The popularity of historical fiction is on the rise. For a long while it was associated mainly with ‘bodice rippers’, and told tales of brooding earls and swooning heroines with heaving bosoms. But luckily it’s left that image behind and really come into its own as a genre. It is getting the respect and attention it deserves.

The best way to define it is as fiction set more than fifty years in the past and one in which the author is writing from research rather than personal recollection.

The goal of historical fiction is not to simply show readers what life was like in another time period – history text books are better at that – but to show us how that particular setting is reflected in the character and plot of the novel. How the people we meet in its pages can only have acted in that particular way because of the circumstances of their time. This helps us see the differences and similarities between our own perspectives and theirs.

seedingSeeding by Beaux Lee does all this, and more. Set in Louisiana at a time when slavery was an accepted facet of life, we meet some truly amazing characters. The first of these is the enslaved Louis Brown who so impresses his admittedly enlightened owner that he grants him freedom. Louis leaves with his strong wife and a few other people and founds Brown Ville that becomes a magnet to free people of colour and runaway slaves. The small settlement grows quickly, offering opportunities to the coloured people but grating on the whites. There are numerous horrific and totally unjustified attacks on them, but their courage and spirit shine on.

Then the story focuses on little Louisiana Brown, who suffers more than her share of trauma but she epitomises the soul of Brown Ville in her strength and determination to succeed. She has her own natural curiosity and intelligence to support her, as well as a loving family and a cousin, Moxie. The two become inseparable despite their very different upbringings. So when Moxie is forced to leave home, Louisiana – or Baby Girl as Moxie calls her – is bereft. But worse is to come. After her father and brother are senselessly killed before her eyes, and her mother and little brother vanish during a night of terror, she flees and eventually tracks Moxie down in New Orleans. Reunited, these two spirited, exceptional young women begin their conquest of this vibrant city in a somewhat unconventional way.

This is a gripping book. There’s humour, horror, romance, violence, injustice, loyalty but above all hope and optimism, and a fascinating set of characters. And there’s more to come – this is the first book in a trilogy.

I asked Beaux Lee some questions about Seeding and also about being an author.

Tell us very briefly about Seeding.

Seeding is the foundation of the trilogy, Flowers Die Young. I really wanted to take my time and thoroughly introduce my reader to not only my characters but also my setting, New Orleans. With an understanding of both, I thought it would make for a far more authentic feel to the story as a whole.

What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write this book?

I just wanted to shed some light on some of the things that went on in New Orleans in the past. I researched the city’s history and it almost seemed like a story that someone had made up already. A city that is older than the country itself and influenced by various countries, that was relaxed about slavery and allowed open racial mixing during a forbidden time in history, that legalized prostitution, was the home of mafia plots for presidential assassinations… the list goes on. I found this very fascinating and just let my imagination run wild with some of the facts that I discovered. I hope I encourage others to look into this historically unique city as well.

Who’s your favorite character?

Madame Leblanc. While researching and learning about the madams who ran the brothels of Storyville in New Orleans, I was most intrigued. This character quickly came to life before there ever was a story to write. I spent so much time developing her that I had to edit much of it out to shorten my book!

Which character is most like you?

Larry Brazier. I think we are very similar. Hardworking, strong, quiet, but when we speak we strive to make it impactful. Patient and long-suffering, but ready and willing to make a stand as well.

What makes Seeding stand out from the crowd?

I think it is unique because it is covering a very unique time and place in history. Not many have written about life in New Orleans during the times stretching from slavery and running up into life in America’s only red light district. It seems as though those would be worlds apart yet this was reality. Therefore Seeding actually sets itself apart.

Seeding has a fantastic cover. Tell us about that.

I found it difficult to find a single image that I felt would capture my book in its entirety. I had the joy of working with a great illustrator, Reese Dante. The moment he suggested this cover I was blown away. Everything revolves around these two characters and I think the cover depicts them in their purest form.

What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?

I feel that things have changed for the better. There are pros and cons to each way of publishing but at the end of the day, I believe that the things you can do for yourself, you should do. Do what you can, learn on the fly if you have to. The gratification you get from pushing that ‘save and continue’ or ‘publish’ button makes it all worth it.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t give up! Nothing is too difficult. If you love to write and wish to share it with the world, nothing can stop you in this day and age but yourself.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Bible. The 1611 King James version. Researching for my next project!

