Editing has sucked my life away. I have no time for anything but crouching over a keyboard, clutching a hot water bottle to keep the winter freeze away and typing like a frenzied squirrel…Basically, I’m sorry for not posting in a while. So, here I am, said water bottle in hand, wrapped in my fleece cloak with the hood falling into my eyes…yep, I’ll get on with the post.
It’s probably a well known fact that I’m overly obsessed with history. I love history, I love knowing about the past of mankind, the way God has held all the strings together and weaved into a pattern–that sometimes appears beautiful and sometimes hideous, but is always in God’s hands.
Anyway, I’ve had many historical obsessions over my short life, but I thought I’d share ten of them with you today. These are probably the most consuming and, in most cases, I still have varying degrees of interest in these subjects.
So, here we go!
The Red Baron
This was an obsession I had in the past three to four years. I was absolutely enamoured with Manfred von Richthofen, otherwise known as The Red Baron and with the “reign of terror” he and his jasta (flying squadron) held over the Allies during April 1917. I was especially upset when I found out that the Australian soldiers, after they shot down Richthofen, pulled apart his famous red plane for souvenirs instead of preserving it in an aviation museum. I still hold a grudge over this and its the main sense of discord between myself and my nation. 😛
This obsession with the Red Baron and with “Bloody April” was ultimately what inspired my novella Comrade (previously called Kameradschaft). It also inspired an interest in Germany and a love of the German language. (And it got so bad that my parents actually bought me a kite modelled to look like the Red Baron’s famous plane. I also bought myself a postcard with a painting called “The Death of the Red Baron”, its on my bookcase now).
I’m not sure what triggered my fascination with Titanic and her sister ship Olympic. Maybe it was Michael Morpurgo’s book Kasper, Prince of Cats. Anyway, when I was about eleven, I read books about Titanic with an all-consuming veracity, I knew every detail of everyone’s lives and every fact about the ships. In fact, probably the only thing that I never did was watch Titanic, mostly because urgh, romance!
This one never actually inspired any books or stories, as far as I can remember, which is pretty strange.
The Wright Brothers
Okay, let me get this straight, I have never gotten over the massive crush I had on Wilbur Wright as a fourteen year old. And yes, I am aware that he’s been dead for 105 years. But regardless, I absolutely loved reading about the Wright Brothers, their planes and experiments and life. I also love their sister, Katharine, and she’s been one of my role-models for years. She’s the perfect example of a woman who is strong and confident, who had an education when education for women was frowned upon (she went further in education than either Wilbur or Orville did) and yet who also wasn’t afraid to sit at the back of the picture. She supported her father and brothers with an amazing strength that I couldn’t even imagine possessing…yes, she’s awesome, and so sadly forgotten.
I wrote a (still unfinished) story about the Wrights, from the perspective of a young boy who lived at Kitty Hawk and whose parents helped Wilbur and Orville with their experiments. Unfortunately, my utter obsession and reliance on facts sort of crushed any imagination in this story.
But the Wright Siblings still remain my favourite historical figures.
The Roman Occupation of Britain
This one is definitely thanks to Rosemary Sutcliff’s books, particularly The Eagle of the Ninth. That’s one of my favourite books and always a go-to reread. I absolutely love it, so it sent me researching the time period it takes place in, that being the Roman occupation of Britain back in the so-called Dark Ages.
Fascinating, in one word. I’ve always wanted to write a book set then, but I’ve never been able to think of a plot that even comes close to any of Sutcliff’s, so I’ve stuck with other periods.
The Early Medieval Period
I’ve always been the sort of person who goes for the underdog, rather than what’s popular and that mindset goes so far as to include historical periods. Whenever we think of the Medieval Period, we tend to think about knights in shining armour and valiant kings, King Arthur and all that, but my favourite medieval time period was always the early medieval period, when the knights weren’t quite as noble and they wore chainmail and the Normans invaded Britain etc. This was 1000-1200 ish, and for some reason it absolutely fascinated me. Maybe because it seems to be a very much forgotten time nowadays? And it hasn’t been romanticised, so it actually feels like it exists in the real world rather than a fantasy world, like the later medieval period does.
This obsession actually did draw a book–or half a book at least–from me, but I never planned ahead and the book died after I realised that I had no idea where I was trying to go with it. But I still love this period and definitely want to write a book set in it one day.
World War One
Next to the Wrights, this is the one that has stuck with me most deeply and continues to resonate. I love learning about the War and the way that it affected history, the way that it affected the people who lived then and served in it. I wouldn’t be able to count how many books and movies I’ve consumed on this topic. Probably, again, it was Michael Morpurgo’s books, War Horse and Little Manfred (though I’m currently having trouble remembering whether Little Manfred takes place in WW1 or WW2) that sparked this interest.
