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on 6 September 2014
I wanted to like this and had hoped that it would hold more information about structuring your historical novel, Celia is an accomplished voice in 'How to', but this particular publication was a slice too thin.
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on 17 September 2014
Disappointing! Very little practical advice on structuring a historical novel although there are some rather silly exercises which in my opinion are a waste of time -better to get on with writing your actual book! The long history of the historical novel is a waste of space and I'd never heard of most of the historical novel writers who give their views. It's also depressing that in true British chauvinist fashion the author is only interested in British history - practically no information or advice on writing about other European countries. Are the authors Eurosceptics?
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on 21 December 2013
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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on 9 February 2014
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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on 2 December 2013
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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on 20 June 2014
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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