Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Merging of History and Fiction...

There is no greater challenge than researching a time period and then recreating a story around it. Elsie Park has accomplished this in her debut novel, Shadows of Valor, which will be released on September 7th.

Taking place in 1300 A.D. England, The Shadow (aka Sir Calan), a knight-spy working under the direction of King Edward I, hunts down and arrests smugglers who defy the law and evade paying their taxes. The Shadow’s duty is fueled by vengeance from a childhood experience against smugglers. Dealing with society at its worst, The Shadow becomes cynical and struggles to reign in his desire to execute lethal justice before turning the perpetrators over to local authorities. He feels his soul turning black with hate in his continual fight against evil. A childhood acquaintance, Lady Elsbeth, enters his life years later, bringing light to his soul once again, but she has a story of her own, accompanied by physical and emotional scars. Calan feels he needs Elsbeth in his life, but in an effort to keep his identity and duty secret, he must deceive her. This creates distrust and uncertainty between them, as she accepts another man as her suitor. What entails is a tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.

I was curious as to how Elsie went about gathering information about the period for Shadows of Valor and the challenges involved in writing a historical novel, so I decided to ask her to share this process of us.

AMM: Welcome Elsie!!

EP: Thank you, Ann Marie. I am so excited to be able to share my journey with you.

I started my research by seeking a time period with a “problem” I could use as a backdrop. It wasn’t long before I found one that intrigued me. In the late 1200’s A.D., King Edward I placed high taxes on exported goods, especially affecting wool, England’s main generator of capital. These actions led some people to smuggle their wares to improve profits. I set my stage with this historical happening and fashioned characters that challenged the smuggling world with passion and bravery as they struggled to overcome personal challenges as well.

I spent weeks at a time researching the history, monarchy, titles, wars, old maps, weather, clothing, weapons, castles, towns, speech, food, politics, armor, tournaments, knights, medieval terms, feudal titles and names, customs and basic beliefs of England in 1300 A.D. My father’s library of historical books was indispensable. I cross-referenced books with internet sites to make sure I was getting pretty accurate information. Lots of books, lots of time and lots of notes. Sometimes a lot of research was required for a simple scene, just so I could get the facts right. For example, with respect to articles of clothing, I had to learn how far down the legs a tunic hung, which depended on the time period, before I could accurately describe it to the reader. In a battle scene involving an armored man being pierced with a crossbow arrow, I needed to look up how many arrows a crossbow could viably shoot per minute and if the arrows could penetrate the armor from a particular distance. I learned more medieval facts than I could use in my story. I had to pick and choose what I put into it so it didn’t read like a history book or documentary.

Another challenge I faced was deciding whether to use historically correct speech and dialogue, which doesn’t often appeal to the modern reader. My first version of Shadows of Valor was LADEN with “thees, thys, thous” and peppered with medieval terms, so much that I actually had an index of definitions for the reader to reference. Because of this, and taking into account the complaints from my “alpha” readers, I changed my dialogue and took out many medieval terms (and then my publisher had me take out even more – LOL). Historians may complain that my story isn’t 100% correct, but I had to find a balance between historical accuracy and appealing to the modern reader.

I hope my contemporary readers will enjoy my story for what it is, a tale about people who, though living in the past, faced the same emotional issues we do today and who, though not perfect, had the same goal: To be a better person today then we were yesterday. 

From a wildland firefighter to a security guard, police officer, and student
of botany and zoology, ELSIE PARK has done it all. It was only a matter
of time before she wrote her first novel. While on a hiatus to Italy, Park
was inspired by the thick presence of ancient and medieval history. She
felt it in its walls, and slowly, yet surely, a story was born.


Elsie is offering a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card to a lucky winner, so feel free to enter below:

Here is where you can find Elsie:
Twitter: @elsiepark1

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. This post was SO GREAT, Ann Marie! Thank you for having me as a guest! *HUG*