An interview with one of the Historical Fiction writers on Movellas
Ever wondered about how Midnight Rogue writes historical fiction so well, or how she's inspired to write such amazing pieces? Wonder no more! Of the twenty most popular historical fiction movellas on the site, six of them have been written by Midnight Rogue, and today I'll be interviewing her to find out how she does it.
So, let's start with your most popular historical fiction movella, Blood Will Have Blood. In the blurb, you wrote that it's based on the Vikings sacking Lindisfarne Monastery in 793. What inspired you to write about this particular topic?
To be completely honest with you, that story was a very helpful revision tool for me. In the year I published it, I was studying for my History A-Level - which is was studying by myself without the assistance of a teacher or peer - because I was the only student that really, really, REALLY wanted to do history. And I picked the most vague topics (Anglo-Saxons and the Norman Invasion of England) the examination board - Edexcel - didn't even publish a textbook for it. I think I gave credit to both Tolkien and Richard Abels, because those two gave me some actual studying material. But back on the story, it just seemed the best way to study for it - combining my two favourite things: writing and history.
That is most definitely the best way to revise. (Movellians, take notes on this. Hate revision? This is the way to do it if you like writing!)
Did you have a favourite character while writing it?
Not really. I try not to pick favourites between my characters in any stories or the focus becomes all imbalanced.
That's probably something most of us should stick to but can never find the strength to. I salute you. Do you have any more advice for people who want to write historical fiction?
A) Historical fiction is all about tying loose ends. It's almost like writing fanfiction. That means you have to do a lot of research on whatever period of history you choose to write about. But as much as it's important to find out facts, it's also worth it to research grey areas and unknowns. Unknowns allow a writer to expand and create. Find periods, people and places that are shrouded in mystery - 18th century pirates, the 9th legion, curses, myths. That sort of thing.
B) It's true that historical fiction grants less freedom than other genres of fiction, like high fantasy (which is way too much freedom, if you ask me) but it gives you very powerful advantage. Books, films, video games, images and wikipedia pages on everything you want to know. Everything from the way people used to joust, to what they used to wear can be described by you first-hand (you know, almost).
C) Pay attention to the society and politics of a time. It sort of goes without saying, but factions, family, loyalties were very important in the ancient world. Make sure your characters have their motives straight, as well as their language, manners and actions depending on their social class, their gender and everything really. I already said research was key.
I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm actually helping... XD
Sounds good! What's your favourite time period in history?
I'm not a fan of favourites xD I like almost all of history. The good bits, the bad bits, the god-awful bits (King Henry VIII, worst king of England. Most useless king I've ever read up). I'm very fond of ancient warfare, though.
In that case, what's the exception to 'almost all of history'? Anything you don't like so much?
It really... depends.
Like, some people have very specific likes. I have very specific dislikes when it comes to history. When I first read over the question you just asked me, the World Wars were the first things to come to my head. But I don't hate the World Wars. I had a good time learning about, you know: the style of warfare, no man's land, trenches, formation, the aid of the British colonies, even about the allies, the pacts, the League of Nations. I absolutely loved (and hope nobody takes this the wrong way) learning about Hilter's Germany or Nazi Germany. I found it so interesting. I actually went ahead and nicked my uncle's copy of Mein Kampf and read the whole thing through (say what you like about Hitler, but, dayum, that guy can write a book).
The things I didn't enjoy when it came to learning about the World Wars was the Suffragettes (the Suffragette Derby was the only thing I found interesting in that whole topic), Conservative and Labour party rivalries, Winston Churchill's face (sorry, Winnie, it had to be said. Although, Neville Chamberlain was interesting for a little bit when it came to the Anglo-Polish talks/alliances) and - last but definitely the worst - the General Strike. I spent so much of my time looking at pictures of coal-miners, good Lord. I probably would have gotten an overall A* if the General Strike hadn't come up in our exam.
