When I discovered that historical novelist Paula Lofting is a keen historical re-enactor, I wondered whether she used her hobby to promote her book. I always say don’t just sell your book, sell the author too – so I was pleased to discover that Paul does just that. For example, she engaged fellow re-enactors to help her launch her debut novel, Sons of the Wolf. I was intrigued to know whether her hobby also impacted upon her writing.
Her planned summer blog tour to promote Sons of the Wolf gave me the perfect opportunity to ask her in person about the synergy between her hobby and her writing. I’m very pleased to welcome her now to Off The Shelf to tell us more.
Debbie: How do you strike a balance between readability and authenticity when writing about times so long ago? e.g. use of now obsolete words, ancient names no longer in use, and general conversation. It must be hard to avoid phrases in conversation that would sound too modern. I must admit that, as a 21st century reader, the Anglo-Saxon names slightly did my head in – all those Wulf-somethings!
Paula: This is a great question Debbie, but first, let me start by thanking you for having me as your guest for my Blog Tour.
The concept of writing a historical novel that contains authentic aspects but effectively appeals to a modern reader has not been a problem for me. For me, using heavily antiquated prose affects one’s ability to convey the written word in a fashion that would be acceptable to the modern day reader. I prefer to use snippets of Olde English language, such as Waes thu hael, with the reply being (in modern English) “I am well” so the reader will understand what it meant. Another example:
“Good morning, Fleogenda,” he said. He always called her his ‘Little bird’.
I did get questioned a lot by my editor about using swear words that weren’t recorded until the until the 16thCentury, such as the often-used F word, so I decided to investigate the usage of cussing in pre-Norman times. I found that it was more likely that they would swear by rather than at, for example, it was perfectly acceptable to say “By Satan’s bollocks, I will kill you if I catch you!” The great Anglo-Saxon historian Stephen Pollington was very helpful to me with my Olde English. Generally though, as long as you don’t have people conversing with each other using words like “cool, man” and “dude” or other such modern speech, all is well.
As for names, I know that Olde English names and Celtic names can be a mouthful, but for me, it just adds depth to the authenticity of a historical novel. I used a pronunciation guide for Sons of the Wolf, but I think I could have expanded it and will endeavour to do so in the next novel. I know some authors have used anachronistic names for their historical novels because they believe their readers want that. To be fair to them, it’s a personal choice, but for me names like Bill and Bob just don’t cut it in a novel set in Anglo Saxon times!
Paula: It has to be writing about the fictional characters that I enjoy more than anything. I can do what I like with an imaginary character as long as it fits in with the time and place. However, I did enjoy writing about Alfgar, Gruffydd and King Harold.
Debbie: Is the Anglo-Saxon period the only era that intrigues you or do you plan to write about any others?
Paula: I’m very interested in writing a book about Queen Aethelfaed, King Alfred the Great’s daughter. I am also keen to write a modern day thriller that I have started working on and a novel set in the First World War. I probably will write more in the Anglo-Saxon period because it is my favourite era. Of one thing I am certain, the past is always more interesting than the present.
Debbie: I was fascinated when I heard you were a re-enactor, and when I read your book, I could see this was a real advantage – though I knew little about the era myself, it all felt true and real from the first page. How much do you think your re-enacting hobby has driven you and informed you as a writer?
Paula: In actual fact my writing drives me in my re-enacting! I started re-enacting because I wanted to be able to write authentically about this period. However, I love re-enacting so much now that the enjoyment that the hobby brings to me is on a par with the enjoyment of writing. I am so lucky to belong to Regia Anglorum, mainly because we have our own site located in Kent, where we have built a beautiful Saxon Longhall in which we can spend time just living the history. On occasions it is open to the public. We are also lucky to have six long boats as well. I am so grateful to the society to have been given these resources to draw on.
Debbie: Do you see yourself as a historian who happens to write, or an author who happens to be interested in history?
Paula: Definitely an author who likes history! It is my favourite subject in the whole world, but I am not a historian of any shape, size or width! I would love to be but I guess I just don’t have the time or patience for all that study.
Debbie: Given the choice, would you rather live in Anglo-Saxon times or the 21st century?
Paula: 21st century without a doubt! I couldn’t bear to have to use moss for toilet paper!
Debbie: Name three aspects of Anglo-Saxon life that you would like us to have in the modern age.
Paula: The ability to sew clothing, spin wool and weave.
Debbie: Do women get a raw deal when it comes to historical re-enacting?
Paula: There can’t be as many exciting roles for them to play! Women are allowed to portray men on the battlefield only if they make every effort to look like men. False moustaches and beards are not allowed though.
We sometimes do skits where women have major roles. Lots of women prefer to do girly things around the displays and we are always looking to improve our living history exhibitions with crafts and demonstrations of daily activities around the home.
Debbie: If you could choose who to be in the Anglo-Saxon era, who would you be?
Paula: If you are thinking about a major character in history, then I think I would have liked to have been Lady Aethelflaed. She is a little-known heroine of her day who helped save England from the Danes achieving a complete takeover. She led her troops into battle, probably did not take part in the actual fighting but was commander of her own army.
Debbie: How’s the sequel coming along?
Paula: It’s in the copy-editing stage. Really enjoying that. Hopefully it will be out in the autumn, if not before.
Debbie: Thank you so much for joining Off The Shelf today, Paula, and have fun on the rest of your international blog tour! I think you’ve really added point to my message of “Sell the author as well as the book”! I’m sure everyone will now be intrigued to find out more about your work, so here some links for further reading.
- Paula’s website: www.paulalofting.com
- The historical reenactment society to which she belongs: Regia Anglorum
- The link for the rest of her blog tour: http://www.bragmedallion.com/blog-tour/indiebrag-blog-tour
- My review of Sons of the Wolf