Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Story in My Mind - How It All Began

I have mentioned, in my "About Me" page here, that I would like to go into writing historical fiction someday. I've already had a Pinterest board devoted to the subject for some time, and now I think it's high time I started saying a bit more about it here.

FYI: If you want to see the Pinterest board, it's right here:

So what do I have of it so far? To be honest, not much. I've got ideas for characters, for plot, for themes and settings, etc. but still lack a number of things that a lot of aspiring authors, I daresay, would already have worked out prior to sharing anything. A working title, for instance, would be bloody useful right about now, as would a clear decision on whether this will be a single piece or a series.

However, one thing that I think my story has that others might not is an earlier version. A previous practice run, if you will, before I decided to actually attempt any sort of formal publishing. It was, in fact, a piece of fanfiction for Axis Powers Hetalia (read: a manga/anime where the characters are all personified nations). At the time, I was working on an entire series titled Sous la Rose (French for "Under the Rose"), that would focus on Canada's history from the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 onwards. In the first installment, After the Conqueror, I focused on the remainder of the Seven Years War; meanwhile, in its sequel, Brother of Absalom, I picked up from 1763 onwards, dealing with first the political issues in both the Thirteen Colonies and Canada that brought on the American Revolutionary War, and then moving on to that war itself. While my focus, since this was fanfiction, was on the official Hetalia characters in question (Matthew Williams - Canada; Alfred F. Jones - America; Arthur Kirkland - England; and Francis Bonnefoy - France), I did something few Hetalia fanfiction authors had done at the time. I gave significant roles to human OCs (i.e. characters of my own creation that were not personified nations): namely, one Charles Arsenault.

An illustration for Brother of Absalom that was drawn for me by one of my readers: ScarletteDiscord on deviantART ( She drew the lineart, while I coloured it. In this, you could see Matthew and Charles.
(FYI: If, coincidentally, you have read those stories before and are going, "Wait - the author's name wasn't Kita Inoru!", you're right. It wasn't. But I'm not plagiarizing either - I was just using another name at the time.)

Well then, you ask, where is it? Can we see it? See, my earlier version of the story no longer exists. When, back in 2012, I became concerned that I wouldn't have the time to finish it, I opted for deleting all the online accounts where I had had it:, deviantART, etc. In my mind, I'd rather destroy my work than leave my audience hanging in the false expectation that I would continue it. I'm sure, in hindsight, that I disappointed many people in doing this, but I saw it as the necessary thing to be done. And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't painful for me as well.

So why am I saying all this? Well, because, as life would have it, Monsieur Arsenault here was not having it. Nor were the other human OCs I had created. Even after I'd stopped writing, their stories still persisted in my mind - and, more importantly, they were evolving. "What if," they asked me, "there were no national personifications? What if the focus was on *us*? What would have happened?"

A situation to which, I'm sure, a lot of authors can relate.

And that's where I am now. Trying to figure that all out and write it down for you all to see. The changes, as it turns out, have been astounding: the characters have taken drastically different paths than they did in my earlier Sous la Rose stories. Some now live where they had died, and new faces have joined the cast. It's been a lot of fun just thinking it out so far, and I invite you now to join me as I delve into the world of 18th century Quebec to see what these guys (and girls!) have to say. :)


  1. Interesting to see where Charles comes from! I'd say don't worry about the formalities but give the boy his head and see where he takes you. I'm sure the title will suggest itself to you in due course.

    1. lol - Charles has given me a piece of his mind...multiple times throughout this entire process. Fortunately, he's a gentleman (and not in the aristocratic sort), so I haven't gotten too many headaches from this thus far :P It's the girls I've had to watch out for! :D

    2. Hahaha! Hopefully I'll get to read some of this one day, yes?

    3. Hopefully! Half the time I'm brainstorming on this, I have great ideas - and the other half of the time, I'm going, "Bloody hell, why is this taking so long?!?!" Yeah...I tend to use some rather strange cusses for a Canadian :P

  2. I really do wish I could read your older stories Kita! Hopefully you have at least kept them on an old computer somewhere and that will help you a little in moving further forward in your character development - but breaking out from the APH mold.

    As you know I'm already intrigued by your ideas and the possibility of reading a story from you (that I have gleaned from your Pinterest board) so I DO look forward to any posts about your literary journey.

    As you also know I am somewhat wary of historical fiction - you know why - when done badly (in my mind) it is an insult to "real" history (whatever that is lolol). But from our previous discussions I know this will not be the case with you. Recently I have read a couple of historical fiction novels - which I usually avoid... but I quite enjoyed them. One by Alison Weir (I had no idea she wrote fiction as well) and I'm getting into the Philippa Gregory series about the Wars of the Roses. So, I can see what historical fiction COULD be. I am becoming increasingly interested in it myself. I've always fancied writing a book (who has the time though). So there are some nascent thoughts in my head!

