MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Saturday 12 April 2014

Fictional Reality? The SilverWood Blog Hop

Easter Weekend

Welcome to the SilverWood Books Blog Hop!

A few of our authors have come together to share a variety of articles and items of interest on their blogs for your enjoyment. There are some lovely giveaway prizes, and - to stay in keeping with the Spring and rebirth theme at this time of year - some colourful Easter eggs. Feel free to collect the eggs, and use them where you like. They were drawn by SilverWood author Peter St John who writes the ‘Gang’ series about a boy who was evacuated to a village near Ipswich during WWII. Meet Peter and his characters on the Blog Hop, along with a host of eggcellent SilverWood authors. ;-)

Have fun!
Helen Hart
Publishing Director
SilverWood Books

Fictional Reality?
by Helen Hollick

There is more to writing a historical novel than merely putting words down on a page (or a VDU screen!) There is the thinking up the idea, planning out the basic plot and doing the research. Then there comes the re-writing and the editing, the copy-editing and the proof reading. Followed by the marketing – the Blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting…. The anxious trying not to visit Amazon to see if anyone has left any nice (or nasty) reviews.

The most exciting part of writing, however, is discovering your characters. Without good characters there will be no good story. They need to be believable. The person reading the story needs to be able to identify with the characters, to like them, hate them; to laugh, love, cry, with them.

The main character, at least, should be introduced near the opening of the book. Give your readers a brief idea of what he or she looks like: “He was a tall, black-haired man, with piercing dark eyes. nDangling from his ear, a gold acorn.” That is enough to start a visual image – and therefore a relationship.

I have fallen for many a character in novels: Llewellyn the Great in Sharon Penman’s Here Be Dragons. William Marshal in Elizabeth Chadwick’s Greatest Knight. I was in love with my King Arthur when I was writing my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. I knew that man intimately for over ten years. When I had to ‘kill him off’ at the end of book three I felt like I was murdering a dear friend. (That wasn’t a plot-spoiler by the way; we all know Arthur dies at the end of his battles.) I found it so hard to write that last chapter – in the end I wrote it first, then went back to the beginning of the book, resurrecting him to live again. Which I suppose is what all of historical fiction authors do when we write about the real characters who once lived, and breathed and walked this earth.

Is that why we write historical fiction? To bring the past alive? Or to sort of time travel in order to meet with the people who came before us? Our ancestors (directly or indirectly, depending on our individual genealogies.) Even if we are not descended from Harold Godwineson or King Cnut, we are connected to the people who were once alive. Their DNA is our DNA; our great, great, great (add a few more greats) grandfathers and grandmothers lived in the Stone, Bronze, Iron Age. Were here when the Roman Empire waxed and then waned; knew of the Battle of Hastings and its consequences. Of the war between Stephen and Maud, lived during the reign of Richard III, Henry, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Were caught up, one way or another, in the conflict between Cromwell and Charles I….

Or maybe your ancestors were not ‘westerners’; maybe your ancestors witnessed the building of the Great Wall of China, or some other great historic event. The detail of the where and when is not important, the point is, we all have a connection with the past because if you are here, reading this, then they were there, living then.

But what of the characters we write of who were not once alive, who were not ‘real’?

I firmly believe that they come from somewhere – and not just our imagination.
I think our characters are echoes of people who lived in the past.
I ‘met’ my main character of my Sea Witch Voyages on a beach in Dorset, England. I saw him clearly, fully garbed as a pirate with a gold acorn earring. He nodded at me, touched his hat in salute and I said “Hello Jesamiah Acorne.”

Instantly he was very, very, real to me. Since then I have heard his voice many times – usually from behind my right shoulder. I have had several extremely vivid dreams about him. In one I was on board ship, which was quite clearly moving at speed. I could feel the deck lifting and dipping, could hear the sound of the sails cracking in the wind, smell the tar, feel the spray. He was yelling at someone to get a move on “Get them colours raised!”

