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 – offer is open worldwide. (Giveaway closes Monday 21st April 2014)

Enjoyed this article?
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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!

(some links may not be live until THURSDAY 17th-
I've posted this article early as I have flu and I
'm going back to bed! :-(
  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 -  Pid-padding the self-published Pathway...
  7. Michael Wills :  Michael Wills - A Doomed Army
  8. Isabel Burt : Friday Fruitfulness  -  Flees for the Easter Hop...
  9. John Rigg : An Ordinary Spectator - Television Lines
  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  I will try to answer but I'm battling a bad dose of flu - 
very bad timing! :-(

Meet My Main Character

Author M.M. Bennetts has passed the baton on to me for a series of posts by historical fiction authors in which we introduce the main character of our work in progress
 or soon to be published novel.

Naturally, I've chosen my pirate to write about: 
Meet ...

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Jesamiah Acorne, (Captain Acorne - and that's Acorne with an 'e' - although his birth name was Mereno. He changed his name when he needed a new one in a hurry - when he  turned to a life of piracy a few months before his fifteenth birthday.
He is fictional (my very own pirate!) but many of his adventures are based on or around historical events.

2) When and where is the story set?
The Voyage I am writing now, the fifth book in the Sea Witch Series, is set in early 1719, It starts in Devon and Bristol, England, and will move to the Azores and Williamsburg, Virginia.

3) What should we know about him/her?
Ex-pirate Jesamiah Acorne is a charming rogue, quick to smile, formidable when angry - the sort of man who you would not get into a drinking contest with (you'd lose). He has an eye for the ladies - well he was a pirate before he met the love of his life, Tiola Oldstagh, and he does occasionally get "sidetracked" by a pretty face (well OK, a part of a lady's anatomy that is slightly  lower than her face!). But his outright loyalty is to Tiola  - he would give his life for her.

Pronounce her name as tee(o)-la, short and quick, not tee-oh-la. She is a midwife and a healer.
And she is also a white witch.

No longer a pirate, Jesamiah often finds himself in various spots of bother; some relating to his past life, some because trouble follows him like a ship's wake....

The other love of his life is his ship, the Sea Witch.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
In the Voyage I am writing now? Someone - or something - is out to kill Jesamiah because of something he did the previous year. Tiola is unable to help him because she has been injured, so she sends a friend, Mahadun, to watch his back. But how reliable is this friend? Has Tiola misjudged him?
Meanwhile the British Government wants Jesamiah to do a 'little job' for them.
A little job, which Jesamiah knows full well will probably end up with him in even more trouble than before.

Things get complicated when Jesamiah suspects that Tiola and her 'friend' are more than friends...

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
To stop being used as a government spy and settle down to a respectable life.
While I'm writing this series he has no hope of achieving it! LOL

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
It has a title, yes. On The Account.
There are some excerpts from the previous four voyages on my special blog H2U here
and subscribe to the Homepage for all up-to-date news

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
Hopefully around Christmas 2014. Depending on the flow of the tides and the calmness of the weather! A good following breeze is needed.....

Enjoyed this post?
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Just cut and paste this below - thanks!

#MeetMyMainCharacter: ex-Pirate Capt Jesamiah Acorne of the #SeaWitch. Who is YOUR favourite character? @HelenHollick

Thanks for visiting ... here are the next authors to follow me; they will post about their main characters on Tuesday 22nd April (next week).

Justin Aucoin
Judy Ridgley
Malcolm Noble
Carolyn Schriber

Leave a comment below and tell me who your 
favourite character is!

The Thursday (fun) Thought

As I am having lunch with some (hopefully!) new friends 
and Yves Potter of the Devon Writer's Group 
down Exeter way today, 

I thought this was appropriate...

Tuesday Talk - My Guest This Week...

Indie Author Geoffrey Greenhough talks about his novel of the Great War - World War I - Two Trees

I often describe the whole process of writing, producing and marketing a book as a ‘journey’. For a real journey I consult a map or a sat-nav and try to work out timings and stopping-off points – with the book I found myself discovering new routes as I went along and in truth there were times when I was not really sure where I was heading!

