Tag Archives: historical fiction

Author Interview: Tash Jones

Author Tash JonesMy name is Natasha Jones, I’m from Portsmouth, Southern England and I’ve by the seaside my whole life. I love nature and travelling. I have a fondness for astronomy. I obsessively watch TV shows. I love a good musical. Period literature has, I think, the most fascinating language. I make silly jokes – ALL THE TIME.

When and why did you begin writing?

I used to parody pop songs and before that I used to make up my own magazine and write the articles for it (on lined paper – I still have the magazine). I took writing seriously when I was 18 and I started to pen this novel.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Does one ever? Don’t we all create stories in our minds on a regular basis? I can call myself an author soon though, which is pretty cool.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

It’s a tragedy with a little romance. It’s historical fiction set in London in the late 1800s. The story revolves around Alexander Vile and is retold through his Journal entries. There’s some ambiguity, so that hopefully different readers take different things from it.

What inspired you to write this book?

I read a lot of Gothic fiction and that spurred me on to conclude the novel. I mainly started out of boredom on my work lunch breaks – I didn’t know this would become such a passion for me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like a lot of imagery. It’s a very self-reflexive language style, declarative I’d also say. I’m trying different styles for my future novels though.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

We were studying Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway‘ at University and my lecturer described Clarissa (the lead character) as having these Luminous moments, luminous thoughts – that phrase stuck with me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I would like people to not take things at face value and question more (even if silently). Too many people will read something on a social networking site, in a newspaper or on a celebrities blog and will just accept that as fact. In general I think people should think more before they start arguments and debates too.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Some of the thoughts expressed are my own ponderings. It is entirely fictional thought. I’ve started writing a second book which features a character who is very similar to me.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Jane Austen – she really opened my mind and made me interested in history – I was stuck in the modern world before I discovered her. Jeff Lindsay and Stieg Larrsson got me heavily into Crime Fiction – which is now my favourite genre of Television. Oscar Wilde is the main reason I wanted to write and release this book. His intellectual words were something I desired to be able to replicate. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ fuelled my love of poetry and Jonathan Safran Foer first opened my eyes to intercultural fiction.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

The two that are alive from that list – Lindsay and Safran Foer, I would love to meet them and quiz them on their novels.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I initially approached two illustrators. The first design turned out to convey the wrong theme, it was a little dated. The second really took my instructions and made it his own. His name is Colin Strain.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I don’t think advising on the writing process is entirely essential – if you love writing, you’ll write anyway! Editing (though can be repetitive and tedious) is probably more important than the execution of the writing. In this market, I think networking is equally, if not more important than the editing and writing put together. If you want to build as a writer, network – the more varied people you talk to, who advise, review your work, the better the product you release will be.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I’m one of those annoying optimists – so – I think everyone should smile now, it’ll make you feel better.

The Luminious Memories of Alexander Vile Book CoverNatasha Jones
Portsmouth, England

I’m sucker for romance and metaphors. I like to leave things to the readers interpretation so an element of ambiguity features in my work. I like writing the nasty nasty characters the most.

The Luminous Memories of Alexander Vile

Cover Designer: Colin Strain


Book Review: Les Miserables

Book Name: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo
First Published: 1862

Victor Hugo was a genius who would have excelled at any medium he undertook. He was a poet first and then a novelist and dramatist. His hobby of sketching was such that it is said that had he chosen to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have out done the masters. He is remembered as one of the more well-known French Romantic Writers of his time. In France, Hugo’s fame comes more from his poetry, but to the world he is best regarded as the author of two novels, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Hugo was born two years after Napoleon Bonaparte came to power as Emperor of France. His father was an officer under Napoleon and later became the administrator of several provinces under the Emperor. Due to his career, the Hugo family was forced to move often during Victor’s childhood. His mother, a devout Catholic and royalist, grew tired of the travel and settled with the children in Paris. She then had much influence over Hugo’s early beliefs and interests during his early years because of this, but during the events that led up to France’s 1848 Revolution, Hugo rebelled against his Catholic Royalist education and upbringing and instead embraced the ideals of republicanism and free thought.

