on writing pitches and cover letters, Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers (by the lovely Natasha Lester, and hosted with the Australian Writers’ Centre), I’ve booked an editor (the one I was after, yay!) to start working on my manuscript in August, and I’m now on the search for an agent (the course name would have given that away!).

Cadence Tweets Natasha Lester AWC

If you are interested in the course, you can find more details here.

Yes, because I am so fickle and indecisive (you would have noticed this as you joined me on my journey as I wrote Eleanor — I moved from writing a novella to novel, from considering self-publishing to traditional, and now from unagented to agented… fingers crossed!), I am now on the lookout for an agent. There are a few I know of, and have been considering, so I will work on that while my manuscript is being edited.

I just want to make sure Eleanor has the best chance at publication.

To do this, I have to write a CV/cover letter (including a pitch). This is something that is really important, so I have to ensure I do it right — to sell myself, and Eleanor, as best I can.

Regarding the pitch
I’ve had my latest one critiqued by The Book Doctors (Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry). While I received mostly positive feedback, there is also a lot I need to work on still to perfect it. A pitch is around 200 words (maybe a bit more), and is basically similar to what you would find as the blurb on books (unfortunately, I haven’t updated mine yet — you’ll find the old one on the cover art). So, for this task I will be checking out a lot of blurbs, and looking at ways to write something clear and concise to illustrate the awesomeness that is Eleanor.

Eleanor by CadenceSo, that was the old one, as in the oldest one. Below is my latest one, with some changes.

“Eleanor Clarendon-Addams is no stranger to the macabre. For most of her life she has been consumed by her passion for human anatomy. And after the untimely death of her father, a revered anatomy professor, her ambition intensified. In her despair, she sees only one path, she desires only one thing: to continue her father’s work. But as she is confronted by the societal strangleholds of her sex, she finds the path to her dream laden with thorns. Her dream is declared unbecoming, unfeminine.

When Eleanor is banned from her father’s university by the newly-appointed professor, Dr. Hollioake, her goal of becoming an anatomist falls apart. She is left with a numb emptiness, and a longing she must silence. Her dream is dying.

Just when all seems lost, like-minded student Henry comes along and brings Eleanor from the precipice. He helps her find her way once again, and all reason and rationality that may have begun nesting in her mind vanish. A love begins.

Amidst the pressure of Victorian London society, and failed by her own sex, Eleanor’s dream is quickly becoming a nightmare. Caught between a world of body snatching and scandalous societies, her sister’s fall from grace, and a love she feels unworthy of, Eleanor verges on the brink of insanity.

So blinded by her passion and removed of any logic, she risks her sanity and her soul to keep her father’s memory alive, but soon discovers that to reach her dream she could lose so much more.”

What do you think? Would my blurb influence you to purchase Eleanor?

I’ve already noticed a number of differences in the advice I’ve received from The Book Doctors, and that offered by Natasha Lester in the course. The Book Doctors seemed to suggest authors should avoid writing rhetorical questions into their blurb/pitch, whereas Natasha Lester encourages it. I am inclined to agree with Natasha (as rhetorical questions are all over blurbs — I very rarely see a book without one), so I will put one back into my pitch.

Now, to comps
As you know, I’ve been working through my comps list, which is a list of novels that could be comparable to Eleanor — I pretty much have to read within the genre (and sometimes outside of) to find out. This list is something that will need to be included in the CV/cover letter for agents and publishers.

Dodger by Terry PratchettSince I was sick last week (I think this illness has been with me around two weeks now!), I struggled to finish Dodger. I failed to reach my deadline, which meant me having to start and finish reading The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein within four days. I did manage it though, haha!

