Today, I’m delighted to welcome a fellow Crooked Cat author, Tim ‘T E’ Taylor, to the History People slot. He looks at the ways in which history has inspired his novels, and continues to do so. Take it away, Tim.
Hello, Vanessa. Many thanks for inviting me onto your blog today.
I enjoyed Jane Bwye’s recent post here, in which she pointed out the somewhat fuzzy boundaries of historical fiction. I thought it would be interesting to explore those boundaries further and look at the varied roles of history in fiction, and in my own work.
History is a resource that writers can draw on in many different ways. It can provide direct inspiration, in the form of real-life events that provide the framework for a novel, or a vivid and distinctive backdrop for a story that could in principle have been set in some other time and place – for example, historical crime or romance novels.
My first novel, Zeus of Ithome, is a historical novel in the first sense, in that it’s not only set in the past but is also about the history: in this case, the little-known struggle of the ancient Messenian people to free themselves from three centuries of slavery under the Spartans, and the wider events in Greece that precipitated their last revolt. Told through the lives of fictional (and some historical) characters, it’s also an adventure story, a coming-of-age story, and a hymn to a time and place that has always fascinated me.
But it’s not only historical fiction with a capital H that can be informed and enriched by history. Think, for example, of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – a fantasy series inspired by the wars of the roses.
My own second book, Revolution Day, is not a historical novel as such: it is set in the present day, and it follows a year in the life of a fictional dictator in a fictional country. Yet it is still very much inspired by history: the idea for the novel came to me in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, when a string of dictators who had seemed unassailable – Mubarak, Gaddafy and others – were toppled one after the other. What interested me was not so much the specific circumstances of those events, but what they revealed about the corrupting effects of power and its ultimate fragility. So I decided to set the novel in Latin America, with its long history of dictatorship. My dictator, Carlos Almanzor, is not based upon anyone in particular, but his story draws upon the lives of several historical dictators.
The novel I’m currently writing (as yet untitled) makes use of history in yet another way. Again, it’s set in the present day, but one of the two central characters has dementia, and as he loses his more recent memories he begins to live in the past, recalling his traumatic experiences as a bomber crewman and prisoner-of-war in World War Two as if they had just happened.
I’m not yet sure what my next project is going to be after this one. But I am sure that, in one way or another, history will continue to loom large in both my writing and my reading.
About Tim ‘T E’ Taylor
Tim ‘T E’ Taylor lives in Yorkshire and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching at Leeds University. Tim also writes poetry, plays guitars and likes to walk up hills. Tim’s novels, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day are published by Crooked Cat Books.
Tim will be hosting a launch event for the paperback version of Revolution Day in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, on 24 April. All are welcome!
Click on the cover to find the book in your branch of Amazon.
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Copyright © Vanessa Couchman, T.E. Taylor, 2017, all rights reserved.