Do you write every day? Is it hard to find the time?

It depends. Sometimes I lock myself away for days to write morning, noon, and night. Other times I feel like I’m forcing it. I’m not afraid of taking a few days off from writing altogether either. It can be challenging at times but where there’s a will there’s a way.

What ereading device do you have? And why did you choose that one?

I read from my kindle, iPhone, iPad, or anywhere else that I can. No preference here.

Do you dress up or dress down to write? Or maybe you don’t dress at all?!

I definitely dress down!

Where can we find your website? And on other social media?

My website still isn’t up yet. I am on google+, Beaux Lee, as well as twitter @beauxl. Please connect with me there!

And finally anything else we need to know about you?

Nope, I’m a simple man!

 

Seeding is available in Kindle format from all the Amazon websites

tanAfter stumbling across the local police inspector in-flagrante during a party, Liam has to flee Ireland to avoid a trumped up rape charge. In England he joins the army and serves his time in the hell of the First World War. After demobbing, he finds the respect promised the surviving soldiers to be swamped by the anti-Irish racism of the time and loses his job. Starving and at rock bottom he is induced to join an auxiliary police force being formed to respond the military campaign by the IRA.  Paradoxically his unit is assigned back to his home county. Initially he tries to maintain discipline and standards in his unit but, as the senior figures in the establishment encourage the amoral elements of the force to commit the excesses that the Black and Tans became infamous for, Liam’s divided loyalties are stretched too far and Liam defects to his local brigade.  As the insurgency and reprisals intensify, Liam finds himself in mortal combat with the very inspector who framed him. In the balance is not just Liam’s life but those of his family and friends.

This is a great story with a slow and deliberate build up to an exciting finale. The book examines a difficult time in Anglo-Irish relations and the racism of the time is exposed in frank terms. I found the characters very believable: I’m sure that few people set out to be the bad guy but usually arrive there in small steps. The plot was  engaging and developed well, and the  fractures in society caused by WW1 and the Emergency were well portrayed by the author. I enjoyed this book immensely and have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it to anyone and everyone. This is historical fiction at its best. Five stars.

And now let’s hear from David about this book and writing in general.

Tell us briefly about Tan.

Tan is set in Ireland in 1914 and tells the story of Liam Mannion, a young man who is wrongly accused of a crime and forced to flee to England. He enlists and is sent to France. After five years of trench warfare he returns to England a changed man. Liam falls on hard times and eventually is encouraged to join a new military force headed to Ireland – the Black and Tans.

   While he has been away, many of his friends have joined the republican cause in the fight for Irish independence. Liam now finds himself on the opposite side. Not only that, but he is posted to his old home town, Balbriggan. The Tans turn out to be thugs and Liam must wrestle with his torn loyalties to his friends and family as he comes face to face with the man who spread lies about him all those years before

Photo of some Tans from David's website http://historywithatwist.wordpress.com/
Photo of some Tans from David’s website http://historywithatwist.wordpress.com/

What’s the story behind your book? How did you become involved with the book’s subject, the Black and Tans in Northern Ireland.

The story deals with the Black and Tans in southern Ireland during our War of Independence, which began in 1919. I have always been interested in this era, mainly because my grandfather was heavily involved in the war and subsequent civil war. Like many people, I wondered how I would have reacted in those testing times. I was also fascinated by the role played by the Tans. They still cast a dark shadow on our history, not least because of the still unacknowledged fact that over 20pc of them were actually Irishmen. I wanted to try to see things from a Tan’s perepctive and explore the conflicts its Irish members must have felt wearing that uniform.

Who are the characters based on?

One character, Frank, who is Liam’s best friend, is very loosley based on the Flying Column leader, Tom Barry. The rest all come from my twisted imagination!

Who’s your favorite character?

That’s a toughy. There were are a few I grew to really like. Frank is the real action figure, along with Liam. He was fun to write as was Liam’s father, Dan, and Liam’s love interest, Kate.

David LawlorHow much impact do your personal experiences have on your writing?

They say ‘write what you know’. Well, I like to write about what interests me and if I can slip in a few experiences of my own into a character’s makeup, then I will.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

I wanted to tell a good yarn with lots of pace…a story that would be gripping and hard to put down. I hope I came close.

What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?

I got a few books on the War of Independence. I found a great book called IRA Jailbreaks, which was a great help in one section of the story. I already had a couple of books on World War One. These, combined with internet searches, gave me all I needed. Plus, George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London was helpful in scenes I wrote related to vagrancy

What was the hardest part of writing Tan?