The motivation for researching and producing my novel Two Trees was not to write any sort of blockbuster or even to sell loads of copies – it was just something that I wanted to do. I was not even sure that I could construct anything meaningful and often the project took control of me rather than the other way round! But the final product represents what I wanted to say – not what somebody else told me I ought to say. This, I suppose, is one of the real strengths of self-publishing: the author has total control of the whole process from start to finish.
So why write another novel that has the First World War as its key subject – surely there are enough fiction and non-fiction books about the 1914-1918 conflict without yet another one? What could I say that was original about this whole period, especially as we approach the centenary of the Great War in August of this year?

I cannot claim that everything in Two Trees is totally original – that is for the reader to decide. But the novel does present some different layers that may not be in the mainstream of literature concerning the First World War. Maybe the most obvious issue is that the events are seen through the eyes of Hannah, a young girl aged six who sees her favourite brother going to the Western Front knowing that he may not return.

Children have always fascinated me. Even though I do not have children of my own, my principle career was as a schoolteacher. The way that many of my students saw certain issues was sometimes funny, sometimes na├»ve yet also sometimes possessing a wisdom that seemed to get abandoned amongst adults. I often think that we need to enhance the energy and enthusiasm of children and keep that energy alive into adulthood. In Two Trees, I tried to give Hannah this energy – in many ways she is the centre of the story, not the horrors of the Western Front or the trials and tribulations of her parents and her siblings.

One of the other themes I tried to examine in the novel is the character of the enemy: who really is the enemy? Of course the answer can appear to be simple - to the British and Allied forces on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918 the enemy was the German armies in front of them. But what happens when that enemy shows you an element of compassion that is somehow not in the character of war itself?

I wanted to show that the Great War was a tragedy for the Germans as well as for the British and Allied soldiers. I wanted to give the enemy a sense of humanity that we would not normally associate with an arena of armed conflict. If the Germans were indeed hated by many, I wanted to indicate that the Germans could also express humour, compassion and have an empathy with many aspects of ordinary life. Through the narrative of the story, I wanted to show that what many combatants and civilians loathed was war itself: a feature as common today as it was a century ago.

However, my motivation in writing Two Trees was not to make any grand political statement or to write an anti-war novel – it was to share some time in the company of someone very special to me, but someone who I never had the privilege of knowing or speaking to.

As a very young man aged twenty, my father found himself on the Western Front in August 1918 with the Welsh Guards regiment. Even though the war appeared to be swinging in favour of the British and Allied forces, there was still very bitter fighting and huge casualties. My father was lost in battle; my grandparents received the dreaded telegram to this effect. In reality, he was rescued by a German soldier and stretcher-bearer party and taken behind enemy lines and then incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp. When he returned home in December 1918 he was a total physical and psychological wreck – yet my father claimed that the enemy had saved his life.

Here was the spine of my novel – a tribute to my father and to that German soldier who found him amongst the carnage of the Western Front. Without either of them I would not be writing these lines. They clearly shared an experience that few others would ever understand; yet it was that experience which is the life-blood of Two Trees.

I set the story in actual places and against actual events; most of the characters are based on real people. I grew up in the Black Country, an area of England that has a character of its own – I hope that the features of Black Country people are reflected in the story. I invented the characters of Frank and Sylvie Muller from Berlin – Frank represents that German soldier who found my father. As another layer to the story, I deliberately made the Mullers Jewish. I wanted to demonstrate to the reader that many German Jewish soldiers fought for the Kaiser in the First World War.

Was the whole process of researching, writing and producing Two Trees worthwhile? Well, the answer must be yes. I continue to learn a great deal and my journey has not yet reached its destination. The novel was very challenging to write, at times emotional and at times frustrating. Its pages contain affection, laughter, tears, compassion and anger – I suppose it is a story of the human spirit in all of its dimensions. I hope that it is as relevant today as it was back in 1918.

From the Historical Novel Society Indie Review of Two Trees

"...a thoughtful reflection on friendships and enemies in war time....Two Trees is the name of a war cemetery in France, but serves as source for plenty of symbolism, be it the two men who weather the war and remain strong, or be it the trees serving as support for the soldiers resting from battle....
A truly great title!"
read the full review HERE

Further details about Two Trees can be found on

available from
Matador UK

Amazon USA (Kindle)

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#TuesdayTalk @HelenHollick #guestblog #TwoTrees 'thoughtful reflection on friendships & enemies in #WWI'