I must say, I was a little disappointed with Dodger. I was expecting so much more. Apologies to Terry Pratchett fans! The plot and story weren’t really plausible in my opinion, and Dodger acted quite uncharacteristically, but as I’ve said before, it is a children’s book (a surprise considering some of the language!), so I can’t be too annoyed about that. And true to Oliver Twist style, there was an unbelievable happily ever after — which I despise. Well, not despise, but I do prefer tragedies (if that is still an apt term these days), or even the occasional open ending, because they are more realistic to me. A HEA with a marriage, for instance, makes me question what comes next. Surely a divorce, right? Since most marriages end in divorce? Anyway, maybe I’ll give myself some more time before I consider writing up a proper review of all these books I’ve been reading.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is another story. I instantly fell in love with it. It will definitely make my comps list. It’s similar to Eleanor in language, style, and theme. I will look at more of Peter Ackroyd’s works now, to see if there are other novels to be added to my list.

I am also considering Natasha Lester’s works as possible comps too.

Next on the comps list?
I will be starting Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland, which sounds like it will be another amazing read. My lovely, supportive brother bought it for me for my birthday, along with the next book on my comps list (which I will tell you about next week!).

And, oh my god! The cover of Wildthorn is so pretty and shiny!

Now, I realise this blog post is getting quite long, so I think I will end it here. If I can think of any other updates I may have missed, I’ll put them in the next blog post.

But, one last teaser?
Okay, my lovely graphic designer, Phoenix Johnson, is working with me on ideas for my next project — a novel about the Marquis de Sade. I’m still thinking about titles at the moment, and even the story and plot are still coming together in my head. The cover will simply be a mock-up/teaser to help me commit to the project during National Novel Writing Month, much like how the cover for Eleanor came to be. But we’re also working on ideas for my second novel, Wings of Malice. As soon as the covers are made, you guys will be the first to see them!

Thanks again for joining me. See you next week!

Birthday break!

I am writing this a little earlier than usual as I will be jetting off (via car) for a wee birthday break in a couple of days. Yes, I will be older and wiser, and maybe even a little depressed because I’m still in denial about the ’90s being so long ago.

Professor Farnsworth

I’m pretty sure the ’90s was only 10 years ago.

Anyway, let’s move on from my mid-life crisis to more pressing matters.

Comps
I have almost finished Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. In fact, I should finish it this evening (as in Thursday… evening). I have really enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to the ending. Adora Belle Dearheart is, of course, my favourite character. She is the main reason I am using Going Postal as a comp. Both she and Eleanor share quite a number of qualities, and I feel that Adora is the best example I can give of how Eleanor’s character is portrayed. If you’re confused, it’s because I watched the TV mini-series/film adaptation first. So I was already a little familiar with Miss Dearheart before I started reading.

Of course, Going Postal is still quite reminiscent of Victorian fiction, despite being set in the Discworld.

So, what’s coming next? I hear you ask. I have a few books I want to check out — I named a few last week including, The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd (I did want to start The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein next, but I won’t receive it for a while). However, as you know, I am very indecisive when it comes to… making decisions, so I thought I’d instead try and remain in the world of Terry Pratchett with Dodger. I thought I already had a copy of it lying around, but it seems I don’t. So, I need to somehow buy a copy between now and tomorrow, so I can ensure I keep to my deadline.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger will make for a perfect comp, I believe (without having read it already!), and I’m certain it will be better than Oliver Twist (on which it’s based), because I really couldn’t stand that book! Hang on a sec…

Let the hate mail flow

There we go 😉

Look, I know I’m not the only person in the world to dislike Oliver Twist, so just calm down.

In other news…

Wings of Malice
I have been making great progress with Wings of Malice. I have set myself a daily goal for my edits, which will ensure I have a near-polished manuscript by the time National Novel Writing Month comes around, at which point I will once again abandon the project in order to start another 😉

National Novel Writing Month
As you may recall, I recently mentioned my project idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo. For the moment, I am still set on doing a piece on the Marquis de Sade. Though, I am still exploring other ideas as well. So far, I have planned for my edits of Wings of Malice to finish at the end of September. I will then spend October researching Sade (or at least refreshing my memory of what I learnt of him during university), and planning out the narrative. It will be an historical fiction piece, not nonfiction.

