Howard's Law

Robert E. Howard often thought that his historical fiction represented some of his best work; certainly, he enjoyed the process of putting the pieces together to create his stories, but ultimately – he was a writer for hire, paid by the word, and recognized this fact. It took him a lot longer to craft his historical fiction than it did to write Conan stories – so he created a world that lifted large chunks of real places and times, and set his hero to wander in it. Not only was it a lot less time-intensive, but let us not forget – we are spoiled today.

If I suddenly develop an interest in the Teutonic Knights for some reason, I can order a book from Amazon and have it here the next day. I can look up the subject on the internet. I can even email a specialist. He could do none of those things. There is a fascinating list of the books Howard had in his library, and I've actually picked up a few of them as a result – it's interesting to know where his inspirations came from. It highlights that he really didn't have much to work with. General histories, lots of the original source material...he was starting from scratch. Yet he got the feel of the period spot on.

There are two morals buried in this story, and they are as follows. The first is that fantasy requires less research than history – and this is something I intend to follow, as I will outline in a moment, and the second is that when writing history, you aren't writing a doctoral thesis. Everything doesn't have to be perfect if the feel is right. I've always worked on the principle that people read fiction for an engaging story and interesting characters. With historical, I'd add the feel of the period to that list. If those three points are served, I think the result is a book that people will like.

So, the plan is this. I've been getting niggling thoughts about the setting anyway, that there is so little known that it is leaping across to being near-fantasy in any case, so I'm crossing that particular rubicon; the next trilogy is now an out-and-out sword-and-sorcery-epic-fantasy. The best part is that plot, character and setting remain largely unchanged, though I need to make some over changes to it. The plan is now for a trio of novels at the 75-90k mark, to be released this year. Starting on September 2nd, I get the first of these books under way, and frankly can't wait.

Not that I'm forgetting Alamo, because I will also be writing the fourth Alamo book between now and Christmas, probably in October, and of course the third book will be out later this month. (Another lesson, by the way – don't take an extended time off. It all gets nibbled to bits by ducks if you do...and I'm getting seriously itchy that I'm not writing anything, but am not quite ready at the moment.) Nor am I forgetting the historicals, because all the reading I've been doing lately has really begun to get me fired up all over the place. Expect to start seeing some of these next year.

The pattern of releases is still something I am considering. Whether to go with having multiple ongoing series or another model, I don't yet know; Alamo will certainly be carrying on for a good long while, and I want to write historical next I am currently pondering three trilogies and three Alamos next year. I have a rather nice problem in that I have a lot of ideas bubbling around inside my head and am struggling to work out what to do next! I'm going away for a week shortly, so will likely take a stack of books away with me. Hopefully I will come back with some more concrete ideas...though at least I know what the next four books are.

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