This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.
Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing
was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog
So please welcome
Inge H. Borg author of
Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile
Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile
The Minefield of Writing Ancient Egyptian Fiction
In the “good old days before the self-publishing boom,” the advice from largely inaccessible agents used to be “write what you know.” I obviously disregarded those sage word - and consequently never found an agent or a publisher to bring me fame. To this day, friends and (dare I say ‘awed’) readers of KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile, ask, “Have you been there?”
Duh, people! Khamsin plays out in 3080 BC. I may be old, but surely I am not that ancient. That said, of course, the “feel” of historical fiction has to be there – or your soul, your ba, shall be cursed “never to cross the field of rushes to find eternal peace.”
That leaves RESEARCH; and plenty of it. So, what really happened at the dawn of that amazing civilization that seemingly sprung up out of nowhere as a fully formed society?
Nobody knows. So if you (the historical fiction writer) blithely assume you can just fabricate the stuff, you have another thing coming. There are plenty of people (I am excluding historians and archaeologists here) who do know a lot more than you do. Hence, you have to research your story in such a way that it feels authentic without the infamous info-dump just to show all you have learned; and that’s when the trouble is likely to start.
Time-lines especially become a blur of contradictions and "facts" are constantly superseded by new findings. Take Dynasties 00 to 03, for example (since Khamsin deals with the dawn of Dynasty 01). Every learned publication hungrily perused for indisputable dates listed a different year, even century, as the beginning and duration of those dynasties. Of course, we are dealing with things that supposedly happened five-thousand years ago; and the pox on those inconsiderate scribes who didn’t think to save their scrolls in “The Cloud.”
Take the names of kings (the title pharaoh only appears after Dynasty 05), their wives/consorts, and the ancient places. Most widely recognized are the major settlements described by the priest Manetho (written in Greek). But he, too, was a few thousand years late to the party and - so they say - had quite an imagination.
The Greek historian Herodotus gave us Memphis, Thebes, and Abydos, among many others. The pyramid of Mycinerus? Really? Did Menkaure (also Menkaura or Mencaure) speak Greek? One therefore needs to choose between the various spellings for the same thing and, if you concoct a story around that time, stick to one.
For me, it all started when I happened upon publications by individual archaeologists describing, nay, expounding their latest and greatest findings. One stumbling block was the often apparent hesitation of their colleagues to accept contradictions to their research. Likely for fear that those might usurp their own published and accepted scientific papers (perhaps even endanger tenure?). Hello! Are those theses chiseled onto modern Rosetta Stones and are they, therefore, forever indisputable?
Way back, when I started my saga, I had no Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia. “You need to read William Budge,” the librarian suggested. Great Horus! Little did I know how outdated that was, and as I wormed my way past Howard Carter et al, I finally stumbled upon the illustrious albeit highly opinionated Dr. Zahi Hawass.
I wrangled with the familiar names of the ancient sites (until modern Egypt changed them into Arabic): Hierakonpolis, Herakleopolis, Heliopolis. “Wait a minute. These are all Greek names again,” I sputtered, and then had a heck of a time to find the ancient name Ineb-hedj (City of White Walls). Yes, it’s the well bandied-about Memphis. It definitely wasn’t Memphis during the First Dynasty. Finally, I stuck as best as I could to the ancient names resorting to appendices and a glossary for readers who wanted to know “the real thing.” But one must consider the casual, even still quite knowledgeable reader. Chucking authenticity aside, I decided to stick with a few Greek names for the better-known gods, such as Isis and Horus; after all, I was writing historical fiction.
So what is an innocent soul like me – a former Austrian mountain goat turned California sailor - doing traipsing in and out of this ancient minefield? Sometimes, I think that, just maybe, I should be writing erotica instead (it certainly sells better). But, I suspect, that too would require a certain amount of research…
The morale of my story: If you write HF, you do have to do your research – and know more than you ever use in your novel. Nothing is easier than to slip back into one’s own comfort zone – but it just wouldn’t do to have a scribe “text” to ask his mother what she’s cooking for dinner” and then look at his watch to make sure he won’t be late (don’t roll your eyes - it’s happened).
In the end, a writer must strive that the story itself prevails, with the exotic backdrop enhancing rather than challenging a reader’s experience.
It all seems to have turned out well, though, and Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile (Book 1 – Legends of the Winged Scarab) spawned another storm, the modern-day sequel Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea, as well as the dystopian After the Cataclysm.
Today’s ability to self-publish (without the outrageous fees so-called “vanity presses” tried to extract) is a fabulous chance for us writers. Add to this the many readers/bloggers willing to review and champion The Indie, there is the wonderful opportunity to read tremendously talented writers whose manuscripts previously languished on the shelves of obscurity. I, for one, am so happy for the chance to see my passion recognized by at least a few.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Austria, Inge H. Borg completed her language studies in London and Paris. To continue her study of French (in a round-about way), she accepted a job at the French Embassy in Moscow. After Ms. Borg was transferred to the States, she has worked on both coasts, and after several years of living in San Diego, she finally became a US citizen.
Ms. Borg now lives in a diversified lake community in Arkansas (call it her happy exile), where she continues to write historical and contemporary fiction. Her hobbies include world literature, opera, sailing and, of course, devising new plots for future novels.
Author Pages -- Inge H. Borg
http://www.amazon.com/Inge-H.-Borg/e/B006QYQKUS – Amazon-US
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inge-H.-Borg/e/B006QYQKUS – Amazon-UK
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/505050 - Smashwords
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/inge-h.-borg - Barnes & Noble
Read the HNS review of
Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile here
Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile here
Previous HNS Indie Award Spotlights:
HNS Indie Award 2014
HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross
1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer
and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick
1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4 Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer
full details and rules can be found here
and related article
|Elizabeth Chadwick: website|
|Indie B.R.A.G. website|