Anyway, I might leave it there, but please do join me next week for another update. There may just be some awesome news to reveal, and possibly some photos from my birthday trip. See you then!

Wings of Malice, comps, and Sade

Okay, so I’ve abandoned any and all attempts at having a break, because it’s just not working. Instead, I’m placing all my thoughts, effort, and time into continuing my work on Wings of Malice, a young adult fantasy novel.

I left Wings of Malice about a year ago after hitting a wall, but also, more importantly, to start my National Novel Writing Month project, Eleanor.

Getting back into it after such a long break has been tough. Fortunately, I did leave the project with most of it already complete. At this stage, I’m merely going through and refreshing my memory of the story and plot, and doing my 3rd round of edits as I read. There are of course areas where I will need to write up new stuff. This is just typical of my process. I’ll be onto my 2nd or 3rd round of edits on a project, but then will have a fair few blank spaces or chapters, which I have neglected (and usually continue to neglect, in favour of something easier!) To that I say, “No!”

I know it’s wrong, but I keep doing it!

Of course, after working on Eleanor, I’ve learnt some things about my writing. Most importantly, I’ve learnt how to identify errors that I make. And it is difficult, because I’m relatively blind to my own errors. I’m easily able to identify them in a client’s work, but it is harder to do so for my own. I cannot explain why. I suppose it is simply a matter of having fresh eyes looking at it. Knowing a story so well, and being able to picture every aspect of it, makes me blind to see how it is truly conveyed in my writing.

As I look over Wings of Malice now, I can see some of those errors that I had been making. Some of them appear quite obvious now (it has been a year since looking at the project), such as issues with point of view. Though, I think that was more to do with my inability to decide on 3rd person omniscient or 3rd person limited. Also, each chapter focuses on a different character and so, once again, I had difficulty in deciding whose point of view should be showcased. Trust me, it’s a thing. And I’m working on it! Though, I confess, I still have trouble every now and then with slipping from 3rd person limited to 3rd person omniscient. I’ll blame it on the fact that prior to 2013, I wrote everything in 1st person. There we go!

With Eleanor, however, I had already made the decision on p.o.v, etc before I started writing it.

I can also see how my writing and writing process have developed since last year — even just the little things. I am now able to organise and prioritise my work better. 12- to 14-hour days are a norm now, and my impossible deadlines are starting to become a reality. National Novel Writing Month has made me realise my true potential. I had never thought it possible to write 50k words within a month, and did not expect myself to even finish, but I did! So, the pessimist in me is trying to learn to become more confident in my ability.

Now, where were we?
Ah, of course! To help keep me motivated and committed to Wings of Malice (at least until NaNoWriMo this year), I will be employing the services of Phoenix Johnson Graphic Design once again.

Phoenix Johnson Graphic Design

If you remember, Phoenix designed the deliciously orgasmic cover for Eleanor.

Eleanor by Cadence

I have a few design ideas for Wings of Malice, but nothing set in stone as yet. And this will of course mean rewriting the blurb. It is awful, I know. I’m horrible at writing blurbs. I know I’m not alone in this though… ahem… right?

In other news…
Comps! If you remember, last week I discussed how I would research possible comparable titles to Eleanor. I recently started reading, The House I Loved, by Tatiana de Rosnay — a potential candidate for my list. I’m only about halfway through, so I’m not certain I will name it as a comp, but it is a neo-Victorian or, as it’s set in France, neo-Napoleon III? No? Neapolitan, then? Napolitana? Should I just shut up? Okay, will do. 😛

The House I Loved - Tatiana de Rosnay

Speaking of Napoleon III, or at least a Napoleon, I suppose it’s the right time to reveal my NaNoWriMo project idea. I will be writing a piece on the Marquis de Sade. Shock. Horror! I know, I’m quite predictable. I love reading about his life though. And, I thought I’d put my Honours thesis research to use because, quite honestly, I don’t think I have it in me right now to get my paper ready for an academic publication. Not now, at least.