I also dreamt his demise. It was most vivid and I woke absolutely sobbing. I still recall every detail – and no I will not be revealing any of it until the last book in the series. If ever I get that far, and decide to finish his adventures.

Or are these ‘made-up’ characters from a different plain? Another world? Do they reside in Imagination, crossing over to our world through the medium of Thought and Writing - and the pages of a book? Or do they start existing once we think them up, to become more and more solid, and stronger, and real, as more and more readers get to know – and love (or despise!) them?

To me my characters are my friends.

I know they are there, waiting for me to write down their next adventure, to feel the words flow from their mind into my subconscious, and out through my fingertips. I have heard Jesamiah curse or mutter something rude. Heard him growl disapproval or laugh outright with pleasure.
I’ve heard him grumble when I don’t get on and write about him!

It is highly satisfying, and often re-assuring, to know that I have my very own pirate standing beside me, looking after me.

...There again I could either be extremely eccentric, or completely batty.

See all my books on 

If you have enjoyed this article do leave a comment below.
I will pick one lucky person to win a giveaway of any one of my books 

and the winner is:

Enjoyed this article?
Why not Tweet it?
Just cut and paste the Tweet below! Thank you!

Visit @SilverwoodBooks #BlogHop for a variety of articles, giveaways & #EasterEggs to collect @HelenHollick

And there are a host of other exciting and interesting articles awaiting you! 
Hop forward to the next SilverWood Author
 for more interesting articles, some colourful Easter eggs to collect, 
and a few Giveaway Prizes!

  1. Helen Hollick :  Let us Talk of Many Things  - Fictional Reality.
  2. Alison Morton : Roma Nova - How the Romans Celebrated Spring
  3. Anna Belfrage : Step inside...   - Is freezing in a garret a prerequisite? 
  4. Edward Hancox : Iceland Defrosted - Seaweed and cocoa
  5. Lucienne Boyce : Lucienne Boyce' BlogThe Female Writer’s Apology
  6. Matlock the Hare :  Matlock the Hare Blog
  7. Michael Wills :  Michael Wills - A Doomed Army
  8. Isabel Burt : Friday Fruitfulness  -  Flees for the Easter Hop...
  9. John Rigg : An Ordinary Spectator 
  10. Debbie Young : Young by Name - Young By Nature - The Alchemy of Chocolate
  11. Peter St John : Jenno's Blog -  My Village
  12. Caz Greenham : Caz's blog Spot - Springtime and Hanging Baskets
  13. Helen Hart : SilverWood Books Ltd (a link to the SilverWood Books Ltd website)
And here is your Easter Egg to collect - there are several scattered throughout the Blog Hop - collect them all and feel free to use them on your own Blog or Facebook - or wherever you like! 

Leave a comment below 


  1. Great post! I love reading -- and writing -- historical fiction for all the reasons you just stated. My current WIP takes place aboard a fictional ship (based on the real ones) carrying immigrants to the U.S. My own ancestors came from several European countries, but all came around the same time period (late 1800s/early 1900s) and all came through Ellis Island. My current apartment in Brooklyn has a great view of the Statue of Liberty, so it's hard *not* to be inspired.

    Feel better soon, and try to get some rest!

    1. Thanks Meredith - how wonderful that you have that present day visual connection with your ancestors! My Sea Witch is obviously also fictional, but she is based on the real 18th century ship, The Rose - the replica of which is now named Surprise.
      Good luck with your WIP - feel free to contact me if ever you want to chat about the writing process - I know how solitary writing can get, especially when you get stuck on a chapter or scene

    2. You are so kind to offer! I *will* take you up on it soon, I promise!

      Your Pendragon's Banner books are among my all-time favorites. I picture Arthur as looking like David Tennant. If the movie ever gets made... ;-)

      How are you feeling today?

    3. Tennant wasn't around when I wrote the Trilogy... but now you mention it.... :-)

  2. Catherine SaffranApril 16, 2014 6:12 pm

    I absolutely loved this! It inspires me to try writing. I have always wanted to try, but had no clue how to broach it. This is an amazing article! I am also re-reading your Pendragon's Banner Trilogy. It is my favourite series to read, and I keep falling in love with the characters. Thank you for writing such amazing books, you are truly inspiring!