Anyway, whatever it was, I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. The amount of books pertaining to World War One in my bookshelves is probably quite concerning, and although I’ve never written a novel set in the War, I’ve written innumerable short stories about it. Even essays, I’ve written essays on the subject. Of my own accord. 😛
Even though I’m so interested in the war, my knowledge of the War itself is actually rather vague. I can only remember the names of the important battles and places–Gallipoli, Verdun, the Somme, Fromelles, the Charge of Beersheba, etc–and my knowledge of tactics and strategies is extremely limited. My knowledge and interest lies in the actual people who fought in the war, or lived on the home front and their personal experiences. You might say that its the emotional and psychological side of the War that interests me, rather than the physical facts.
Japanese Feudal Period
Of all things, this phase was sparked by Ninjago, you know, that annoying kid’s show that drives most people crazy? Anyway, of course I’d heard about ninja and samurai before, but I’d always thought ninja were a creation of Hollywood’s. Which they are, to a certain extent, but they were based on the very real shinobi, of the periods before and during the Japanese Feudal Period (the Feudal period is roughly the same time as the European Medieval Period. It refers to the times before Japan was united under one ruler, at least, that’s what I understand).
In my research of Japan, I fell in love with the culture, which is so different to my own, and I started writing a novel on it, which some of you might remember as The Blade of the Dragon. It was cliché, but I loved it and only set it aside at the beginning of the year in order to work on The Stars Fill Infinity. The novel should never been seen by light of day, but it was (possibly, I can’t remember), my first complete novel (as in, the first story I wrote which actually reached over 50k words), so it was an achievement. And even though it was a fantasy novel, I researched it very thoroughly to make sure it was historically accurate. And that killed most of the fantasy, unfortunately. Do you sense a recurring theme?
The French Revolution
This is a more recent one. The first time I was ever exposed to the French Revolution was when I read a novel about Marie Antoinette when I was in my preteens, but it didn’t really resonate with me. Later on, last year I think, I read Les Miserables, which isn’t about the French Revolution, but builds a lot off that event and refers to it a lot. Then I read The Scarlet Pimpernel, and finally, A Tale of Two Cities. Between these books, I became a little obsessed. Before I wrote The Stars Fill Infinity and When Infinity is Empty, I did a lot of research on the French and Russian Revolutions in order to base many of the events that happen in my dystopian future off the events of France’s past.
My latest novel, the final novel in the Infinity Trilogy, is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel and it’s the one most heavily inspired by the Revolution, so I’m definitely going to keep reading my books and learning.
The European Royal Families
This was entirely thanks to the My Royal Diaries series of books that I read a lot when I was younger. I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was eight or nine, the time when most girls want to be a Disney princess, I was fascinated by real princesses–Lady Jane Grey, Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, Anastasia, Queen Victoria, Princess Victoria and a myriad of others. And I learnt a lot about the European royal family in that time.
Recently, my family has been watching the BBC tv series Victoria and I’ve been able to show off my knowledge of European royalty and I’m surprised by how much I actually remember.
I’ve never written a book or even a story based on this phase, but…maybe one day. We’ll see if a plot bunny comes to visit me now.
The Early Olympics (1896-1956)
Entirely thanks to Eric Liddell and Chariots of Fire. Initially, I read about Eric Liddell in a Christian missionary book and I found in him a man I really admired, so I read more biographies and eventually watched the movie Chariots of Fire, which I liked, but didn’t adore. Then I started reading up on those early Olympic games, from about the first modern Olympics to the Melbourne 1956 games and then brought books and found myself dragged into a world that most people didn’t even know about.
I think what drew me to those early games in particular was how…relaxed they were, I guess. Nowadays, athletes seem to think that it’s their duty to go to the Olympics, but back then it was seen as an expensive honour. Until 1924, athletes actually had to pay their own way to the Olympics and they certainly didn’t get paid or sponsored.
One of my favourite athletes, Ray Ewry, was a high jumper who won eight gold medals at the Olympics (he never won anything but gold medals, which makes him the most successful Olympian ever, though not the one with the most medals). After achieving international fame, he went home to New York and spent the rest of his life designing architecture.
I just love how humble most of them were. And Ray Ewry especially was awesome. Read up about him if you get a chance.
Do you like history? What historical things have you been obsessed with? Who’s your favourite historical figure? Do you read historical fiction?