    I must say I am also REALLY curious to read Jacqui's work! I hope she lets us know any updates or when her work is published :)

    1. Thanks, Win! As it turns out, I do still have all my old fanfiction stuff on my hard drive - when I "destroyed" my work, I only did so in the public sphere. However, because I know that deviantART allows a delay of about a month between when an account is deleted and when the work on said account is, a couple of others that I worked with re: the historical and character research, voluntarily took on custodial rights: telling others how to go about downloading my things to their own computers before they disappeared for good. However, I have NOT granted any sort of rights for them to be republished online, so fingers crossed that that didn't happen :P

      That said, I have to say that I became quite wary of historical fiction for a while - mostly because of a rather negative experience when I first read a historical romance novel. I don't really want to call it a gender bias, but I know that when people hear of a girl wanting to write historical fiction, "historical romance" is the first thing that comes to mind. It's the first thing that comes to MY mind, I know; and that's one of the reasons why I haven't always been vocal about this. But, like you, I have seen a number of cases where people have written historical fiction, and done it well. :)

    2. I completely agree. I think the gender stereotype is a major reason for why the concept of historical fiction bothers me at times. Partly what bothers me, aside from the gender aspect is when I frequently encounter people who have read (or mainly watched) historical fiction or period drama series depicting "real" events and historical figures that then bang on to me stating (and sometimes arguing) that what they have seen is actually factual. That gets my goat and I get overly wound up about it, because I fail to understand why, when making a series (for example "The Tudors" or "The Borgias" (which I loved anyway! Nice contradiction Win)), they cannot actually just represent what happened instead of making up total bollocks that contradicts the entire period and such. What happened is just as bloody interesting as fanciful stuff.

      There is also an aspect of self-loathing I expect re: historical fiction and gender stereotypes... because despite my idea of myself being a modern, liberated women banging on about gender equality and getting wound up by gender stereotypes, I really, really love period drama lolol. I think it bothers me that I conform to a stereotype that I find annoying! There is nothing inherently wrong with women writing period romance and it is a sign that I am still influenced perhaps by male standards - that somehow period romance is "negative" or a sign of female sappiness.

      May I say, woman for all seasons, that I'm quite pleased by your colouring in of the image you posted. You must have done that in photoshop or similar, and anyone that can use photoshop beyond the complete basics impresses me hehe.

    3. I know what you mean, Win. While I personally enjoy reading and watching historical fiction, I learned really early on that fiction and reality can be quite different. If nothing else, even if a book or film is accurate, chances are, it's just telling one side of the story and I'll have to look elsewhere for the other side. For me, though, I've also experienced this from the flip side: doing the research on something, having the creative juices start flowing so that I immediately write something up and publish it online...only to find out well after the fact, as I continue reading up on the subject, that I'd actually gotten it completely wrong. My readers, 99% of the time, don't notice, so they don't call me out on it, but I end up feeling guilty for a while afterwards at propagating false information. Face it: very few people chose to focus on Canadian history in the realm of Hetalia fanfiction, so my voice quickly became one of the main voices of authority in the circles I frequented. How's that for a load on one's shoulders?

      So now, the way I see it, historical fiction really can only serve as a jumping off point: a way to generate interest in a time/place/person you, as the author, are passionate about, so that readers might one day see your work and want to learn more on their own. I know, talking with Jacqui, that she shares that sentiment with me - she's got a very distinctive focus on John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham. ;)

      Finally, re: the colouring, I used Paint.Net, which I suppose is like a toned-down version of Photoshop. And I'm actually not all that good - I was working off a lineart that already had some shading, so it was mostly about putting in the colours. The background is from a stock photograph of the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia (lacking photos of Quebec's little surviving 18th century infrastructure, I had to improvise).

    4. :-D

      Histfic can be done well-- although I'll take issue with you about Philippa Gregory, because I dislike her very much. Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick do it VERY well in modern times, and some of the older stuff-- get your hands on some Margaret Irwin, you won't be sorry-- is splendid, splendid. I find by choice I tend to read either historical fiction or historical nonfiction and little else, though, so I may be biased...

      I'm hopefully nearing the end of my own project so hopefully you will be able to find out more about it soon ;-)

    5. I don't think you can ever get anything completely right. There will always be that inconvenient little fact that suddenly jumps out and trips up your plot in some way. All you can do as an author is be as sure of the facts as you possibly can be, given the resources at your command. And then gracefully admit you were wrong when someone points out the contrary...

      ... although of course you can always smugly quote chapter and verse when someone challenges you on a point you are absolutely sure about (this happened to me the other day ;-) )

    6. Me, I'm not picky at all when it comes to the authors (as Jacqui would know, from way back when I brought up C.C. Humphreys in conversation). I do have a greater tendency to read male authors than female ones, but I think that stems more out of which books I've been interested in plot-wise. If you want me to list favourites, though, I will say that in terms of actually blowing me away in terms of historical realism...I really liked Jeff Shaara's two-part series on the American Revolution ("Rise to Rebellion" and "The Glorious Cause"), and the one book I've read by Emma Donaghue ("Life Mask") was also really good. I know that a lot of people who are 18th century enthusiasts really like Diana Gabaldon's work, too - but I will be very honest in saying that I much prefer her "Lord John Grey" spinoff series than the original "Outlander" one. It drew me in really quickly - I daresay being set within the military during the Seven Years War had a role to play in all this - and I think I prefer straight-up historical fiction to time travel.