    1. Catherine - thank you, what a lovely comment (especially today when I need cheering up - getting over the flu, I feel a bit 'bleh')
      If you want to write, don't worry about how to do it - that all comes later, just get your thoughts down on paper - the tidying up and technical know-how comes later.

  3. Wonderful and interesting post! I have characters that are friends too! You have a pirate and I have a red head. Now maybe I can dress her up in a pirate outfit or with a hat. Then we will put on the red tea kettle!

    1. Oh Jesamiah likes red-heads! (mind you, he also likes blondes, brunettes, black, silver, brown.....)

  4. I treasure my acorn and blue ribbon, Helen!

    Happy Spring hopping.

    Helen x

    1. *grin* from Jesamiah :-)
      When I was working with my editor, Jo Field on Sea Witch, a few years ago, she used to walk her dogs on Instow Beach, Devon, every day. We'd been working on a particularly tough scene which I hadn't quite got it right, and had used up quite a bit of telephone time into the late hours discussing how it could be improved. She walked the dogs early the next morning - and caught in the grass of the dunes she found some ribbons. Blue ones. The same thing happened to my US Williamsburg researcher, Judy (she lives in Williamsburg) She went out one night to have a look around the Colonial town for me (she was investigating a scene in Bring In Close - I wanted to get the details of a particular house there correct). The next morning what was on the bushes outside her house? Yep. Blue ribbons....

      And for anyone not understanding the meaning of the blue Ribbons.... you'll have to read the Sea Witch Voyages! :-)

  5. Dreaming of your loved character's demise is hard - very hard! I liked your suggestion re how to handle people who do die (write the death part first, go back to bring them alive again) And isn't that the beauty of books, that while they may die, one can always hop back a couple of chapters and there they are, alive and well!

    1. Thanks Anna - that 'death dream' still haunts me, I can remember every bit of it very clearly - and the emotion hit was like a tidal wave it was so powerful.
      I think, for Arthur, it is fascinating that his legend is that he will always come agin when needed - which of course, he does because there are so many authors writing about him. In the world of Fiction a character can never die unless the book goes out of print and the character gets forgotten about.

  6. Yes, our fictional characters become so real, you almost lay another place at the table for them.
    I'm afraid you're going to have to share Jesamiah - he is real.
    Isn't he?

    1. Yes he's real! :-) (I have to remember to hide the rum!)

  7. Wonderful read, Helen. Fascinating look at your characters. :)

  8. A very interesting blog Helen. How does your husband feel about the other man in your life? By the way, I do hope that you are feeling better and many thanks for initiating and conducting this event.

    1. Thanks Michael. Ron is severely dyslexic so he hasn't read any of my books - which is a bit frustrating, but in the case of Jesamiah, is perhaps a good thing! LOL

  9. How cool to dream about characters, that you have created! Hope you feel better for Easter! My mother always thought, that she was a sea captain from Alaska in a previous life, since she always had dreams about one.

    1. How interesting! Alaska could be a very difficult - and cold - place to sail. I think I'll stick with the Caribbean! LOL

    2. Me too, although every one I know, who has taken a cruise to Alaska in the summer, rave about it.

    3. I assume the waters around Alaska were rich for fishing (or whaling?) I know Canada was a source of herring fishing - hmm, something to research when I get chance!

    4. I read, that when Newfoundland was discovered there were so many cod, that you just had to lower a basket in the water and it would be filled with fish. Now, fishermen wonder, where all the cod have gone.

    5. I put herring didn't I? It was cod (that's a remnant of a flu-muddled brain for you!) I wonder what the fishing was in Alaska though? I suspect whaling.

