It is my pleasure to introduce to you a person who has eagerly accepted my invitation to guest post today! Many of you may already know Colin or have read one of his many books, yet I thought this might be a wonderful way to get to know the intellect of this most interesting man.
Though he now resides in the land down under, his roots actually stem from jolly old England, north London to be more specific. Colin has done many things in his life. He has worked in TV and radio and free-lanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. But what he’s most proud of is being the father of his two beautiful full grown daughters. Although I thought I remembered spotting him with a gorgeous blonde at his side!
It seems that Colin is quite the daredevil and is willing to risk life and limb when it comes to doing research for each of his novels. He’s been known to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma, and has been seen cage-shark diving off the coast of South Africa. Our man Colin really knows how to get around!
But since he is such a well seasoned author, writing more than twenty books spanning over the last twenty years, I thought this would be great opportunity to get some incite as to what prompted Colin to immerse himself into the historical fiction genre that he is most widely known for.
So without further ado, may I please introduce to you, Colin Falconer!
Thank you Karen.
I thought I would write a little history lesson about my love/hate relationship with history and how I came to be an author of historical fiction. I hope you all will enjoy it.
I hated history at school. All I remember of my last year is that the teacher’s name was Sheldrake, so his nickname was Bomb-duck. History was first thing on a Monday morning so the class was an excuse to sleep off the weekend. I still made pass grades. All you had to do was memorize the dates and some names and I could do that with a bit of cramming the night before the examination.
So if someone had told me back then that I was going to become an historical novelist I think I would jumped under a train. I couldn’t have imagined anything worse. I wanted to play for Manchester United.
The one lesson I loved was English, which is surprising, because we were reading Shakespeare and most sixteen year olds find Shakespeare hard work. Not us. Our English teacher, with the more normal-sounding name of Mr. Briggs, was a revelation.
He didn’t just make us read Hamlet; he described the stage for us (this was long before Sam Wannamaker rebuilt The Globe); he explained about the hawkers moving through the crowd selling pies and nuts while the play was going on; he gossiped about Marlowe getting murdered; he explained all of Shakespeare’s dirty jokes – and there are plenty, because Shakespeare was a filthy, filthy writer. (He had to play to the whole crowd, from the blue bloods to the hoi polloi in the pit.)
He told us that Shakespeare was bald, had an affair with a woman in Oxford, and built a fancy house in Stratford on the proceeds of his career. He explained how he made up words or used words that no one in London had heard of. (Like there’s a word in old Warwick dialect that describes the shadow made by the round of earth thrown up by a plough at the end of a furrow. As if the Anonymous Edward de Vere would know that!)
In other words, he made Shakespeare sound like one of the boys. What I didn’t realize was that Mister Briggs was teaching us history as well as Hamlet.
Still, when I started my career as a novelist I was not moved to write history. I wrote thrillers and then did a couple of crime novels that did reasonably well. But it was when I wrote Harem that my London agent rang me out of the blue and said: you have to do this. I sold around 180,000 copies of that novel in Germany alone.
Harem was the book that taught me how to research; for instance, if you are going to write about eunuchs you better know about castration, and all the different ways it can be done, no matter how excruciating it is. I also had to learn about the Ottoman system of government, which was worse than one of Bomb-duck’s history lessons. But as a novelist, it is essential that you know these things and then slip them into the narrative when it’s needed in a very un-Bomb-duck-like manner.
But most of all I never forgot what Mr. Briggs taught us; the play’s the thing. History is the background; the story is the star. And more than any other genre I believe historical fiction has the canvas to paint a big, beautiful story. It always has, from literature long past (War and Peace, The Red Badge of Courage, Ivanhoe) until more recent times (Shogun, Doctor Zhivago.) The movies I love are Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Gladiator. These are the kinds of stories that I want to write, and there are not enough of them out there for me as a reader.
So in the end, Mister Sheldrake, I have to admit that I have come to love history. That sixteen year old never knew what he was missing. But still – at least he remembered the dates.
Oh, and by the way. I got a B minus.
Thank you everyone,
No, thank you Colin Falconer!
A ‘B’ minus? Well that’s not bad Colin Falconer. Not bad at all. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Colin. You may now go to the head of the class!
So tell me, what do you think? How many of you have jumped into something head first only to find out that you’ve just stumbled upon the right thing? You hadn’t planned on it, but by pure happenstance you fell into what you were meant to do! They say that if we do what we love, success will follow. Are we willing to follow our dreams?
Be sure to hit the follow button for future posts! And thank you so much for your thoughts and salutations.
A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new classmates in my #WANA1011 class and all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!