Guest Post: A Historical Perspective – Zoe Brooks

Mother of Wolves

We’re delighted to welcome Zoe Brooks to the blog today. Zoe is the author of Girl in the Glass and Mother of Wolves and is here to share a great guest post.

A Historical Perspective – Zoe Brooks

Where do stories come from? I’m sure every author will have a different answer. My stories come from the past. I am a historian by training (I studied it at Oxford University) and by inclination. I was lucky to grow up in the small Cotswold town of Winchcombe, a town which had its heyday in the Middle Ages. It was a place that grew rich on the back of a story – the legend of the murder of  the local Anglo-Saxon prince by his wicked sister and her comeuppance. So I learned as a child how history and fiction feed off each other.

Witch torture
Source: Wikipedia (This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired)

My latest book was triggered by a visit to a Czech castle a few years ago. The tour guide was boring even the Czechs in the party, I speak very little Czech and so found myself dawdling at the back of the group examining the pictures on the wall. Three in particular caught my eye, they were folk art paintings and strange objects to find in a castle. The subject matter was disturbing. In one a woman sits with a baby at her breast, while in the background a man is hanging from a gallows. Looking closer I could see that blood was pouring from where the woman’s ear had been. I realised that this was a portrayal of the persecution of the gypsies, which was widespread across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. I went home and did more research. The more I read, the more inspiration I found. The result is Mother of Wolves which draws not only on the history of the gypsies but also on famous women leaders (such as Boudica, Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc) on whom my central character is based.

I think I should at this point make it clear that I do not write historical fiction. Academic training can be a problem. I doubt I will ever feel confident that I have done enough research to write a work of historical fiction. Instead I write magic realism/historical fantasy. Despite this I still do a lot of historical research for my books, and then I have fun weaving what I have found into a story. In fantasy writing world creation is an important skill, the study of history supplies me with countless worlds. I pick elements from different places and different times to create new, but realistic worlds. Because the settings I create have a foothold in reality, a number of my readers have commented about how they feel they know the cities and countries in my stories. History also supplies me with themes, for example my current work in progress Love of Shadows (a follow up to my first book Girl in the Glass) is inspired by the suppression and persecution of women healers.

I will always be grateful to my creative English teacher who advised me to study history and not English at university. She understood where my stories come from.

There are lots of historical sources for writers on the internet. I recommend which gives you access to a constant stream of academic articles, plus the opportunity to search its archives. The same people are behind History of the Ancient World  Both websites have excellent Facebook pages.

About Mother of Wolves (2012)
Mother of Wolves

Through the marshes and rich farmland of the great river, Lupa hunts and is hunted by her husband’s murderers. On the estuary islands her sons and their protector are just one step ahead of the killers. Everyone underestimates Lupa, if they consider her at all. They are making a mistake. The odds may be against her, but Lupa is the daughter of a fox and the mother of wolves.

This fantasy adventure is a revenge story with a twist, an alternative history of the gypsies and a profile of the rise of a woman leader all in one book.

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About Zoe Brooks

Zoe BrooksZoe is a British writer and poet. She spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties, (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). Then her son arrived and she was juggling motherhood and career and somehow there wasn’t time for the writing. So many women will know how that feels. She worked with disadvantaged people for about twenty years. It was emotionally hard work but very rewarding. Nevertheless it took its toll and a few years ago she realised that she couldn’t continue. She needed to start writing again.

Zoe aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader’s skin. She finds her experience of working with people on the edge of society an inspiration for my fiction.

She has a liking for books in which reality and fantasy meet. Her favourite books include Master and Margarita (Bulgakov), One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Marquez), Good Omens (Pratchett and Gaimon), Jane Eyre, Bull From The Sea (Renault), Fludd (Mantell) and Woman Who Waited (Makine). She also enjoys reading fairytales and myths and Jungian analysis of these, e.g. Women Who Run with Wolves (Estes).

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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