Posted on 10/26/2016 at 12:00 AM by Jeffrey Bruner
Historian and novelist C. Wayne Dawson seems to have a knack for finding the silver lining.
Great Recession hitting your household? No worries — devote yourself to writing instead.
Historical facts hard to obtain or understand? Oh well, it’s a real-life treasure hunt!
The professor-turned-author told us recently about the work that has gone into his Raven King trilogy, which is set in 17th-century Vienna.
SADYE: When did you decide to begin writing novels?
WAYNE: I had time on my hands when the economy nosedived a few years ago. Writing was a creative way to express myself and a better preoccupation than giving in to despair.
Writing historical novels helped me keep my research skills polished even though I was no longer in academia. The people at the local public library were surprised at the amount of inter-library loans I requested in order to create a background for my novels.
SADYE: What’s the toughest part about historical fiction? What’s the most fun part?
WAYNE: One of the most difficult parts of writing historical fiction is finding good sources about your subject matter.
You don’t want to go down a path that ends up contradicting the known facts about a character or the times they live in so you want to keep it as accurate as possible. On the other hand, sometimes those facts can be in dispute depending on who you listen to.
Another barrier I encounter is that the record about a character or events may be out there, but in a foreign language or locked in an archive somewhere not easily accessible. You have to be careful how you write about those subjects if the information is out there, but not easily obtained. It becomes an adventure when you seek out this kind of data.
The fun part of historical fiction involves taking known facts and coming up with a new way of explaining them. For instance, in The Darkness That Could Be Felt, I take known information (the 17th-century Muslim Tartars engaged in widespread slave trading), and weave it into a completely new narrative (they exchange rare coffee beans for abducted women).
Creating new narratives makes all the difference between writing a history book versus historical fiction.
SADYE: What are your favorite historical periods to write about? Are they also your same favorites to read about?
WAYNE: When writing, my favorite historical periods are the 15th and the 17th centuries. Since researching leaves me little time to study other times, I would have to say, yes, they have become my favorite periods to read about.
SADYE: You mentioned that you have a learning disability — are there any tricks or techniques you’ve employed to overcome it?
WAYNE: The best way to combat my learning disabilities is to either read information slowly and repetitively, or, even better, when it’s an option, discuss the information with someone.
Fortunately, there are a good number of special interest groups on Facebook where I can often find someone versed in the subject I’m writing about.
SADYE: What’s up next for you, writing-wise?
WAYNE: Completing the final book in my trilogy, Treasure of the Raven King. By book two, the treasure has been found and used for the purpose intended. The third book is for those who want to discover how the major players in the previous books ended up.
Unlike the 17th-century setting of the previous books, the main character in book three will be a history professor in the 21st century who sets out to discover the truth about the people of the former two books. Her investigations lead her to startling new conclusions about the life of the Raven King.
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Categories: Author Interview