Lessons From History
Written by
Zoe Brooks
July 2012
Written by
Zoe Brooks
July 2012

Stuck for ideas for your novel? Look to the past.

I'm a historian by training (I spent three years at Oxford University studying it) and by inclination. This means I see the world in a historical context and when I write I create a world in a historical context.

I am not, I repeat, not a writer of historical novels. Academic training can be a problem: I would spend all my time worrying about my accuracy, that's if I ever stopped researching the period I was writing in. Nevertheless history is very influential on my novels. It gives me themes for my books and helps me create worlds for my novel.

I have two novels out on Amazon at the moment, both are realistic fantasies (i.e. imagined worlds but no magic) and both explore themes of interest taken from history. The first Girl In the Glass is the first part of a trilogy which uses the suppression of the women healears/wisewomen as the backdrop to the action. Historically this was an important event in the history of women starting in the 14th century and continuing to the 17th. The secondĀ Mother of Wolves is more obviously a historical novel. It is in some ways an alternative history of the gypsies. The history of the persecution of the gypsies is virtually untold, even the fact that they, like the Jews, were sent to the gas chambers by the Nazis is relatively unknown. My book is set at a time when the gypsies were routinely hunted as vermin across Europe. It also explores something that fascinates me - what does it take to make a great woman leader in a man's world. You can find out more about these historical themes on my blog http://zoebrooks.blogspot.com

In terms of world building I find my historical training a tremendous benefit. For Girl in the Glass I spent a day in the Bodleian Library Oxford researching perfume making and traditional medicine. With Mother of Wolves my research not only included the history of the gypsies but also the life of fishermen along the River Severn estuary. My aim in doing so was to give authenticity to the novels.

In a future post I plan to talk about some of the historical resources available for writers.

P.S. Mother of Wolves will be going free on Kindle Select on 5th-7th August. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0082BT6G8

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