As for the rest of history, outside the World Wars... I haven't really come across a period that I don't like. I'd also have to take into account all the history that I don't know about. I mean, I don't know much about Canada, the States, South America, France, the Middle East (not including the Crusades)... Actually, I know some about the Middle East, but less about a most of Asia and Africa. Thinking about it, before the British Colonialism, I don't know anything about ethnic country. History is just a mass of knowledge like that and the more you learn about it, the more you find. And the more you find, the deeper and deeper you get. And the best part about history is that it's not fiction. (I understand that I've gone off topic) The greatest heroes, the most appalling villains, the most brilliant geniuses and the most irredeemable idiots of history actually existed and the things they did actually happened.
How do you pick a favourite in all of that?
Do you have any role models from history?
Role models... Dammit, this is another favourites question... Except there's zillions of more people in history than there are time periods. But off the top of my head, I admire (note that word, it says ADMIRE):
• All prophets or avatars mentioned in most scriptures
• Most Greek heroes in the Trojan war - Achilles is a personal favourite story though among all of those.
• The Romans in terms of military genius.
• Socrates and his students Plato and Aristotle.
• Dante Aligheiri
• Geoffrey Chaucer
• Leonardo da Vinci
• Niccolo Machiavelli
• Machiavelli's Prince, Cesare Borgia.
• (Trying to think of another woman...) Empress Matilda
• Saladin or Salah ad Din
• Umar ibn Al-Khattab
• William Wallace
• Robert the Bruce
• William the Conqueror
• Anne Bonny and Mary Read
• Edward Teach
• William Shakespeare
• Christopher Marlowe
• Robert Browning
• J. R. R. Tolkien (I'm sorry. Had to.)
• Adolf Hitler
• Jack the Ripper (greatest murder mystery in British history, I think. He deserves to be in this list)
• (Oh God, I need something to itch my brain. With a pitchfork or something. It's like I'm thinking everything and nothing at once. This will probably be the last one for now) Oliver Cromwell.
I would add more, but my mind is just blank right now xD
Ooh, ooh, I forgot:
• Guy Fawkes
I'd say that's a pretty good list. I'm sorry to annoy you with ANOTHER favourites question, but are there any particularly good historical fiction books or movellas you'd recommend?
Goddamit, I forgot:
• Joan of Arc.
But to the question, I'd say anything by Simon Scarrow (that is the father of Alex Scarrow, in case you were wondering). I love all his stories based in Rome. I also love the Eagle of the Ninth (though, I cannot remember the name of the author. It's slipped my mind). Shakespeare's written some very good historical plays, like Julius Caesar.
• Julius Caesar.
Movellas... I haven't read many historical fiction movellas that were completed, but one that I really liked was called The House of Ludus by darth_timon (it's R-rated though, for good reason).
Eagle of the Ninth... Was that written by Rosemary Sutcliff? Either way, it was an awesome book.
I'll finish off with this:
Were any of your historical fiction movellas more fun to write than others, or did you enjoy writing them all equally?
Yep that's her xD.
I don't know. I've never really thought about it. I mean, on the one hand, most of my historical fiction works are completed. All of them are completed stories - and I can't say the same about my fantasy stories, my science fiction stories, and others. So that would indicate that: yeah maybe they are more fun to write. But then, 75% of my purely historical fictions are a lot shorter than any of my other stories which range from 30-100 chapters (those that I've completed). Additionally, I have a huge respect for history. Most of my work links to history in one way or another - including my sci-fi and fantasy work. So I would say: for the most part, all my work was equally fun to write.
But this interview was interesting. I enjoyed it a lot, though I thought it would take a little longer xD. But thank you kindly, Jess, and to everyone reading. All of you guys stay awesome!
No problem! Although actually, because I can't stick to anything other than my annoying nature, one more question. I myself have read the answer to this before, but for those who haven't: What is it about Hitler that you admire?
