Friday, July 25, 2014

Writing Historical Paranormal

Last Saturday, fellow-author Hazel West hosted me on her blog, “Hazel West’s Character Purgatory.” So now it’s my chance to welcome her to discuss a subject that I might never tackle: the art of writing historical fantasy. 

Hazel and I met on Goodreads, where she moderates the History Buffs United group. I am delighted to welcome her today. And, Hazel, good luck with your new novel, Wolfsblood!




Writing Historical Paranormal

Hazel West

I thought this would be a good topic to write about, seeing as I just published my first official historical fantasy/paranormal novel, Wolfsblood. It’s always been a genre I have enjoyed to read: whether it was a fantasy universe like Middle Earth that is based off historical peoples, or historical fiction with fantasy or paranormal elements added, it’s always been fascinating to me to see where the authors go with it. The more I write and think about stories that involve history and fantasy or myth, the more I realize how easy it is to mix the two genres.

It’s especially easy when writing Celtic history. A lot of the ancient history of Ireland and Scotland and pretty much all of Great Britain in general is very steeped in legend. So much so that sometimes it’s hard to figure out where the folk stories end and the actual history begins. Think King Arthur and Brian Boru and even later heroes such as Owain Glyndwr to a certain extent. This might be annoying when trying to write a strict historical novel, but it’s extremely good fun when you’re writing a historical fantasy. While Wolfsblood isn’t really based off any particular event, or myth, or person, it is written in the style of the old folklore, dealing with a whole Roman garrison that is made up of werewolves. Add to that an ancient Celtic flavor of mystery and magic, and druids and it’s pretty much a traditional folk tale. 

I’ve always been a fan of paranormal and supernatural novels, though I’ll admit that what oftentimes passes for that genre nowadays isn’t exactly my choice of reading material. I like the stuff that comes from old folktales and myth, and that’s the feel I attempted to give to Wolfsblood. Being set in Roman occupied Britain, on the border of Scotland, it’s the perfect time period and setting for adding a supernatural flair to the historical aspect. Half the battle with writing good historical fantasy is not only finding a reason to do so, but making the kind of story line work with the proper time period. I don’t think this would have worked the same had it been set in the Napoleonic time period, and werewolves definitely fit better with the character of the Celtic people than vampires. Another tip about writing historical fantasy is to do your research. There have always been urban legends and stories of the occult, and you will likely find one that will suit your writerly mind. I did a lot of research into werewolf lore before I wrote this book, going far back into the ancient Greek and Viking cultures, as well as studying druids and not only what they really did, which was creepy enough, but what they were thought to do as well. The best part about writing historical fantasy/paranormal, is that you can take liberties with the little extra bits that are passed down in local legend and run wild with them without anyone getting onto you. Or if there’s no material, make it up! As long as it seems to fit with the setting and time period, you’ll be able to craft a very interesting story.

There were no particular events that inspired Wolfsblood, but to me, the entire Celtic culture has a very supernatural feel to it anyway, and it’s almost second nature to put little bits of actual supernatural events into a story set in ancient Britain or Ireland. In any case it was good fun, and as my first attempt at paranormal, I was rather happy with the result! I will definitely be thinking of writing other books in the genre.


Hazel is an indie author, avid reader, and coffee connoisseur. She loves best writing British historical fiction and things with an air of the ancient supernatural, finding new ways to retell the old stories—sometimes mixing everything together. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found sketching, listening to music (classic folk, modern folk, and other modern artists with a different taste to the norm) and feeding her obsession with BBC TV shows.


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Description


Alexandrus has been hoping for his promotion to centurion for a while, not only for his own personal gain, but to make his father, a wounded veteran, proud. However, promotion does not come in the way he expects.

He finds himself posted to a frontier fort on the Northern Border, commanding a cohort of Celtic auxiliaries. Chosen for this particular job because his grandmother was British and he speaks the language, he sets off for his new posting, leaving behind a disappointed father and the relatively comfortable life he has known in the south.

When he reaches the fort, he finds it the most horribly run place he has ever seen. Men are sleeping on duty, no one seems to be motivated to do anything, and the decurion is “currently indisposed.” He soon makes it his duty to join with the other centurions and whip the men into shape, but it proves difficult, for the fort is full of troublemakers, both well-meaning and otherwise. But the lack of discipline is not the only thing strange about the new posting. Where are the horses if it’s supposed to be a cavalry cohort? Why do most of the men seem to have strange golden eyes, and why is it that most of them have bite scars? It can’t be that they were all so unlucky while hunting for wolf skins, could it? Alex disregards an old story he hears about a Druid curse, but when it comes to the night of his own initiation, he begins to wonder whether there is truth to it after all.

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