Oh, and there is a link between Napoleon and Sade, don’t worry. I’m not making things up. I’ll let you know more details as soon as I figure them out myself. Right now, the plan is to write about a series of important events in Sade’s life. Each chapter will reveal a different event. I know, right now it doesn’t sound exciting. I’m stuck between not wanting to explain too much of it, and not knowing how to even express it! It’s in my head, figuring itself out (and now casually listening to The Cranberries’ “Zombie”).

You really don’t want to know how my mind works, and why it wanders where it does!

Anyway, thanks for keeping up to date with my work. Join me again next week!

Drastic changes to Eleanor, beta readers, and bastard USB sticks!

BREAKING NEWS: I just absolutely hate USB sticks! Well, this particular one that I had been relying on so heavily. It decided it would corrupt itself, or allow itself to be corrupted or, much like The Marquis de Sade’s Justine, its virtuous nature was corrupted by external forces.

I lost roughly 80% of my files, including two novels, Eleanor and Wings of Malice.

Not to worry (I know you were), as I had recently backed up my files onto other external drives. I believe the discrepancy (in word count, and so forth) has been rectified, but this rude awakening has led me to consider using an online cloud thingy. So, I’ve downloaded Dropbox.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, Eleanor is soon to be sent off to beta readers. Hooray! (insert the sounds of celestial beings singing).

Eleanor edited

Well, now. Back to your regular programming.

Just so typical of my indecisive nature, I have a number of alternate endings for Eleanor. And, as you may have guessed, I can’t decide which one I like most.

And so, I will be doing none of them! I have deleted all of these alternate endings, and am starting afresh… with an ending I never thought I would write.

This new ending however, has left me with some complications.

One such complication: Can there be a happily ever after in a tragedy? I think we all know the answer to that. And yet, a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet is commonly referred to as a romance. I cannot think why.

Other complications have meant me having to do something so uncharacteristic of myself, it has shocked not only me, and my partner, but it goes completely against my ethical standpoint. Let’s simply say that, if the vegan community didn’t already hate me, it will now!

I always thought my cruelty-free lifestyle would seamlessly and naturally translate into my work, but I am looking to challenge myself and my readers. I want to write something shocking. This may mean people despising or loving my writing (or being utterly apathetic, who knows?). As long as it evokes a response, a strong emotional response (and a review, wink wink), then I have done my job.

Though I would love to publish all of my endings, I’ve been told that it’s not exactly feasible. That is unfortunate, because I am rather fond of them all. Perhaps I could make Eleanor a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book?

I had also considered putting it up to a vote, but then that may mean revealing the ending… Hmm… I think there is a flaw in that plan. Perhaps instead, a simple, subtle poll?:

Subtle, no?

It is all rather moot though. I have already chosen my ending for Eleanor. Still, if I could publish all 5(?) endings, I would.

In other news… shocking, shocking news… while I have successfully killed off many characters in the past (in a number of my works, and without shedding a single tear), a death scene I recently wrote had me weeping uncontrollably. All in a few lines. Does this make me a master writer? I think so 😉

I shall let you, the reader, be the judge of that however.

(Arrogance mode deactivated).

Historical fiction: Research

I know a lot of people, myself included, who have said that they feel like they belong in another period of time. Yes, I feel that at times. All the time. Absolutely. I think the idea of being, say in 19thC London, away from the thrall of Facebook (and away from the evil trolls who frequent it), could mean me spending more time… focusing on my pox-ridden body.

And that is the reality. We probably couldn’t manage living in those times. We romanticise it because of people like Mr. Darcy, but the truth is that we would likely be those people lying in the streets, struggling to survive because illegal immigrants like Heathcliff have taken our jobs!

Also, let’s not forget how women couldn’t vote, women were property, women couldn’t own property (unless they were lucky enough to be in a family with no males), and so on and so forth. So, if you were a guy, things might be all right for you then. That is, if you weren’t poor!