Victor fell in love as a young man with his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher. They had five children together. His first child died as an infant. His eldest daughter, Leopoline drowned at the age of nineteen along with her husband who perished trying to rescue her. Hugo learned of her death while in traveling in the south of France with his mistress, learning about her death impersonally while reading a newspaper at a café. Hugo wrote many poems in honor of his daughter, but never quite recovered from her loss. Later in life, Hugo would also lose his two other sons and his wife.

When Napoleon III took power in 1851, Hugo left Paris and went into exile. He lived in Brussels, the Channel Islands and then to the smaller island of Guernsey in 1855. Although Napoleon III proclaimed a general amnesty in 1859 when Hugo could have returned to France had he wished, the author stayed in exile and refused to return until Napoleon III was forced from power as a result of the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. After the Siege of Paris, Hugo returned to France where he remained for the rest of his life.

Hugo’s early work brought him fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry published when he was twenty years of age earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. His work was a reflection of the romanticism that was popular in France and combined with his new passion for Republicanism. Unfortunately, it was his political leanings that lean to his exile from his home country. However, as he continued to publish, he revealed himself to be a natural master of lyric and creative song. Much of Hugo’s poetry has been adapted to music and become the inspiration of many musicals and operas.

After the success of his poetry, Hugo began to work on longer works. His first full-length novel was The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It shamed the city of Paris into restoring the Cathedral and it inspired a renewed appreciation for pre-Renaissance buildings which fueled the tourist trade for France.

The author began the planning for his next major novel which would feature social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but he would take seventeen years to complete the manuscript for Les Miserables and publish it in 1862. It was an instant success with the first installment of the novel, labeled: Fantine, to sell out within hours. The book would have an large impact on French society and the novel remains his most remembered work. It is celebrated around the globe and has been adapted for film, television and the stage. Les Miserables the Musical is one of the most long running musical productions in history. I’m sure the new Les Miserables motion picture will also be a huge success.

Les Miserables can be translated from the French as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims, but in English the publishers have chosen to keep it in its original French title. Even the musical is usually referred to as “Les Mis”. Perhaps the translation is too dour for popular tastes to describe what is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. The story begins in 1815 and finishes in 1832 during the June Rebellion, the novel details the lives and interactions of several common people, focusing on the struggles of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean and the steps he takes to gain redemption. The story of Les Miserables is incredibly complex and details the misery that the common people of France lived in. From the corrupt innkeeper’s family, to Fantine who dies while trying to support her illegitimate child Cosette, to the struggles of Jean ValJean and his nemesis Javert, and finally the students who fight against the royalist army and lose their lives. The misery transforms into poetry and through their suffering you gain a sense of hope for the human race.

Perhaps the best description of this masterwork comes from Victor Hugo himself:

“So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century – the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light – are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; – in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.”

Like many people, I saw the musical first before I read the book. The musical Les Miserables is a masterpiece in unto itself and it transformed me into a lover of live musical theater. I realize that many people do not go on to read the original novel by Hugo. I feel that this is a mistake. This is one of the greatest novels ever written and it is one that should be on your must read list. Do let those that say that this novel is another “book by some dead white guy” mislead you. The human condition is not dependent on race, century, or country, but it is a universal constant. Let the ideas of this long ago genius transport and change you as he has done for me.

Les Miserables Book CoverYou can find the complete unabridged version of Les Miserables free of charge at Project Gutenberg. Be warned, the full version is full of tangents and long passages about subjects that do not have direct bearing on the plot itself, however many of the subjects are quite fascinating. I feel it is worth the time and effort to read the full complete version of this work instead of the abridged version.

Author Interview: Gabriele Wills

I am a great lover of historical fiction novels, so when the opportunity came to interview Gabriele Wills, I was glad of the chance. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview as much as I did, here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Gabriele WillsMy name is Gabriele Wills. Born in Germany, I emigrated with my family to Canada when I was a young child. Always a dreamer, I’ve also been an educator, literacy co-ordinator, and website designer, but my real passion is writing. I have five historical novels in print. Married to my university sweetheart, I am also the proud mother of an accomplished daughter, with whom I just co-authored a Young Adult novel.

