A chance to write about my craft

VoicesI am excited to announce I have taken up an invitation from Simon J. Cook to write an essay we have titled Voices from the Twelfth-Century Steppe, for publication at Rounded Globe.

I hope to make a case study on writing historical fiction from a source. I hope to introduce you to the intimacies of that source.

In my early years with Amgalant, I turned for companionship to T.H. White, in communion with his Malory: talking to Malory, inserting Malory passages in his novel, living with the original writer and his work. I was living with my original, likewise. Besides, there is no book dearer to me than The Once and Future King — through which I discovered the Source. Straight after the Once and Future, while I was still quite young, I went to Malory – taught to do so by T.H. – and not in a bastardised modernisation, whose mother was a hamster, but the OUP, with original spellings, where knights garnysshe themselves for battle (often with a sprig of oregano). If there’s been a more important event in my life, I don’t know what it is. When I came to write historical fiction, to be so devoted to my source, I owe to the imprisoned knight and his modern counterpart who prayed for him.

My mission, which I have chosen to accept, has been assigned me in the book description:

Voices from the Twelfth-Century Steppe
by Bryn Hammond

Bryn Hammond has written some astonishingly good historical novels. Her ‘Amgalant’ series brings to life the twelfth-century Steppe as no scholarly history could hope to do. Yet Hammond has immersed herself in her sources; her books are born of painstaking research and breathe a discipline of imagination rarely encountered in historical fiction.

In this scholarly meditation, a digression from her usual writing, Hammond reflects upon the relationship of her own craft to that of the academic historian. Focusing her discussion around The Secret History, the primary Mongolian source for the history of Genghis Khan, composed in the thirteenth century, Hammond asks what it means to discern different voices in what is essentially a communal history constructed from an oral account. What does the novelist as creative writer bring to this text? What might she hear that eludes the careful ears of the academic historian?

eta: Dec 15, 2015

In the meantime, have a look at Rounded Globe, its aims and offerings. Simon J. Cook left employment in an institution (I mean a university, not a madhouse) to pursue independent scholarship. With my commitment to independent publishing – in essence, to be free from anti-creative pressures – I am in sympathy with this; as I am with his idea of accessible scholarship. Out now is Simon’s book, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lost English Mythology, with other titles due through the year.

Why I like indie covers

Quick and easy answer:
Because the creator of the work chooses them.

Under those conditions, you can judge a book by its cover. Its cover is an integral part of the creative work – is the writer’s expression of what her/his book is about.

I have come to see, over a couple of years, I’m on what I’m going to call now the anarchist end of indie. In cover terms, that means, to my mind the idea isn’t to look ‘just like a trad cover – you can’t tell it isn’t.’ No, no, trad covers are ugh, we’re here to fix what’s wrong with them. This is your chance to get out of the rut. I don’t care if your cover’s not quite up to scratch in production values – what interests me is your creativity (doesn’t mean you have to draw it yourself. If you can, I’ll be wowed). It’s about the idea. Put into a picture your idea of your book, and I’ll learn about your book in a way I can’t from a market-standard cover. Indies can be artisans and craft their books as objects too, inside, outside. When I love an indie cover, I think I’m in tune with the writer and am likely to love the story. Trad doesn’t have that chance at self-expression, nor that additional data when I try to pick whether I’ll like a book.

Indie: Today stands for Individual Fiction.

Title page by ‘The Author & Printer Will.m Blake’, a patron saint of indie.

The author and printer Will. Blake