April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
Take a look at Crystal King’s recent article at Literary Hub regarding the relevance of historical fiction to contemporary society. Crystal, the author of Feast of Sorrow, a gripping new novel on ancient Rome, makes some excellent points about the ways in which the visceral experience of history that comes from reading novels based in the past can inform our understanding of the present. The article also presents the perspectives of ten contemporary historical novelists in whose company I’m quite honored to be included, including Jenna Blum, Anjali Mitter Duva, Margaret George, Heather Webb, and Marjan Kamali. Our current political leaders would do well to read this one!
April 21, 2015 § 2 Comments
It was a pleasure to be interviewed recently by the author M.K. Tod for her Inside Historical Fiction series. We had a nice talk about the ingredients that go into the making of great historical fiction, the research process, recent trends in the genre, and more. Here’s an excerpt:
MKT: Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?
TW: There’s a quote that I love from Andrew Miller, writing in The New York Times Book Review a few years ago, about the appeal of distance, and of “the strangeness such distance produces and of the lives lived recognizably in the midst of that strangeness.” He compared historical fiction to science fiction, pointing out that both genres require the writer to depict the only world he or she can possibly know—“the here and now”—in other terms.
To me, this notion captures much of what I love about historical fiction, both in the writing and in the reading: it’s at once a dream we have to enter and an oblique reflection of ourselves. In my experience, this kind of mind-altering immersion is harder to find in contemporary novels—if by “contemporary” we mean novels that are set in times and places very similar to the quotidian spheres in which we tend to live out our lives.
Read the full interview here.
February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
The Historical Novel Society is an organization I respect, so I am quite honored that they have deemed Will Poole’s Island important enough to feature. Their reviewer made some interesting points about the book, and I think that in the final analysis he “got” it. What more can a first-time novelist ask?
Here’s the quote the reviewer references regarding my approach to mythic thinking within the novel:
“Unless we can find some way to understand the reality of mythic thinking we remain prisoners of our own language, our own thoughtworld. In our world one story is real, the other, fantasy. In the Indian way of thinking both stories are true because they describe personal experience . . . Historical events happened once and are gone forever. Mythic events return like the swans of spring . . . They are essential truths, not contingent ones.” – Robin Ridington
Read the full review here.
September 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
Very pleased to mark the publication of this interview with Alden Jones and the Fiction Writers Review. We had a nice discussion about the “genre” of historical fiction, the process of researching Will Poole’s Island, the differences between writing novels and short stories, and more.
A brief excerpt:
“Here’s the thing about writing historical fiction: you’re not trying to reconstruct or mimic history, which would be altogether boring even if it weren’t impossible. What you’re trying to do is to create a new version of it that will tell a good story while simultaneously capturing something essential, not only about the period, but also about contemporary life.”
Read the complete interview here.
September 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
Hey everyone, I’m pleased to announce a new series of day-long workshops on the writing craft that I’ll be conducting at Grub Street in Boston. If you’re not familiar with this organization and you live anywhere in a 100 mile radius, you really ought to check it out. My experiences with Grub Street have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s a magnet for blazingly creative people following all kinds of interesting paths in writing, and their classes are top-notch in terms of providing inspiration and the ongoing work every writer must do in honing the craft.
Click on the titles to read full descriptions and logistical info. I’d love to see you in Boston!
September 26, 2014: Opening the Historical Novel
October 31, 2014 (Halloween!): Harnessing the Dark Side: Suspense, Resonance, and the Archetypal Shadow in Fiction
November 1, 2014: Reaching for the Sublime: Image Systems in Fiction
December 5, 2014: Cracking your Sentences Wide Open
August 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Watch the trailer!
Immense gratitude to Ben Shumlin, the talented young (16!) filmmaker who produced this impressive short video, and his crew. We had a great time batting ideas around and shooting the footage in various wilderness settings, and it was fun to see how a video like this goes from a concept to a reality.
Some of the filming was done using a quadcopter drone; if you’re curious about that, or about the filming in general, there are photos and videos on my Facebook page. Please “like” the page while you’re there to see occasional posts on the book, some of the historical research that went in to it, and various other projects.
July 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
Great news this morning from one of the world’s greatest independent bookstores: Will Poole’s Island has been selected as Nantucket Bookworks‘ Teen Pick of the Month!
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit the mysterious and evocative isle of Nantucket then you know that this bookstore and its partner store, Mitchell’s Books, are essential landmarks for readers and must-do stops in historic downtown. It’s a great honor to receive this nod from what has long been a rainy day refuge for me and countless others — all the sweeter because the historical and physical landscapes of the island were so important to the writing of the novel.
Order the book directly from the bookstore here.
July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
The article grew out of a talk I gave at Grub Street’s fantastic Muse and the Marketplace conference in May, 2014, and analyzes key excerpts from great historical fiction novels such as The Age of Innocence, The English Patient, Cold Mountain, The King Must Die, and more. If this sounds interesting to you, click here. Hope you enjoy it!
June 8, 2014 § 1 Comment
“Will Poole’s Island is more than a coming of age story . . . the reader is left with a longing to find that place, that moment when everything is right and the everything is possible. It is a longing we all search for spiritually, geographically, and emotionally. This book proves that oppression, obstacles, fate, and the world we live in should not stop us from seeking that place. If we can’t find it right now, walk in the shoes of Will Poole and rediscover that lost island in your life. It will inspire you.” Click here to read the full review.
Author and blogger Patrick Joyce has also written eloquently about the book:
“Will Poole put me in mind of other boys in other places who ran away into the great wide world, searching for their place in it, also casting their lots with a social or cultural Other: Huck Finn, Jim Hawkins, and, most of all, Kim. Their stories had equally strong senses of place, with a similar innocence; Kipling’s Kim combined those with a spiritual element. And like Kim, Will Poole’s Island ends with a satisfying, ethereal quality.” Click here to read the full review.
The official launch date of the paperback is August 15, but books are already available to order from Nantucket Book Partners, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or through your own favorite independent bookstore. For occasional news and updates, “like” the Will Poole’s Island page on Facebook.
May 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
Very excited to be heading down to Boston tomorrow morning for Grub Street’s annual Muse & The Marketplace conference. I don’t attend many writing conferences, but I’ve been lucky enough to have participated in this one for the last two years and it’s very, very good. Grub Street is somehow able to attract such a smart and friendly crowd of writers, agents, editors, and various others associated with this business of putting words on paper to enrich and enliven our world.
Also exciting: this year will be my first as a presenter, or “Special Guest,” in the official parlance. I’ll be giving a talk called “Narrative as Time Machine: The Art of World-Building in Historical Fiction.” The talk will feature excerpts from some of my favorite works of historical fiction, including Edith Wharton’s classic The Age of Innocence, Mary Renault’s The King Must Die, James Welch’s Fool’s Crow, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. Very much looking forward to it!
While there, I’ll have a chance to run a couple of works-in-progress by a few agents and editors, and, perhaps most exciting of all, I’ll be bringing along (and giving away) several advance readers’ copies of my new novel, Will Poole’s Island, which has an official release date of August 15, 2014, and which, ahem, can now be pre-ordered on Amazon. Wish me luck!