The Forest King’s Daughter featured on Englanti Editing

The good people at Englanti Ediitng have kindly featured my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, on their lovely site, along with an excerpt. You can have a read here:

http://www.englantiediting.com/an-excerpt-from-the-forest-kings-daughter-by-kendra-olson/

http://www.englantiediting.com/the-forest-kings-daughter-by-kendra-olson-featured-book/ 

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Enter the #BookBoost #Giveaway to win your copy of The Forest King’s Daughter!

Thanks to the lovely Alison Drew at Ali–The Dragon Slayer for hosting the competition. Please see below link for details and entry (and don’t forget to check out the rest of her amazing blog while you’re there 🙂 ).

http://cancersuckscouk.ipage.com/bookboost-the-forest-kings-daughter-by-kendra-olson-giveaway/

More reviews? Or not?

Recently some of you may have noticed that I’ve been featuring quite a few book reviews on here. This is partly because I like to include links to my publications, and I’ve become a regular reviewer for Lothian Life Magazine http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/ But not all of the reviews I’ve featured on this blog are from Lothian Life, many of them are my own reviews of books I’ve particularly enjoyed and wanted to share with you. These are, of course, in addition to any Amazon and Goodreads reviews I might write…

Before I began this blog, I had been given the advice to use my blog as a way of giving something of value to my readers. That is easy to say and hard to implement as what is considered useful to one reader may not be particularly useful to another. I’ve noticed that the most successful blogs do this well. For example, Molly Green’s blog http://www.molly-greene.com/ offers marketing and promotional advice to authors with the occasional post about her own Genevieve Delacourt mystery series books. Judging by the number of reviews she has for her novels on Amazon, this is a fairly successful strategy. You can read more about her (very enjoyable) novels here: http://www.molly-greene.com/gen-delacourt-mysteries/

Also, Rebecca Bradley’s blog http://rebeccabradleycrime.com/ has over 5,000 followers. She regularly features book reviews and author interviews as well as featuring her own novel, Shallow Waters, which I have yet to read but have heard is very good. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shallow-Waters-Hannah-Robbins-Book-ebook/dp/B00R9Q4CUM/

Of course, the overall purpose of my blog is to have an author website to help with sales of my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Kings-Daughter-Kendra-Olson-ebook/dp/B00UBTSNBI/  As I particularly enjoy writing book reviews, I’ve wondered if offering more of them on here might be a good way of attracting new readers, and keeping my existing readers entertained. Not that I’ll be hitting 5,000 followers anytime soon, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to try 😉

What do you think, would you like to read more book reviews on here? And, if you are a writer and a blogger, what is your strategy for ensuring your work gets seen?

Oh yes, and before I sign off, I’d just like to mention that if there are any book reviewers reading this who would be interested in reviewing my novel for their blog, I’d be happy to send a copy your way. Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

Immersing yourself in your story world

Do you write fiction? If so, you’ll know how important it is to understand the world your characters live in. This might be the same world that we live in today, or it might not be. Even if your story takes place in modern day Britain it’s likely that your characters belong to a specific cultural grouping, and have tastes which differ from other peoples. For example, you’ll need to know where they grew up, what they like/dislike, what makes them tick and what kinds of clothes they wear. So, how do you go about finding all of this out? Do you sit and make a list of their traits? Do you draw (or paint) their portrait? Or maybe you see a photograph of someone and build up your characters from there.

IMG_2871 man drawing from morguefile

However you go about it, it’s important to get the details right. Without them, a character not only won’t make sense, but, worse, they won’t feel real to the reader. That’s not to say that a character shouldn’t have quirks, which at first glance may look like inconsistent character traits, because they should. Characters with inner contradictions, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides to them are much truer to life—more three dimensional—than a character who is one-sided.

But how do you really get into the mind set of your characters? And do you do this only for your main character, or for all of your characters?

For my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, I immersed myself in the world my characters lived in. As this was 19th century rural Sweden, this was not exactly easy to do. I listened to Swedish folk music (or folkmusik) to set the scene for my characters, looked at old clothes both online and in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, viewed paintings of rural Sweden done by Carl Larsson in the National Art Library and learned some Swedish cooking and baking in order to surround myself with the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that my characters would have known. It was great fun, and tasty too. 🙂

Most of all, it allowed me to see the world as my characters would have done, and this helped me to build a better picture of them, which grew and changed over time.