Explaining my strange admiration for Hitler... This is going to take a while. The first thing you need to understand is that politics - which, like I said, runs parallel to history - is very complicated. You have to be able to look at history with an open-mind - whatever the case - or you won't be able to grasp a full understanding of it. I don't condone the things Hitler did, of course not. However, Hitler wasn't born thinking that he would grow up to be a psychotic, genocidal dictator. In his youth, he actually aspired to be an artist or an architect - but was never accepted into an art college. He lived an impoverished life, under an abusive father, I think he was also born outside of wedlock - which may not mean a lot now, but back then it did. He was down on his luck for what you could say was most of his youth. And I'm not saying it's an excuse, but it's the kind of thing that breaks people. Then he joined the army, fought in the war, got an award dubbed an “Iron Cross”, I thunk he did some spy work as well. He met Anton Drexler who was the original founder of the NSDAP or Nazi party (I think that's the abbreviation. I probably should have looked it up xD).
So at the beginning you have a steady slump when he's an aspiring youth, but then things start to climb after he grows into militancy. It doesn't do wonders on the mind, that.
But onto what I admire about him, he was a very prolific speaker. He new how to speak, how to write. He had a jet or plane to carry him to different parts of Germany in a day so he could speak to different audiences. He vigilant, he believed in his cause and he managed things for the most part very well. He had a minister of propaganda called Joseph Goebbels, and with him he targeted every audience there was in Germany. He targeted the upper class, the working class, children, women, and he catered for them as well. The Volkswagen car brand was originally made for the working class of Germany so they could go to work. The standard of living rose, you know, Hitler encouraged the building of autobahns. It shows that he loves what he does and he's very good at doing it. Up until Poland and Russia (the Battle of Stalingrad, specifically), Hitler didn't have many major loses in the war. If you ask me, if Stalin and USA hadn't stepped in, Hitler might have won. We call him a dictator. From what we can see and from what we've been told, he was a dictator, a tyrant. But I doubt that's how the majority of Germany felt at the time. If you were “Aryan”, I doubt that you would have much to protest against.
I understand that Hitler does fall under scrutiny when it comes to the many people who fell victim to his sickening problem of discrimination. I don't condone it. There is no excuse in my mind that I have for Hitler on that note. You know, he killed a lot of people. And those of a Jewish background often come up, but there were others. There were Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, prostitutes, drunkards, the disabled - mentally or physically, repeat criminals.
But I think it has to be noted that Hitler wasn't the first to carry out such actions. There are peoples we respect who indulged in the same things. Spartans, for example, indulged in eugenics (that's killing disabled babies) as well, but that doesn't seem to be a big problem when we study them. We just gloss like it's nothing. Romans tortured and imprisoned Christians. I mean, just look at the Passion of Christ. Jews were discriminated against in Europe for generations. Look at Shakespeare's Shylock and Dickens's Fagin. Hitler's holocaust wasn't the first against those of a Jewish faith. Stalin also hunted Christians. You know, European history is so rich with merciless, bloody killing that it just irritates me that Hitler is the only one that seems to stand out. Historically, there are eleven Crusades to the Holy Land - listed on wikipedia. Do you know what that is?
Merciless butchering generations after generations over a plot of land that is still being fought over to this day. Look at the villainy in the British Empire itself: the near-eradication of two continents and the enslavement of a third continent.
I hate this kind of bias and I feel it needs to be said. Great men do great things and wicked men do wicked things - I'm sorry we don't live in a world like this. People are people - that means they have merit and fault. Appreciate all merit and despise all fault. You can't do one for one person and the other for another - because this guy is German and the other guy is British.
But I think that's enough of that lecture for now.
What a way to finish! Sorry about the random appearance of an unexpected last question; I figured it was something you guys would find interesting, because I know I certainly did. That's all from Midnight Rogue for now, but go check out some of her history movellas - I cannot recommend them enough!
Thanks for reading!