Well, here it is, a blog to go with Centurion's Daughter, but which will most probably wander into historical fiction in general, and writing fiction even more in general, and Catholic fiction slightly more in particular.
So why did I write Centurion's Daughter? OK, I'll tell the truth: I enjoyed telling a good story.... and I had a dream about a Roman town that seemed to be a good scene around which to build a novel....and I was interested in fame and fortune (or at least making a living as a writer). There, told the truth.
Since then it has boiled down to liking to tell a good story and hoping a few people will enjoy reading it. Maybe even one day making a living as a writer as well.
Currently I am working on a sequel - more a spin-off actually - that takes place about ten years after the events of the first novel, at the very end of a long war between the Gallo-Romans and the Frankish confederation under Clovis. For a history of that war look here.
My approach to historical fiction is this:
Do the research thoroughly. A fictional world hangs together if you know a good deal more about the time period than you actually put in the novel. Tolkien's Middle Earth was three ages long before he started writing Lord of the Rings. The unequalled depth and panorama of his world came from that fact.
Use ordinary people as the main characters and VIPs as the supporting cast. I steered clear of making Clovis the main character as I wanted to be right on the ground in my late Roman Gaul, with ordinary (if eccentric) people interacting with ordinary people.
Don't overdo the dramatics. I know, it's the name of the game in historical fiction these days (maybe it always has been) but I prefer to avoid it. The worst thing that happens to my principal character is that she undergoes a bout of grinding poverty that eventually causes her to break down in tears. That's pretty much the worst thing that can happen to most of us. There is real poignancy in drama that is constrained by the ordinary circumstances of life, as opposed to the Hollywood let-rip-all theatrics that personally leave me stone cold. Historical fiction is about real life in another age.
Find a good story to tell. A good story is defined as something that touches the depths of the human heart - something that drives the will, the longings, the wellspring of human happiness and misery. It has to be real, not contrived. There's no formula for it (the movie industry would pay big bucks for a formula). One just has to know a story is genuine or fake.
And that's enough for a first post.