I wonder how many people got an ereader for Christmas? I can see the attraction – especially for holiday reading when you might previously have wanted to pack four or five books in your suitcase. I’ve avoided ereaders because I spend most of my working life staring at digital words on a screen. I like to read from a real book when I’m not working.
I love going into schools. Writing is a very solitary business and when my wife and daughter go to work/school it’s just me and the cats for eight hours. They’re not much cop at conversation (or ‘bush league’ as I gather you say in Australia) so it can be quite isolating. When I visit schools to give a book talk, or take writing classes, I get to travel somewhere I’ve most likely never been before (like Dollar up in Clackmannanshire, or Bruton in Somerset) and most of the people I come into contact with are a delight.
Historical Fiction is a minefield. You owe it to your reader to stick within the bounds of historical accuracy. After all, that’s part of the fun of reading it, knowing that it probably did really happened to people, unlike fantasy or sci-fi or whatever.
But making sure the D-Day Landings happened in June 6 1944, or Lord Nelson was shot aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar (rather than on the Golden Hind at the Battle of Waterloo) is the easy thing. What’s really difficult is thinking yourself into the mindset of the time.
Here’s a fun quiz (as it’s nearly Christmas).
1. Which one of these activities was popular in the trenches of the Western Front:
This is really preaching to the choir, what with all of you on this site being readers, but it’s something that means a huge amount to me. Almost all of us can read, but how many of us are ‘readers’? Becoming a reader, especially when you are young, is one of the most important things you ever do.
I write about history because I’m fascinated by it. Who could not be captivated by the weird and wonderful art and architecture of the Ancient Egyptians and their imaginative afterlife. (When you get to the other side of the River of Death, and you’re judged to have led a sinful life, you get eaten by a monster! Now there’s something to occupy your mind in those final moments… If you’re dead already can you be killed twice?) And who could fail to be gripped by the titanic struggle between good and evil that characterised the Second World War. The Imperial storm troopers in Star Wars and the Daleks in Doctor Who were both directly inspired by the Nazis.
Admiral Nelson had three daughters called Nicki, Shakira and Beyonce.True or False?
Are we still interested in the First World War?
I’m fascinated by music and have been making it all my life (everything from church choirs to Rock/Reggae/Folk Bands…). So when I come across regimes that want to ban certain types of music, it makes me sit up and listen.
When I was researching my book Auslander, about a teenager in Nazi Berlin, I was intrigued to discover the Nazis detested ‘Swing Music’ – that lively jazz from the 30s and 40s that people loved dancing to.