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Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers' and Artists' Companion (Writers' and Artists' Companions) [Paperback]

Celia Brayfield , Duncan Sprott
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

5 Dec 2013 Writers' and Artists' Companions
Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers' & Artists' Companion is an invaluable companion for a writer working in this challenging and popular literary genre, whether your period is Ancient Rome or World War II.

PART 1 includes reflections on the genre and provides a short history of historical fiction.

PART 2 contains guest contributions from Margaret Atwood, Ian Beck, Madison Smartt Bell, Ronan Bennett, Vanora Bennett, Tracy Chevalier, Lindsay Clarke, Elizabeth Cook, Anne Doughty, Sarah Dunant, Michel Faber, Margaret George, Philippa Gregory, Katharine McMahon, Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Hilary Mantel, Alan Massie, Ian Mortimer, Kate Mosse, Charles Palliser, Orhan Pamuk, Edward Rutherfurd, Manda Scott, Adam Thorpe, Stella Tillyard, Rose Tremain, Alison Weir and Louisa Young.

PART 3 offers practical exercises and advice on such topics as research, plots and characters, mastering authentic but accessible dialogue and navigating the world of agents and publishers.

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Frequently Bought Together

Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers' and Artists' Companion (Writers' and Artists' Companions) + Writing Historical Fiction: Creating the Historical Blockbuster (Studymates Writers Guides) + The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression
Price For All Three: 30.80

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Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (5 Dec 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780937857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780937854
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Celia Brayfield spent seven happy years as a television critic on The Times in London. She has also reviewed regularly for BBC radio and TV programmes including Newsnight and Front Row as well as publications including the Evening Standard and New Statesman. Building on her career as a reviewer she then became a novelist. Now the author of nine novels and four non-fiction books, she has also experienced reviewing from the artist's side. She is the former Director of the Creative Writing Programme at Brunel Univesity and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University. In 2006 she established the respected Creative Writing programme at Brunel University and now heads up the Creative Enterprise Centre in the Brunel University School of Arts.

Product Description


A treasure trove of elegant and inspiring thoughts about historical fiction, cut with hard-nosed practical advice. A must for all writers and lovers of the field. Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles

About the Author

Celia Brayfield is a multi-award winning novelist and a creative writing tutor. Her nine novels include Wild Weekend (2004) and Sunset (1999).

Duncan Sprott is the acclaimed author of The Ptolemies (2004), Daughter of the Crocodile (2006), and Our Lady of the Potatoes (1995). He was awarded a Literature Bursary by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1995. The Guardian described him as 'The natural successor to Robert Graves and Mary Renault'. He has nearly 20 years' experience of teaching Creative Writing.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've refined my initial thoughts here. I found it lacked a coherent structure but contained a variety of information some of which could be useful. I did not see much of a central unifying point of perspective in the overall book though there seemed to be local coherence. Also, there was a sense of defining out what the field was without discussion; so a lot of popular historical fiction of the bodice ripper type or in the Sharpe mould - was not viewed. A tendency therefore to elitism of a literary kind? Also some stuff was weakly covered such as the aspect of historical fantasy or Secret History. It was therefore to my mind, limited. A really positive feature was the section by author's but some were quite prescriptive at times as to their views - a good example of that was Valerie Manfredi.
So, overall I am not sure of the mix of a Year book and a study specific to a theme whose contours are not clear cut and not clarified in the right way here either. At times more debate would have been nice and less opinion.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars about time 2 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This has slowed me down and made me think about what I am attempting to do with the Scotland of a thousand years ago. I've been reading Historical Fiction for over 40 years and now I know how Jean Plaidy did it I am in awe. I have started working on the excercises and just discovered that my character, Iona stamps a foot but doesn't swear. MacBeth does though. Usually in Norwegian.
This extension to character has made the purchase of this book worthwhile and I thank everyone concerned.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Useful 20 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found the researching section of this book particularly useful. There are plenty of links to sources and recommended organisations to look up.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and found it thought provoking, interesting and a good source for both on and offline research resources.

It is probably worth reiterating the point made in the blurb that the first section of the book is based on reflections about the genre and a short history of historical fiction. If you're expecting top tips on writing your book, keep calm - they're coming up, but not yet.

I have to admit that at about 70 pages in I did rather lose concentration as Xenophon of Athens isn't entirely my bag and neither is Medieval Iceland. (Shallow perhaps, so I should say I'm not a complete nitwit and do have a history degree - I just prefer more recent eras, that's all).

Anyway, for me, the book really comes alive in Part 2 where there are views on writing historical fiction from around thirty novelists, including Margaret Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, Katherine McMahon etc. (Each gets a couple of pages). Absorbing reading and lots to provoke thought re what kind of historical novelist one wants to be. (I particularly liked Michel Faber on this).

The final part of the book is also excellent - heaps of source suggestions which are really helpful, and then reader friendly bullets on how to get going, keep going and finish your novel. This is the practical bit.

In my view it all works very well. You could turn straight to the how to draft a plot section but I would suggest start at the beginning (I'm hardly being revolutionary here), soak up and settle into the historical mind set, feel inspired by the authors featured, and then crack on with the advice and tips at the end.
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Like most books on this topic (and there aren't many) 8 July 2014
By Bob Nolin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As you can see from the publisher's own description, this book does not contain a whole lot of practical advice for beginning writers of historical fiction. The title, I think, is actually misleading, though "Thoughts about Historical Fiction with a few bits of advice" is not the most catchy title, I suppose. I've collected a bookshelf of how-to books on writing, and this one is truly odd.

First off, it's very British. It's one of those books that barely admits the existence of other countries. Something we're guilty of in the US quite often, but it's weird to see it from the other side. If you are writing about British history, this book may be worth checking out. There are lists of resources for the UK, a little for Canada. Elsewhere? None. Weird, no? Like most books on this topic (and there aren't many), historical fiction dealing with the recent past (19th, early 20th C) is given short shrift. (What's a long shrift, I wonder?) Writing a book on the Gilded Age? You'll find very little help here. There are 100 pages of essays by the authors (who are published authors, but I've never heard of them), giving us their take on the history and philosophy of historicals. I would have found this more interesting if the authors were well-known. The book seems to try to make up for this deficiency by including a slew of short essays by better-known authors, such as Atwood, Hillary Mantel, etc. This takes us up to page 160 or so...

...and still no concrete how-to info. Odd! As I say, it's very different (and not in a good way) from what I've come to expect of these sorts of books. The remainder of the book does contain some useful information, most of which is presented elsewhere more comprehensively. It throws in some information about getting published and finding an agent...things that don't belong here, really. Those are generic writing topics that don't belong in a specialized book.

What is missing, unfortunately, is advice about how to tell a story about the past without resorting to "infodumps": large chunks of data to bring the reader up to speed on your time period. How do you do this without putting the reader to sleep? How to do you avoid the "As you know, Bob" problem? This topic is covered in science fiction how-to's, since that genre has a similar problem.

So, in sum (as the Brits say): very British, limited on mechanics, lots of food for thought, and written by two unknowns (at least outside of the UK). Disappointing.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars this kindle delivery was incomplete 14 Mar 2014
By Judy Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It only delivered part of part 1 and ended at some link to a college lecture but the following pages would not load. Waste of money
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