When and why did you begin writing?

A few decades ago, when my husband and I moved to Ottawa for his new job, I couldn’t find a teaching position, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill my dream of writing a novel. This was my first attempt at a story set in my favourite place, Muskoka. It wasn’t bad, and gave me lots of practice to hone my writing skills, but – fortunately – it still resides at the bottom of a storage bin.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As a child I wrote stories or made them up just to entertain myself. So I was convinced I was a writer even with that never-to-be-published first novel. I felt more confident that the second one was viable, especially after reworking it dozens of times, and went on to write a third in my spare time. When a British literary agent picked up these two books, I felt I could finally, really and truly call myself an author. I’ve been writing full time for the past eight years.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Summer Before the Storm is set during the Age of Elegance in Muskoka, which has been the summer playground of affluent and powerful Americans as well as Canadians for well over a century. Amid the pristine, island-dotted lakes of this legendary Canadian wilderness, the young and carefree amuse themselves with glittering balls and friendly competitions.

But the summer of 1914 promises to be different when the ambitious and destitute son of a disowned heir joins his wealthy family at their summer home on Wyndwood Island. Through Jack’s introduction into the privileged life of the aristocratic Wyndhams and their social circle, he seeks opportunities and alliances to better himself, including in his schemes, his beautiful and audacious cousin, Victoria. But their charmed lives begin to unravel with the onset of the Great War, in which many are destined to become part of the “lost generation.”

This richly textured tale takes readers on an unforgettable journey from romantic moonlight cruises to the horrific sinking of the Lusitania, from regattas on the water to combat in the skies over France, from extravagant mansions to deadly trenches – from innocence to nationhood.
What inspired you to write this book?

Ever since I first discovered Muskoka as a teenager, I wanted to write about its fascinating past. I was lucky to spend time at my friend’s summer home – known as a “cottage” – which had been built by her great-grandfather in 1879. We used to dance to old gramophone records from the turn of the century, and heard stories about the wealthy cottagers who spent summers on the lakes, often owning entire islands. Many were industrialists and bankers from the U.S. who arrived by private Pullman coaches with as many as twenty-seven servants in tow. I was hooked!

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have a general idea of the storyline, but when I start writing, the characters invariably take over the plot. I’ve tried reining them in, but they will have their way! And honestly, they sometimes take the story in a completely different – but always better – direction than what I had anticipated. So for me, writing is a daily adventure, as I never quite know what they’re going to get up to next.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Because much of the novel is set in the summer of 1914, just before the outbreak of WWI – in which Canada was immediately embroiled – I wanted to have “Summer” in the title. As soon as I envisioned the war as a destructive storm, it just seemed perfect.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’d like readers to have a deeper understanding of that cataclysmic time in world history. The generation that was young and idealistic at the outbreak of the war was decimated, but even those who survived were forever scarred by their experiences. I don’t think that anyone should ever forget their sacrifices.
One of my fans said it best with this comment: “I attended the War Museum in Ottawa, and with your characters in mind, I could see Chas flying high in his plane! Attaching a soul to the stories and pictures we looked at brought a whole new human meaning to me. It was no longer something we once learned about in school – it had a face, a life, a love, and a tragedy.”

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, but many of the events are based on real ones. I have a few aviators, for instance, so their exploits are drawn from memoirs and biographies of famous aces. Women’s roles as volunteer nurses and ambulance drivers were heavily based on real women’s often remarkable – and unsung – wartime contributions.

What authors have most influenced your life?

