29 June 2017

Guest Post by Stephanie Churchill, Author of The Scribe's Daughter

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Kassia is a thief and a soon-to-be oath breaker. Armed with only a reckless wit and sheer bravado, seventeen-year-old Kassia barely scrapes out a life with her older sister in a back-alley of the market district of the Imperial city of Corium. When a stranger shows up at her market stall, offering her work for which she is utterly unqualified, Kassia cautiously takes him on. Very soon however, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving a usurped foreign throne
and a vengeful nobleman.

When Fantasy Could Be Historical Fiction but Isn’t

Genre is a funny thing.  While the lines delineating genre have probably been around for as long as books have existed, it is really in the most recent generations that the explosion of the subgenre has occurred.  Books used to just be books.  Now a reader walking into the nearest bookstore can order a book like one would order off the Starbucks menu: ‘I’d like a fiction, mystery, half-romance / half-paranormal, with a shot of psychological thriller, please!  Oh, and I’d like it to go.’

When I was a child I was drawn to fairy tales and mythic history, to stories that lived somewhere in that realm where truth and legend collide, where the real things are tinged with the fantastical.  One of the earliest books to capture my imagination was In the Hall of the Dragon King, by Stephen Lawhead, followed a close second by his Song of Albion trilogy.

The Song of Albion trilogy is considered mythic fantasy.  Set in a real, concrete world, it focuses on the Celtic legend of Llew Silver Hand.  Like other legends of old, mythic fantasy is based on heroes of tradition.

Was Llew Silver Hand real?  How about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table?  Beowulf?  Likely all of these men were real.  Their immortalization came from the performance of a heroic feat or from the completion of a task of such great immediate importance that the peers of these men perceived what they had done as something superhuman, even mystical.  

So overwhelmed by the amazing exploit, tales were told, quickly taking on a sort of sentient life.  Songs were sung around home fires and were thusly handed down and passed around from people group to people group throughout the ages.  As with all good oral cultures, the story grew in the telling, evolving with each repetition, over and over throughout the centuries.  It’s in this crossing of real and history, in the ever-growing mythos, that we have the beginnings of fantasy.

Mention the fantasy genre to most people, and immediately the mind will directly conjure images of wizards, witches, unicorns, dragons and magic in fairytale-like worlds where the impossible is possible, and a wand-wielding protagonist saves the day.  Harry Potter, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Game of Thrones -- these are undoubtedly fantasy.  The worlds are imaginary, the people fictitious, there is magic and fantastical beasts, but the feel of the books echo the historical.

And yet what if fantasy lacks the magical or even the fantastical?  This is the place I found myself when I wrote The Scribe’s Daughter.  My first love is history and historical fiction, but I knew when I set off to write a book that I would not write historical fiction.  Instead, I used a sort of cultural familiarity, the world of historical fiction, as the foundation for my own world building.  The world I created in Mercoria has no fantastical aspects.  It is fantasy only in that the world came from my imagination.  It is like historical fiction in that it echoes historical realities.  My world reflects real, historical people, places, and cultures even though they never existed.  As award-winning historical fiction author Elizabeth Chadwick said of The Scribe’s Daughter, “It felt historical without containing any actual history.”

To me, this is the best of both worlds.  My version of fantasy has the heart of historical fiction without requiring the constant devotion to exacting research.  And since my characters are fictitious, their timelines were mine to control.  They can continue to pretend to be real even if I’ve never had the heart to tell them they are imaginary!  But unlike fantasy, I didn’t have to remain true to any rules governing the use of magic since there is none.

If you enjoy historical novels but don’t necessarily need the history, I invite you to try out the world I have created in my novels The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter, fantasy that reads like historical fiction.

Stephanie Churchill

Now Available for Pre-Order from Amazon US and Amazon UK:

About the Author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.' 

Find out more at Stephanie's website www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterChurchill.

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