Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marissa Doyle on Creating Historical Fantasy

Thank you so much for the opportunity to visit with you, Enduring Romantics! It’s a pleasure to be here. When Kimber An invited me to guest blog, she asked if I wouldn’t mind discussing how I write in the intersection between history and fantasy. Would I mind…ha!

I write young adult stories set in the past because…well, I’m a history geek. I love studying and researching the past, and I love trying to pass on all the cool little facts and bits and pieces that I’ve learned over the years because I want my readers to understand just what a rich and wonderful place the past is...and to understand that history is just that—story. The story of people who just happened to be born before you and I.
But I also love fantasy—magic and ghosts and otherworldly creatures. So of course, it seemed pretty obvious that when I started writing, I’d blend the two and write historical fantasy, books that take place in an historical setting where a supernatural or fantasy element is an integral part of the plot.
Weaving historical fact together with fantasy takes a little planning. If you want to try your hand at it, you should first choose a time and place or a historical figure that you’re passionately interested in, because you’re going to have to do a lot of background reading as well as specific research on them. My fascination happens to be 19th century England…but it could be revolutionary France, or early dynastic China, or Renaissance Italy. Notice that all of these times and settings are fairly old? There’s a reason for that: I think it’s easier to weave fantasy elements into the pre-modern world, before technology like telephones or airplanes was able to do many things that might have seemed magical. It’s a lot easier to imagine magic afoot in, say, Paris in 1790 than Paris in 1990, don’t you think?
So you’ve got your historical time/place/event/figure…what fantasy elements do you choose to mix with it? Well, again, that’s up to you. I love the idea of magic as an inherited characteristic, so that’s the fantasy element I chose to weave into my history. They work well together because family and inheritance were important issues in 19th century England, just as, say, a race of immortals in Renaissance Italy would tie in well to that era’s fascination with the classical past.
Now that you’ve got your history and fantasy elements, it’s time to play the “what if” game: take your historical event or person or era that interests you, and take it in a different direction. How far you go is up to you; in my book Bewitching Season, I took actual events and people--the soon-to-be Queen Victoria and her struggles with her mother’s steward, Sir John Conroy--and added a twist: what if Sir John had tried to use magic to control the future queen? And in my upcoming book, I’m playing with what might have happened in 1815 before the Battle of Waterloo if Napoleon had a secret agent or two working for him.
So are you ready to try playing the “what if” game? Let’s use one of the examples I listed—the French Revolution. That’s a pretty dark time in history, with a lot of bloodshed and death, so some pretty dark fantasy elements could be worked in...hmm...what if the leaders of the Revolution like Robespierre, Danton, and Marat had been members of a demonic race trying to take over mankind…and only a member of the royal family had the power to stop them…?
Or let’s go smaller…the fact that King George III spent most of his later years insane. What if his insanity was due to a curse? Who might have cursed him—a family member? Or an American agent, in order to help protect the young and vulnerable United States? Or…
Do you get the idea? If you’re at all interested in writing historical fantasy, try it! This kind of focused brainstorming can take you some exciting places…so have fun!
Kimber An here.
To learn more about Marissa Doyle, her books, and Historical Fantasy, please click on this linke-
Marissa Doyle
My review of Bewitching Season
Thank you Marissa!


Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

I read the first book in this series and totally loved it!! the romance was soooo sweet!! I can't wait to read the second book too :)

Nayuleska said...

Hi Marissa! Thank you for chatting about why you write historicals - very interesting :) I'll put your books on my wishlists