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Andrew's horror novella, 'The Bathtub', is now available.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Modern Horror or Historical Fantasy?

I've always been an author who writes what I want to write.  That goes against a 'rule': authors are told to stick to one type of story so readers know what to expect in a release, which reduces the risk of alienating their audience.  Alternatively, authors are advised to write different genres under different names.  I think that’s good advice for writers who want to maximise their income.

I enjoy writing both historical fantasy and modern horror, and I usually write them alternately, although that's coincidence rather than planning.  Maybe it’s an indication that when I'm writing one I'm itching to return to the other.

There are some exceptions, of course, such as my occasional erotica novelettes, or my World War One science fiction novel which a publisher is currently looking at.  These, though, will probably remain occasional departures rather than regular genre hops.

So, which am I better (or with my modest hat on, maybe that should be least worst!) at: historical fantasy, or modern-period horror?

Doe Dragon SmallFeedback from readers points toward my fantasy works.  A couple of readers have mentioned 'The Doe and the Dragon', set in Arthurian-period north Wales, as a favourite.  Beta readers have also said encouraging things (other than having to sort an issue with my hero) about my forthcoming 'Footholder', which is also based in mythic Wales.  Others like 'Andraste's Blade', which is set both in the past and the present day, but has Celtic myth and history as its base.

Blade SmallI think my own preference, though, is for my horror books, which I've always felt more satisfied with when I've finished them.  I think that's because horror (well, mine, anyway) tends to be more straightforward, without the plethora of sub-plots fantasy works seem to need.  I suppose I find horror easier to plot and write.  Because my horror stories are simpler, I also tend to be more confident  sub-plots and loose ends are tied up.

On the other hand, maybe it's the extra elements and deeper plots that makes readers prefer my historical fantasies over my horrors.  On yet another hand (do I have three hands?), as fantasy generally sells better than horror, maybe the reader of a 'Richardson' simply reflects worldwide reading trends!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Writing the Celtic Lifestyle

As my readers will know, I write a lot of fiction set in the Celtic past.  I also get a buzz from reading other 'Celtic' books, like those by Mary Stewart and Morgan Llywelyn.

Celtic history and myth have been lifelong interests.  I fell in love with Celtic stories when I was very young, so it's not surprising their lives, history and legends play a major part in my fiction.

There are some aspects of Celtic life, though, that I find easier to put on the page than others.

Image0106My degree was in history and archaeology, and I concentrated on the Celts as much as I could.  I was very fortunate that my archaeology tutor was a specialist in post-Roman Celtic Ireland, and she was brilliant at explaining the context of finds.  That means I don't have much trouble describing Celtic buildings, tools, clothing, stone circles (I know that the latter are earlier than the Celtic period, but as I’ve got a picture…) and the like.  In short, I'm happy writing about the 'physical' side of Celtic life.

The history part of my degree also means I know what was going on at the time and place I set my stories in - for example, which tribes were most powerful, how much the Roman Empire was an influence, and who was at war (or peace) or trading with who.

So, I'm fortunate enough to think I know enough about the subject to be able to write about people's day-to-day life with some confidence.

I didn't study Celtic myths and legends at university, but the stories – both Welsh and Irish - have fascinated me since I was a child and I know them well.  Studying the Celts helped me here because it helped me put the stories in their historical context.  As a lot of what I write is based around the myths, that's extremely useful.

There is one aspect of Celtic life, though, that my background doesn't help with much.  That's culture and attitudes.  So, I struggle with the notion of 'might is right', for example.  I think warlords and their warriors must have been similar to slightly older playground bullies or football hooligans.  I don't 'get' that sort of culture or mentality, and I'd be the first to admit I find it difficult to pull myself away from modern values to make my characters think like Celts.

There must have been openings in ancient society for those who weren't warlike - bards and priests and craftsmen come to mind.  I don't think it's any coincidence that my main characters aren't usually warriors.  My stereotypical Celtic character will be a downtrodden slave girl - or at least someone from the lower classes, such as Breena, in 'The Doe and the Dragon'.

Another Celtic character type I use is what I call 'the reluctant hero - a man who is an administrator rather than a warrior but finds himself in a position where he has to fight to avoid losing face, and has to deal with the resulting inner conflicts.  Gilfaethwy, my hero in my forthcoming 'Footholder' is one such character.

So, I've worked out that while I find it difficult to relate to the mores  of Celtic society, I've discovered ways around it.  In fact, I've found it can be an advantage as it brings an extra dimension to my Celtic-based stories.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

An Update

I realise it’s nearly a month since I posted anything here.  So, this is a brief paragraph or two to let everyone know I’m still around.
The reason for my lack of productivity is easy – the World Cup.  I’ve managed to get a decent amount of writing done despite the two or three matches a day.  What has fallen by the wayside, though, are my social media ‘duties’.
In the last month I’ve managed to get a few things done:
  • I’m working on a Celtic-myth based story I’m calling Tribute;
  • Morgan’s Isle, a modern slasher, has been through Critters with reviews which are, at best, mixed.  That’s fine, it’s not one of my best and confirms what I thought rather than disappoints;
  • The Clootie Tree, a modern horror novella, goes through Critters in the middle of the week;
I’ve not had any response on the two stories (a science fiction/horror novel and an erotic short) I’ve submitted to publishers.

Nor has there been any movement on the three acceptances currently going through the process (Snuff and Dana’s Children, both violent horrors, and Footholder, a historical fantasy).  The ‘no news’ bit is fine; the publication process isn’t quick and in some ways I’d be more surprised if I had heard something!