Here’s a photo of some Swedish peasants wearing traditional folk dress from Dalarna. I just love the colourful aprons the women wore.

By Louise Hagberg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Louise Hagberg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

And a few of my Scandinavian cookbooks, plus my lovely straw reindeer I purchased at the Swedish Christmas market here in London a couple of years back.

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Here’s a video of a musical duo playing on traditional Swedish nyckelharpas at Skansen on Easter, from YouTube. Listening to songs such as these helped me to transport myself to the Swedish countryside, and later to the Gothenburg dockside where emigrants prepared to depart for America. Many folk singers and musicians helped to entertain the departing emigrants to keep their minds off the perilous journey which lay ahead.

So, how about you? What kinds of things have you done to better understand your characters? I’d love to hear about them so please leave a comment below.

Preparing to write a novel: Research and planning

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I’ve heard it said that there are writers who write as the story comes to them, uncertain what will happen next, and then there are those who plan and outline to varying degrees. While I like the excitement which goes along with not knowing what will happen next, I am, usually, a planner. This is because planning gives me a greater sense of control over the work, to shape and guide it as needed, and when the going gets tough (and it most certainly will) an outline will never fail to point you back in the right direction.

That said, I also think there is such a thing as over planning your novel to the point of not listening when changes need to be made for fear that your ‘plan’ will be disrupted. However, with historical fiction it is especially important to know what direction you’re moving in so that you can do your research ahead of time.

Prior to writing The Forest King’s Daughter, I did a lot of research. Even after I started writing, I often had to go back and check some detail of daily life. I’d begin writing a scene where a character is adding jam to their porridge and then I’d have to ask myself ‘did they put jam in their porridge back then?’ The answer is no, not if you were a poor crofter. Sugar was a luxury (hence the special lidded box Mrs Johansson keeps her sugar in on a high shelf). Even as late as 1905 Vilhelm Moberg wrote about his father bringing home a block of sugar and giving everyone a piece of it as a special treat to celebrate the peace with Norway (Moberg, When I Was a Child, 1956). Also, their porridge was made from barley, not oats.  I often felt I could not complete a scene without knowing, for certain, if such a thing existed at the time. This made writing the novel exceedingly difficult, especially as it was the first novel I’d ever tried to write.

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But I knew this before I started and still felt I had to write it–needed to write it. As Truman Capote once said, “There is no agony like having an untold story inside you.”

So, how did I deal with this? Preparation. Before even beginning my research I started to outline my characters, their stories, their lifetimes and, of course, the novel itself. I drew up spreadsheets containing births and deaths of fictional characters and what historical events had taken place during their lifetimes that may have affected them. Some of this history was unknown to me so I located world history timelines, European historical timelines, lists of inventions and when they came out. Then I needed to begin reading about these things, deciding what research I needed to do and how I would achieve this.

Ingrid's family tree

There was no easy answer. I didn’t have any research experience and had no idea where to start. Someone said that the best place to start was to read books from the same place and time period as your novel will be set. Okay, easy enough. I did that, paying careful attention to attitudes, customs, ways of speaking etc. I then began reading historical texts, looking at old photos, paintings, reading ship passenger lists and old emigrant diaries (thanks to Norway Heritage, www.norwayheritage.com ). I contacted historical societies, visited the place in Liverpool where the emigrant ships departed from (the ships docked in England before continuing on to America), went to specialist libraries and generally tried to immerse myself in that time and place. I typed and filed as much as I could so I had something to refer to when writing. I used my story outline and my great grandmother’s itinerary as guideposts. I made a lot of mistakes and wrong turns, but I came back and tried again, because I’m very stubborn. And eventually I got there.

emigrant ship leaves port

Photo of a painting of an emigrant ship leaving port from Liverpool Maritime Museum

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Statues of emigrants on display at Liverpool Maritime Museum

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Sunset over the Mersey, would it have looked the same then?

Did I use all of the material in my draft? No. I couldn’t have used it all even if I had wanted to. If I did, the novel wouldn’t have made any sense. In fact, it would no longer even be a novel, just a collection of facts and historical impressions. So, was all of this research necessary? I think so. If I hadn’t done the research I wouldn’t have known my subject, my characters or the place they called home and so couldn’t have written the story.

How about you, have you ever written something which required you to do research? If so, how did you approach the research? Did you enjoy it, or loathe it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to share using the comments box below.