    7. I agree Kita that historical fiction is a good starting point that hopefully generates further interest into the study of history.

      I hardly read fiction at all to be honest, I much prefer my history books, but I will keep my eye out for the authors you mentioned Jacqui (and certainly for your work!).

      I'm only just starting on Phillipa Gregory... I am enjoying it well enough, mostly because I love that period but I am already really not buying into some of the characters and her interpretation (fabrication?) of real historical events. So, I'll persist and see where it goes... but I can see why you might not like her. If the movie version of "The Other Boleyn Girl" is similar to her book then I will be wary, for I abhorred that interpretation.

      Yeah, you can never get everything right but that's OK I think. When it comes to historical fiction, you are always going to have to "pad out" the characters with your own dialogue, personality (a little at least) and day to day scenes and infer meaning from what sources there are... because we usually just don't know enough factually to do that. My main beef is not the minutiae, but when people take real people and events and pretty much butcher it.

      I can't explain properly. An example I can think of is in the movie "Elizabeth". Robert Dudley is shown, near the end of the film to have colluded with the Spanish in an attempt to remove Elizabeth from the throne and ostensibly have her assassinated because he couldn't have her (bah). So, he was banished forever quite early in her reign. A travesty!!!! That's the kind of rubbish I mean :)

    8. Oh, "Life Mask" was excellent. I must say it was a bit like reading about a parallel universe though. I write about the same period but from the opposite political viewpoint, as it were, and a lot of what was talked about politically speaking in the book just made me go O_o

    9. Winston, I know what you mean about the butchering of historical people/events. It is the main reason why I advise everyone never to watch the movie "Amazing Grace" with me. Just don't, OK? You'll enjoy it a lot more without me jumping up every five seconds, pointing a finger at the screen and shouting "THAT'S NOT RIGHT!"

      Re Gregory, what you say about her "fabricating" stuff is exactly what I dislike. You made the same point about The Tudors and The Borgias: the real history is fascinating enough, so why make it even more grotesque and fanciful than it actually was? I just couldn't buy it. It did not work for me. Indeed it positively revolted me.

      I like to think I have a pretty high standard of historical accuracy in my research and writing. I won't say there aren't moments where I haven't fudged the facts a little bit to make the storytelling that little bit easier, but I haven't actually *made anything up*, if you see what I mean: I might merge two or three events that took place over the course of a few weeks into one or two days, and I can think of two episodes so far on which I have changed the date something happened on because to make it absolutely historically accurate would complicate things too much for one reason or another (before you shout "For shame!" they are not majorly important historical dates. One of them was the date I bring John, Lord Chatham back from his stint in Gibraltar in 1779: I know he was back in England in early April, staying with his friend the 4th Duke of Rutland, but as Rutland did not actually succeed to the Dukedom till the end of May that year and he's a fairly major character, I decided to delay John's return by two months so I didn't have to faff about with introducing Rutland as "the Marquis of Granby" and then changing his title two scenes later. Because the death date of the 3rd Duke is a matter of public historical record, whereas John's return is, arguably, less earth-shattering on a grand scale. So sue me.)

      Apart from that, though, I could probably footnote my novel. Including some of the dialogue. There are some bits I'm actually really proud of because of the amount of research that went into the scenes. And I've found new stuff while researching it-- actually tons of new stuff because nobody has EVER thought John worth writing about before.

    10. Books like "The Other Boleyn Girl" and films like "Amazing Grace", I won't say they are entirely historically accurate. However, I can't deny that had it not been for them, I might not have even heard of a number of historical events and people that I know about now. So I daresay I'm a bit of a testament to how historical fiction can work.

      However, I will concede that I'm not nearly as well-read on history as either of you two - so, chances are, the inaccuracies only come across to me after I've already read/watched and enjoyed a piece. I'm not an historian, by any means - might like to be, but I'm only armchair at best. So maybe that's why I'm usually rather indifferent about things like that.

      Jacqui, I don't think anyone's going to fault you on those sorts of things - even if they want to call you out on your "mistake", well...are they going to stop reading on account of that? I doubt it. And if they aren't going to be gracious about it, I don't know if that's an audience worth having. Because, at the end of the day, this IS fiction we're writing about. As long as your bending the dates a bit doesn't end up completely butchering the events or people involved, I don't think there should be any huge problem. And so long as the text is well-written, I don't think that should detract from any overall enjoyment of your writing :) Because I can say that, at least, about fiction works that are historically inaccurate: no-one said I couldn't enjoy them just in and of themselves, as pieces of FICTION. ;)

      I will say, re: "Life Mask", that I honestly cracked up a few times reading it simply because I was thinking, "Ooh...I wonder what Jacqui will say to THIS." It's definitely a different perspective than what I usually encounter on Pinterest, so that was great to see.