The Brontës, Thomas Hardy, Daphne du Maurier. My husband and I did a literary pilgrimage to Yorkshire, “Wessex”, and Cornwall as part of our honeymoon trip to England, because I wanted so much to see the evocative and inspiring landscapes where my favourite authors had lived and which they described so enticingly in their novels.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I used a photograph that my daughter had taken of an antique wooden boat that was not only typical of the era, but also one of the those actually built in Muskoka, which has a rich heritage of boat building. I thought the picture conveyed the impression of an idyllic summer day. Then I learned how to use a computer program that allowed me to design the cover.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read widely. Keep writing, and then rewriting. Persevere. Network with other authors, because writing is a lonely profession, and connections as well as support are crucial.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To enhance your experience of The Summer Before the Storm, check out my annotations on Book Drum. Under the “Bookmarks” tab, you’ll see vintage and modern photographs and videos that illustrate various aspects of the book. You can listen to a loon call, if you’ve never heard one, and link to all the music quoted in the book.

If you enjoy my novels, please tell your friends and book clubs. And I appreciate hearing from you!

Summer Before the Storm Book CoverGabriele Wills
Ontario Canada

Gabriele loves to recreate an era in which she can immerse herself, by weaving compelling stories around meticulously researched facts. If you want a glimpse of her world, visit her book trailer on YouTube.

The Summer Before the Storm, Book 1 of the Muskoka Novels
Published by Mindshadows
Cover photo by Melanie Wills
Signed first-edition copies available from Mindshadows.com
Amazon UK

Writing Space: Heather Poinsett Dunbar

Heather and her husband Chris Dunbar are both members of a writing cabal that I belong to. They both have an author interview pending in the works, but I also invited Heather to do a writing space post here at No Wasted Ink. I think you’ll agree that her writing style and tools are unique.

Heather Poinsett Dunbar AuthorI’m Heather Poinsett-Dunbar, one of the coauthors of the Morrigan’s Brood series. Where do I write books? I suppose the 64 thousand dollar question really is where don’t I write books.

I write the first draft with the hubby, Christopher Dunbar, at a variety of places. Generally, since we’re both trying to be gluten-free, we go to several Asian places in the neighborhood. We pull out a legal notepad from what we call the ‘man-purse’ (since Chris usually carries it) and a pen. Yes, we’re that old-school. Then we start writing. We go from one ‘scene’ to the next. Why do we go out? Because we share a house with three cats who talk a lot.

After our meal, I basically have notes that look like:

Heather Dunbar's Favorite Writing Tool

Mandi: Lamia, blah, blah, Strigoi, Deargh Du.

A: EI is not cooperating. Looks annoyed.

MA: Strides in and interrupts them. Who took all my #$@#$!ing bloodmead???

And so on.

Sometime after that, I generally go to my office (the HeatherCave), light incense and candles, turn off phones, and start typing or talking (I use a speech-to-text program that works for the most part, but it also translates Gaelic names into the most delightful nonsensical ravings). If I’m just typing out our notepads, I’ll play music. Generally, it has to be in a language I don’t know or instrumental, as I will start singing along if it’s in English. Right now, I listen to Corvus Corax, Omnia, Faun, Clannad, Dead Can Dance, Vas, and a lot of soundtracks and trailer music. However, I like to get a musical impression of the historical era that we are writing about.

Heather Dunbar's Writing SpaceAt some point, I take time to kick out the cats and try to ignore their pleas for gooshy food. Sometimes one will sneak in and fall asleep in the extra chair.

Other times, I work on the road if we’re at an event or book signing. When I can, I type at lunch at work, but my office is my favorite place to type and think.

Right now, there is a pile of 10 notepads waiting to be transcribed, as my job is a tad stressful of late. Hopefully, I will get back into the flow of things very soon.

Generally, after typing out the dialogue that Chris and I wrote, I go through and add details. I am a librarian, which means I basically research as a hobby. So, I go through our print reference materials in my library at home and then I start accessing historical electronic databases that will help me add a bit of realism to our writings. We’re both history nerds, so this is a lot of fun for us both. Once I’m done, I send things back to Chris, he reads and adds to the draft, I accept or add changes, and boom, it scampers away to the editor.

If you’d like to read more about our adventures in authoring, be sure to visit our blog!

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

Book Name: Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
First Published: 1719

Daniel Defoe might be considered the father of journalism itself as he was one of the more prolific journalists of the eighteenth century. During his career as a pamphleteer and writer, he published around 370 works on a wide variety of topics, the majority of which were political in nature. The content of his seditious writing landed him in prison, but he gained his release by agreeing to be an intelligence agent for the Tories. The rumor and eventual confirmation of his spying eroded his reputation as a writer and a gentleman and thus he was looked down upon by his contemporaries such as Jonathan Swift, Sir Walter Scott, and Alexander Pope.