  10. I love yer Easter bonnet, Helen. Fer mesself, Oi ain't got 'ats 'cept fer moi sou'wester wot ain't really suitable fer Easter, unless it rains o' corse. There's lots 'o characters in moi village o' Widdlin'ton, wot Oi wouldn't 'ardly call fictional, 'cos they ain't always so easy ter get on wiv (specially not moi gang leader JJ) but then Oi see 'em a bit diff'rently from wot people from outside the village see 'em. Oi live there see, an' that gives anovver point o' view on fings. Any'ow, thank yew fer a real int'restin' bit o' writin', Oi'll certainly tell PStJ about it, 'cos 'ee c'n always do wiv some good advice about 'is writin', an' p'raps 'ee'll listen better ter yew than wot 'ee does ter me...

    1. Thanks Jenno. Doesn't your school uniform include a hat?

  11. I don't think you are batty Helen! I found all you had to say in general extremely interesting and eminently readable. I read your more detailed description of the day you "met" Jesamiah quite some time ago and was immediately fascinated. I'm sure that like you, many more people both writers and readers will have their favourite characters who "come alive" for them and yes.... we fall in love with them. Why not? I too fell for Llewellyn in Sharon Penman's "Here be Dragons". It wasn't William Marshall but his father John FitzGilbert in Elizabeth Chadwick's "A Place Beyond Courage" who thrilled me to bits! Then of course another one to fall for....Jamie Fraser the exciting Scotsman in the novels by Diana Gabaldon. Hmmmm.... There is something about a handsome Scotsman wearing a kilt....

    I think this series of articles is going to be something very special for all of us to enjoy. I will be reading on today with the next ones on the list. Thank you Helen and I hope you are soon feeling much better.

    1. thank you Korculablue - there was something about Llewellyn wasn't there? Sharon is such a terrific writer of course.

  12. A great post, Helen. I've always loved pirate books, remembering of course Long John Silver, as a child of the 50s. Happy easter. Will be looking out for 'Jesamiah' on Pirate Day.

    1. If you visit SilverWood Books in Bristol go just round the corner to the office to the Llandoger Trow Inn. It was the inspiration for The Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island, and supposedly Daniel Defoe met Alexander Slkirk there, who was the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.
      The Inn will also be featured in the next Sea Witch Adventure - On The Account. Jesamiah has taken a room there - he returns one evening to find something rather unpleasant has been left on his bed....

  13. Hello Helen,

    I shared a cab with you to the Self-Publishing conference.

    Nice blog and very true about characters. I have a historical story lined up after I finish the current piece and I saw the lead character near the canal in Camden. So clearly, I knew who he was straight away and what the story was. Maybe the manifestations are ghosts!

    1. Hi - the conference was good wasn't it?
      I'm not sure if our characters are exactly 'ghosts' as such - but someone (who knows about these things!) once told me that Jesamiah is an echo of a real man - so maybe they are ghosts of ghosts?
      The name Jesamiah Acorne just popped into my head - so that came from somewhere - Jeremiah would have been the more obvious name wouldn't it?

  14. Really interesting insights there, Helen - and you've made me determined to read book 2 of Jesamiah's adventures over the holidays I read and loved the first one over Christmas, just after we did your Solstice Bloghop, and have been saving the next one for when I have time and space to enjoy it properly. Don't kill him off any time soon, though, I want to read many more of his adventures!

    1. Don't worry Debbie IF ever I rite his demise it won't be for a while yet. In my dream he wasn't the young man he is now, so he's got a bit of living to do yet.... I might leave the scene in my will & get my family to publish it when I've gone to the Great Library in the Sky! :-)

  15. An amazing post written so eloquently. Characters have to be the most important element in a book and I know I'm reading a good one when i can visualise the character in my head and when I close my eyes. Your characters in Harold and Emma definitely had that affect on me and its obvious that you care enough about them to make them seem as real to your readers as they are to you.

  16. Thank you Paula - I feel a bit of a cheat with Harold II, Emma and King Arthur though because they were such charismatic people they wrote themselves onto the page! :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear soon. If you are having problems, contact me on author AT helenhollick DOT net and I will post your comment for you. That said ...SPAMMERS or rudeness will be composted or turned into toads.