This brings me to the next subject of focus in my historical fiction blog posts: research.

In my ideal historical fiction, is a realistic (and honest) portrayal of the setting and lifestyle of the period. But even writers like Jane Austen weren’t that honest, and she lived in those times! It was all very pretty, the idea that we could choose who we wanted to marry, but that really wasn’t true. Marriage was for social or financial benefit. And for that reason, Mr. Collins is the most realistic character in Pride and Prejudice. He might be boorish and ugly, but he is realistic.

But really, Mr. Darcy. What a hunk of a man! Or was he?

I imagined Jennifer Ehle (of the BBC’s miniseries Pride and Prejudice) was a more realistic portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet than Keira Knightly (in both physique and acting ability!), but I never questioned whether Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen were realistic portrayals of Mr. Darcy.

Keep in mind, it’s never a good idea to challenge the romantic image of Mr. Darcy as he has been conveyed in film and television. Women will come at you with pitchforks! But, I came across a number of articles looking at that very idea, and I’ve come to the single conclusion:

We’ve been lied to!

A study, conducted by Professor John Sutherland of University College, London (where Eleanor attends, by the way), revealed that “the revered Darcy would have had powdered white hair, a pointy chin, a pale complexion, a long nose and sloping shoulders. Not quite the brooding, chiselled chap portrayed on-screen by modern-day actors” (Thompson). Feeling heartbroken yet? Go ahead and read more.

“That’s all well and good, Cadence,” you might say “but that was in the film, not the novel.”

“Well,” I would respond. “please let me explain.”

Mr. Darcy is described by Austen as “handsomer than Mr. Bingley” (8), which is interesting considering the unappetising description given by University College, London’s study. And so, the “brooding, chiselled chap” in Pride and Prejudice is probably just as brooding and chiselled as The Marquis de Sade!

feb15_g01_marquisdesade.jpg__600x0_q85_upscale
Fig. 1 Portrait of Sade (Smithsonian.com)

Geoffrey Rush was aptly chosen to represent Sade, in my opinion. Perhaps then he is the closest to Mr. Darcy? But I may be wrong. What do you think? Would you watch Rush as Darcy in the next Pride and Prejudice film? I know I would!

marquisshag
Fig. 2 Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade (Rushysgirl)

As readers, we aren’t given much to go with in terms of description — “fine, tall person, [with] handome features” (Austen 7) — and I imagine the BBC series and film have clouded our judgement and given us a biased image of the “handsomer than Mr. Bingley” Mr. Darcy.

But enough of Mr. Darcy, and his lies!

Emily Brontë offered us a much more detailed, and rich description of the brooding and chiselled Heathcliff. Nelly describes Heathcliff, upon his return:

He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom, my master seemed quite slender and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton’s; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of further degradation. A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though too stern for grace (Brontë 69).

And upon their meeting, Mr. Lockwood describes Heathcliff as:

…a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose (3).

Though, of course, our image of beauty changes with time. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley will always adhere to our image of beauty because the description is lacking. We then see Pride and Prejudice as timeless, in that regard. The reader is able to create their own image of what beauty is, or should be.

So… should I be creating a detailed image of beauty (my own interpretation, or rather the depiction of beauty of 19thC London) or, instead, should I consider the readership’s desire for a timeless beauty?

To accommodate this need of the reader, and like Austen, I too have not given detailed descriptions of characters, such as Eleanor’s love interest, Mr. Ashwood. Yet, part of that stems from Eleanor’s own rebellion from her duty in finding a husband. She is more concerned with content of character, in a friend or confidant (who she sees Mr. Ashwood as). And therefore, does not consider his appearance too deeply.

What other novels do you feel have not been entirely honest with the reader?
Let me know in the comment section below.