Defoe worked hard to create the impression that he was a gentleman, although he was not born so, being the son of a butcher and presbyterian dissenter. In order to create the illusion of gentility, he added the suffix “de” to his real family name of Foe. He was known to have purchased crests to place on his carriage to further the idea that he was a gentleman born. Defoe was constantly in debt and landed in debtors prison, but eventually through his business connections managed to find many jobs from being a tax collector to a merchant of hosiery, general woolen goods and wine. He also received a sizable dowry when he wed Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant. Eventually, he was able to purchase a country estate and a ship that he used in his merchant business to gain the status that he longed for, but it is thought that due to his constantly being in debt and the trouble with his seditious pamphlets, his life with Mary and their six surviving children was a troubled one.

Defoe came to novel writing late in his life, penning his first book Robinson Crusoe when he was sixty years of age. The success of his first novel helped to redeem his writing reputation. The book went on to be translated into several languages, became the inspiration for many other novels and in our century for many films. He has gained worldwide and critical acclaim as a novelist starting in the twentieth century and beyond.

Robinson Crusoe is about an Englishman who is stranded on a deserted island for 28 years. With the supplies he’s able to salvage from the ship that was lost during a violent storm, Crusoe eventually builds a fort for a home and then creates for himself a mini-paradise by his own labor and effort in taming animals, gathering fruit, growing crops, and hunting. He recreates a civilization, with all its comforts and economy, except lacking in human companionship. It is a time of hardship and of learning to have faith in god for Crusoe as he examines the beliefs he has been raised with.

After living alone for twenty years, Crusoe spies a human footprint in the sand and soon encounters a tribe of cannibals. During his encounter with the fierce warriors, he rescues a black man who would have been put to death by them. Crusoe names this man Friday and treats him as a servant at first due to the color of his skin. A common view of imperial England at the time. What makes the story more interesting is that Defoe the author treats Friday and the other “savages” as true human beings, although coached in the cultural views of the time. At the end of the story, Crusoe makes his escape from the island when a ship of mutineers sail to its shore. He helps the British captain take back control of his ship and in exchange for his service, Crusoe is given transport back to England.

Does anyone not know about the novel Robinson Crusoe? It has entered our culture on so many levels and has been celebrated time and again in books, movies and plays that the very idea of a man living alone against the elements all returns us back to this original tale. Or was it really original? There are those that say that Daniel Defoe based his novel on the true story of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers’ expedition after four years on an uninhabited island off the Chilean coast.

A 21st century author, Tim Severin, postulates that Crusoe is based on the castaway surgeon Henry Pitman as the most likely inspirational candidate. Pitman wrote a short book about his escape from a Caribbean penal colony, which was followed by a shipwrecking and misadventures on a deserted island. This book was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Row, London. His son, William Taylor later published Defoe’s novel. Pitman appears to have been living in the lodgings above the publishing house and it is likely that Defoe may have met Pitman in person and learned of his experiences first hand or perhaps could have read a draft of his book via the publishing house.

Robinson Crusoe is considered to be one of the first novels ever written in English. It reads as a classic adventure novel, indeed it is the prototype of such novels, but as you peer deeper into its theme you see thoughts on the importance of civilization, of faith, and of friendship. It is a worthwhile book to read and I highly recommend adding it to your reading list. As writers, I feel that it is important to have a good understanding of the classics. For how can we go forward without knowing what went on behind us? Not to mention, why miss out on novels that have stood the test of time?

Robinson Crusoe book coverYou can find Robinson Crusoe to read for free at Project Gutenberg.

List of Daniel Defoe Novels:

    Robinson Crusoe (1719)
    The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)
    Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the Angelick World (1720)
    Captain Singleton (1720)
    A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
    Colonel Jack (1722)
    Moll Flanders (1722)
    Roxana (1724)