The editing, the re-writes and accepting your gut instinct that something wasn’t quite working.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Getting totally wrapped up in the characters, and when the dialogue starts to really flow. Also, those rare times when a scene really develops quite quickly and you capture it well.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and self vs. traditional publishing?
I hate the snobbery involved. I have tried to be published the traditional way, but have had no joy so far. I feel that there are some pretty poor print books out there and and even larger amount of ebooks. That said, there are some  real gems when it comes to ebooks, too. I feel that just because something is available electronically doesn’t make it any worse than some work whose pages you can turn in your hand. However, one thing I absolutely can’t stand (no reflection on you here, Stephanie) is the self-promotion I must do for my book. I have a blog and use Twitter but, really, my heart isn”t into much of the social media, which is a bit of a bummer when it comes to plugging your own book.
What authors do you like to read?

John Connolly, Jo Nesbo, Robert Harris, lots and lots

 Do you write every single day?

When I have a project I’m working on I try to write a thousand words a day. I write on the 50-minute train journey in and out of work and on my lunchbreak
How do you remain sane as a writer?
I have four children and a very busy wife to help knock me back to the real world. They are a tonic
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
Yes…angst, angst and more angst that you are not good enough or that a storyline/character just doesn”t cut the mustard.
What are you writing now?
I have just finished the sequel to Tan, which is being read by a few people before I decide to sign-off on it. I will send it out to agents to begin with, but will self-publish if that doesn’t work out. I am researching a third book in the series at the moment, which is set around Michael Collins and the Treaty talks in London.
Do visit David’s fascinating website: http://historywithatwist.wordpress.com/

You can buy David’s book here:
tan david lawlor

Also available from Smashwords here.

The First Apostle by Katherine Pym is gripping historical fiction. Set in Paris, it relates the story of journalist and pamphleteer Camille Desmoulins during the period of the French Revolution. He was an active and outspoken revolutionary, a close friend of Robespierre and other influential politicians. From verging on starvation and being forced to live on maggoty bread and wine more often than he’d like, as his fame as a controversial writer grew, so did his fortune. He was finally able to marry his beloved Lucile and enjoy domestic happiness with her and their son Henri for a short while. However, he walked a dangerous line. He made powerful enemies and eventually he ends up on the wrong side of a farcical trial. It was a risk he took by choosing his path. But his unpopularity leaves his wife at great risk too, and Camille would not have her harmed for the world.

This is a very exciting, atmospheric novel. The author’s enthusiasm for and interest in her topic shows in every word. She paints an intricate portrait of life in late eighteenth-century France. The problems, the prejudices, the joys, the horrors shine through. We meet every emotion from love to hate, from hop to despair and bump into a whole range of interesting characters. Some appeal, some repel but they’re all memorable. It’s an absorbing read and it’s hard to put down. The First Apostle leaves you feeling enriched and educated and is a book you won’t forget for a long time.

Gallic's big summer read for 2011

Five years ago Jane Aitken set up the publishing house Gallic Books with fellow Francophile Pilar Webb with the aim of introducing British readers to French literature. A bold move in a country where works by foreign authors make up less than 3% of the market. But it seems to be a gamble that is paying off.

Every year around ten French books make it across the channel and end up on Britain’s bookshelves. The publishers specifically look for books that will make the transition well. Amongst the first books they published were detective novels and historical fiction. However, now anything contemporary goes, after the runaway success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Books have to prove themselves in France before Gallic Books will consider taking them on.

Marketing is of course extremely important, and Gallic Books uses all the tool it can lay its hands on – including Spotify, posters on the Tube, postcards, and tours by authors. It all works closely with book bloggers, book clubs and indie bookstores. And they are beginning to produce Kindle editions of some of their books, very reasonably priced, so that gets a huge thumbs-up from me!

This is the perfect publisher as far as I, a British expat in France, am concerned. I’ve been wanting to read French literature but have struggled with it in the native language and quickly given up. I’m a French speaker, rather than a French writer and reader. I will start with Armand Cabassson I think, in paperback since his Quentin Margont books look like being exciting reads. And in the meantime I  may succumb to a Kindle book too, probably one of the Hector’s journeys series or Anna Sam’s Checkout – A life on the tills. Décisions, décisions !