What do we see in terms of historical fiction, however? In my experience, in my readings of historical fiction, the image of beauty has been altered by the author’s personal bias, and not “limited” to the standards as set by the period. If we can go back to Wuthering Heights, we see this with Heathcliff. Although the character is seen as dangerous, violent, exotic, and sometimes that is attributed to his mysterious origins and colour of his skin, Heathcliff is still considered beautiful when compared to Mr. Linton for example, who is perhaps more aligned to the true standard of beauty for that period.

So, what is beauty? Should we be challenging our own standards, or leaving it open to interpretation?

In my last historical fiction post, I mentioned how I am trying to be more open to the demand for a romanticised history, and I think I have done that in Eleanor, at least I hope so. For example, Eleanor’s young sister, Vivienne, falls in love with a man whom she knows nothing about. He is handsome, yes, but as Eleanor and Vivienne grew up without a mother, they were without that person to arrange marriages or find suitors for them (such as Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice), they’re now going in blind. Vivienne knows that she should find someone to free her from her financial problems, she believes she has found someone to do that, but it was essentially ‘love at first sight’, that compelled her to fall for the mysterious Mr. Winters.

Eleanor rejects the societal expectations of her sex, and embraces the possibility of living life as a spinster. She sees that as the fate of someone of her social standing (particularly after the death of her father, and considering her money woes), therefore she believes it right to accept her future now, and prepare for it. She would rather that fate than to marry without love.

Eleanor edited

And yet, all the while, Eleanor is faced with the question of what love truly is.

Getting sidetracked! The point is, Eleanor is well aware of the consequences of veering off the path meant for her, in search of another.

But, what were/are the biggest research issues in writing Eleanor?

  • Specifics about human anatomy, in terms of surgical procedures [both Henry (Mr. Ashwood) and Eleanor perform surgeries].
  • Language. Trying to make accurate dialogue for 19thC London, which entails looking at other works written of that time. But I also like to write pretentiously, so it’s pretty easy for me! 😉
  • Etiquette.

I recently happened upon a book on etiquette, which will perhaps be of the greatest help for me in terms of staying true to the lifestyle mannerisms of 19thC London. There are specific moments in Eleanor I have been uncertain of, and already this little book, Hints of etiquette: A shield against the vulgar (which contains, Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society: with a Glance at Bad Habits, 1842, and Hints for Etiquette; or, Dining out Made Easy, 1849) has answered a number of my questions. For instance, in regards to dancing.

I’m quite fond of this entry (on how not to be an arsehole!):

It has somewhere been observed that, ‘In good society, a tacit understanding exists that whatsoever conversation may take place shall be to a certain degree sacred, and may not honourably be carried out of it, and repeated to the prejudice of the utterer’ (Agogos, 68-69).

But, of course, I refer again to Eleanor and Vivienne’s naivety of such customs. It is a factor that surfaces again and again in the novel, and illustrates their poor decision making in some scenarios.

In regards to my issue with maintaining consistent and dated language… this is something I will delve into further in my historical fiction blog post concerning language. Most of the research was through reading, ultimately. That is probably the best advice out there — read, read, read!

In terms of my research of human anatomy…

Many universities have a program whereby members of the public can take full advantage of their libraries. This has been most beneficial to me, in particular with researching human anatomy. I often borrow books from a local university. And, as a former student with Curtin University, I am privileged enough to be able to continue using their library facilities both on-campus and online. That is just one of the many perks of choosing an education with them!

What is your research process?
Let me know in the comment section below.

I also attempted to research human anatomy and surgical procedures from videos. This is (or, would have been) something helpful for my research and writing process as I describe a particular procedure in Eleanor. Alas! I found it to be quite difficult viewing. Nausea was a problem! Instead, I had to rely on graphic images of the procedure from books and online. A book I found to be incredibly useful was, …. Wait, scratch that! I don’t really want to give it away. The specific surgical procedure is quite a pivotal plot point, so, just ignore this.

