How To Write a Historical Novel in Seven Easy Steps: Step One
1. Think Up A Good Idea For A Story
This was pretty easy for The FitzOsbornes at War, because it was the last book in the series and I'd already figured out how the whole story would end. But in general, my books begin with a character, a setting (a place and a time) and a problem. Usually the problem grows out of the setting. For example, The FitzOsbornes at War starts with the main characters sitting in their English country mansion and listening to the radio, on the third of September, 1939. Which just happens to be the day that the British Prime Minister declared war on Nazi Germany.
War, by definition, is full of conflict, so it provides lots of potential for a story. But this particular war was especially useful for my story, because the FitzOsbornes really, really hate the Nazis (due to things that happened in Books One and Two). This war would be a chance for them to have their revenge for the past, and maybe even regain their lost kingdom. The FitzOsbornes wouldn't be sitting on the sidelines of the war, watching with mild interest – they'd be desperate to throw themselves into the battle. (Well, some of the characters would be more desperate than others. Yes, Henry FitzOsborne, I'm looking at you.)
The next stage is thinking about the individual characters and their own personal problems. For each main character in The FitzOsbornes at War, I needed to consider what he or she wanted most of all in life. Love? Power? Knowledge? Revenge? How would they try to gain these things? What obstacles could I toss in their paths to make them stumble? Would they actually achieve their goals in the end? Would they give up halfway there, having realised their goal was unachievable? Would they die? (I already knew one of the FitzOsbornes was not going to survive the war. I wanted to write about how terrible and destructive and wasteful war is, so I knew I had to sacrifice at least one beloved character.) But to answer all these questions in detail, I needed to know a lot more about what actually happened during the Second World War.