However, I will say that the late Dr. Clarendon (Eleanor’s father) was well-versed in human anatomy, as you know (he was a revered anatomist with University College, London), but his field of specialty, or at least his focus, was on the female reproductive system. He considered some theories like the ‘wandering womb’, for example. But, I will not go further. This is simply to illustrate an example of the research I have had to undertake for Eleanor.

I have so much more to say, but sadly this post is getting a little too long. Perhaps I will make a part 2, but for now, I will leave it as is. Feel free to message me, or comment below with your thoughts.

Please join me next time when I look at male characters in historical fiction.

What are your thoughts on historical fiction?
Who are your favourite authors?
Let me know in the comment section below.


Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York and London, 2001. Print.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Wordsworth Editions Ltd: Hertfordshire, 1992. Print.
“Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade” Image. Rushysgirl. 10 Sep. 2007. Web. Date accessed 5 June 2015.
“Portrait of Sade” Image. Smithsonian.com Feb. 2015. Web. Date accessed 10 Apr. 2017.
Thompson, Rachel. “This is what Mr. Darcy would have actually looked like – and it’s not pretty“. Mashable. 9 Feb. 2017. Web. Date accessed 18 Mar. 2017.

Writing historical fiction – the pros, the cons, the heartaches

I’ve always had a fondness for historical fiction, and I’ve particularly admired the commitment and the lengths writers go to, to create the perfect story in our world.

Over the coming weeks, I will be examining a different element in creating historical fiction. These will include: setting, character development, and research, just to name a few.

Each blog post will be concerning issues I have faced, and how I overcame them (or plan to overcome them).

I am by no means an expert. I merely wish to share my personal experiences with the genre, my likes, dislikes, and the highs and lows of my writing process for my first historical novel, Eleanor.


Is there a formula for creating these worlds? How deep do writers need to go, in their research, to ensure their reader is completely immersed in these worlds?


These are just some of the questions I am trying to answer in my quest in completing Eleanor.

Eleanor editedAfter having fallen in love with a number of historical novels, I knew that I wanted to write my own. I can’t remember where I got the initial idea for Eleanor. It was simply a desire to write the un-romantic Romantic. I wanted ugliness, darkness, and to be as near to the raw, unbridled, reality of nineteenth-century England as possible.

One of my biggest concerns with historical fiction is the tendency for some writers to romanticise the period they are working in. And, yes it is fiction, and though I confess I sometimes have the desire to read the romanticised version of history, it is not real. I prefer the raw, unabridged version, including all the ugly parts of history. I want something as true to life as possible, I suppose. Otherwise I feel like I’m being lied to about what life in those times was truly like.

Perhaps I should stick to non-fiction then?

You know I am a pessimist, and you know that I prefer to read novels with sad endings, because I believe they are more realistic… perhaps that is why I need an historical fiction with that darkness.

That may sound contradictory when last time I talked nonstop about my love for purple prose, but if you remember: anything can be made beautiful with purple prose.

Ugliness, darkness, reality; they can be written beautifully. (Beautiful writing or purple prose does not always imply ‘happy’). We can see it in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Wuthering Heights, and Adam Bede, as just some examples. In historical fiction, we can see it in Rebel Heiress.

Lady of the Butterflies

I instantly fell in love with Fiona Mountain’s Rebel Heiress (also published as Lady of the Butterflies) when I read it a number of years ago. This is one of my favourite historical novels. There is romance, yes, but there is sadness, rejection, and isolation too, because that is an inevitability of life. You cannot escape the darkness of the world. I loved the ending, and though I confess I would have liked to see something more definitive, or to see the heroine be with her love interest, it was a realistic ending. The fact that it went against my expectations (because I always assume there will be a happy ending), I loved that even more. I highly recommend this book, and… sorry for the spoilers, haha!

It just seems that characters in a lot of our literary worlds have a pretty good spell of luck. I don’t see many heroes dying of the plague, or women dying in childbirth. And that’s where I’ve found a love in Bernard Cornwell. He tells it like it was!


Can you steer me in the right direction? What should I be reading?
What should I be avoiding?

Next book in the queue is The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. I’ve heard great things, so I’m looking forward to it.

light between oceans


For Eleanor, I am trying to be more accepting of the fact that readers love the romanticisation of history, but I want to add the ugliness of reality too. For instance, I don’t think I’ve come across a book that has described the common difficulty in bathing. A simple act today (for most parts of the world), but as you can imagine, without running water it would have been a pain in the arse. That is something that has come up in Eleanor, in a very minor way. Really, it’s about balancing historical accuracy with an interesting narrative. I don’t need someone to give expert knowledge in the area of Victorian bathing, but it gets hard imagining a world where it seems no one takes the time to use the facilities. Like in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (apparently I’ll use any excuse to reference my favourite game!). Sometimes I wish Geralt would at least stop fighting monsters for a minute to avail himself toilet-wards. I have video footage of a NPC doing it, but Geralt’s too good to pee on a tree obviously!

Paint me a picture, historical fiction writers! Your characters can’t always be smelling nice when their last bathing was a year ago! It’s hard to imagine the hero or heroine being romanced when they stink. Maybe they wear a lot of perfume as compensation?

For my love of The Marquis de Sade, I am completely free to dabble in the darkness. His life was lavish, decadent, toxic, and miserable. There isn’t much argument for adding romance in there, but… perhaps I could? Why not romanticise a horrible man? We romanticise the abusive Christian Grey. It then stands to reason that Sade could be romanticised too. Forcing women to take aphrodisiacs (Spanish fly), pouring hot wax on their bodies, and whipping them; there is a familiarity there, I’m sure 😉

Though I prefer to be ethical, historical fiction is, well, fiction.

Sade the coward? Never! He single-handedly broke out of the Bastille to save Marie Antoinette, his long-time admirer, from the guillotine. History won’t tell you that, but it’s true! He then married her, ‘cos, you know… facts.

So there’s the love story! Sade and Antoinette: A Forbidden Love © 2016 (patent pending).

I’m starting right now! Come on, it could work. You’re just jealous because I thought of it first! I’ll even stick a copyright symbol on it, to be sure.

I enjoy studying Sade’s life, and do also enjoy writing academic papers on him and his works, but I would love to write a fictional creative piece. I have started on a few. Feel free to check out my short piece, Letter to the Marquise.

Although his life was incredibly depressing, it was still really interesting. If someone could write a biography of his life in narrative form… that would be amazing! That’s something I want, and maybe something I’ll try myself.

Now, I shall take my leave because once again my thoughts are getting distracted and I don’t know where to end.

Please join me next time when I look at research for historical fiction.


What are your thoughts on historical fiction?
Who are your favourite authors?
Let me know in the comment section below.

Virtue cries – work in progress

You all know my love for The Marquis de Sade or, rather, studying his life. Every now and then I like to work on a creative piece. This is a piece I was working on last year, and just completely forgot about. I was to submit it for Blue Fringe Arts, but didn’t finish it in time.

Since completing my honours dissertation: “Sade and the death of the virtuous woman: The construction of virtue in Justine“, I have been contemplating undergoing a PhD. I know I want to focus on Sade, once again, the problem is that I cannot decide on whether to write another dissertation, or do a creative piece instead.

Maybe you can help me decide?

Want to read more of my works on the Marquis de Sade?
Read the short story, Letter to the Marquise
Read the poem, My name is beauty


Stolen away at just fourteen years
Reduced to nothing and left in tears
With chastity cherished, her fate is sealed

Her virtue cries and weakens to vice
For her conviction, it is her price.
Defying chaos, defying Nature
Justine soon falls, poor innocent creature.
Unwelcome, this is not her own world
She lies lost, lonely little girl.
But she falls to her own grotesque sin
of growing pride, her vain delight in
purity fair, chastity true
They are taken; as blood from rue

Alas! we find her faith runs deeper
Even when placed with soulless preachers

Her searing flesh beneath the brand
And bones cracking under their hand.

© 2016