Ten Things to Know about Writing Historical Fiction (Guest Post by Hazel West)

Ten Rules to follow when Writing Historical Fiction – A Guest Post by Author Hazel West

Hi all,

As part of her blog tour for her new novel, By Blood or By Bond, Author Hazel West is joining us to talk briefly about the world of Historical Fiction, something similar (but not the same) as my personal favorite genre – alternate history. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good Roman History novel. Enjoy!

Ten (Unnoficial) Things You Should Know About Writing Historical Fictionbutton

1. First off, it’s fiction. That means you can bend the truth a little bit if you want to. So if you can’t find that info you need, make it up. Or add a little alternate history or steampunk if you want.

2. The awesome things you have the chance to try out. Think of it: reenacting epic battles in your back yard (scaring the neighbors), playing around with swords, (and don’t forget jousting with your bicycle and a broom handle!) trying Roman recipes, a medieval feast, or having a traditional posh English tea. The possibilities are endless.

3. You get to write about all your favorite historical figures if you so choose! Think of it: your words in the mouth of such as George Washington, or Hannibal! Okay, that might be a daunting thing at times, but if you just go for it, I find it works out a lot better.

4. You’ll get to clear the library out of all the books on your topic, thus making everyone else very annoyed, probably. Just remember not to hurt your back carrying them all out of the library.

5. Read some historical novels about the same time period. No, not to copy other author’s work (that’s plagiarism!), but to get a feel for how things are described or how you might go about it. Smells, sounds, sights, of the time period. Also, it’s a good excuse to get a few fun reads in while you’re supposed to be doing research.

6. If possible, check out the historical sights you are writing about. If this isn’t possible, then watching documentaries or travel videos works too. Just don’t put too much faith in Hollywood, because most of the time historical films are NOT filmed on site.

7. Okay, I won’t lie, you’re probably going to butt heads with people who say your books aren’t accurate. If this happens, direct them to Number One.

8. You’ll have to do copious amounts of research. There’s going to be a lot of every day things you won’t know about when writing historical fiction. Obviously, your medieval peasant can’t just pop open a package of Poptarts for breakfast, and if you think they can, you have a lot of research to do. 30% of writing historical fiction is coming up with a story and characters, the other 70% is research, research, and more research! Do not neglect it, even if you don’t use it all.

9. As with every novel, you are going to have to do multiple edits and possibly even re-writes. But with historical fiction, comes the further fact checking. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can find a fellow writer or reader who knows a lot about your book subject too to read it over for you and tell you if everything is good and historically sound (within reason, that is). If they complain about that crucial, irreplaceable part of your book not being accurate, remember to refer them, once again, to Number One.

10. As with every book, Have Fun! Historical fiction is probably the most fun genre to research next to mystery writing (unless you do historical mysteries, of course!). I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve come up with while researching for one book and finding other things that would make fantastic novels. It might be harder work than writing something from your own time period, but I guarantee you, it’s an adventure all on it’s own and very rewarding in the end!

About the Author:DSCN1548

Hazel West lives in Florida where she spend a good bit of time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them.

Hazel’s favorite things/hobbies: Writing obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, GOOD COFFEE, reading of course, dark (dark) chocolate, sketching/painting, hats, scarves and boots, collecting little old-fashioned things of all kinds, buying books, and don’t forget dressing in period clothing!

You can find Hazel on her Blog, via twitter @artfulscribbler, or on Goodreads

Click onward to read a description and teaser of Hazel’s new novel, By Blood or By Bond.

Which ties are stronger—those of Blood or those of Bond.

Caolán, the son of a Celtic chieftain, awaits his first pitched battle against the Roman invaders, knowing that this is the moment in which he will truly become a warrior, of the tribe.

Viggo Callias is a seasoned centurion in the Roman army on his first deployment to Britain with his newly enlisted son, Aulus. Serving under an incompetent commander, he wonders whether victory will be theirs.

But fate takes a hand in both Caolán and Viggo’s lives when Viggo’s son is killed by a spear meant for him. Enraged at the loss of his son, Viggo seeks vengeance on the man responsible: Caolán’s father. As the chieftain breathes his last, Viggo vows to take Caolán as a slave to avenge Aulus’ untimely death.

Torn from his country and people, Caolán’s only comfort is the hope that one day he will be able to avenge his father. But can the greatest wrongs be righted? Brotherly bonds, gladiators, old enemies, corrupt politicians and a young woman who captures Caolán’s heart, take a role in the physical and emotional journey that binds Caolán’s and Viggo’s fates together. Can the two wounded parties work past their hatred of each other and find what they have lost: a father and a son?

This new novel by Hazel West, explores the familial ties that bind us all, whether by blood or by bond.


Amatus hadn’t made a move yet, he seemed to be looking around the spectators, judging what they wanted to see most, which would obviously be Caolán’s death. Finally, the tribune stood and held his fist out with his thumb to the side. He was about to drop it when Caolán made his move, surprising Théodard by grabbing his leg and striking him behind the knee with the rim of his shield. Théodard’s leg crumbled automatically and he fell over top of Caolán, losing his sword and helmet from the impact and Caolán leapt to his feet and put his own boot down on the German’s chest, grabbing up Théodard’s sword for himself and holding it over him. He ripped his own helmet off and turned to look at the crowd, breathing heavily. The thumbs that were up still stayed evident and several others rose as well, but the majority were still pointed down for death. Caolán looked down into Théodard’s eyes and saw his frantic look.

“Caolán—” he began.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you,” he whispered and looked back up at Amatus who had stood up; the crowd went quiet all of a sudden as he held his hand out again, gaining anticipation. Caolán thought Lorena looked like she was going to pass out. She met his eyes and he tried to convey to her that everything would be all right. A thought crossed his mind then, that seeing him kill a helpless man would be just as distressing to her as watching him be killed himself. “I won’t kill him,” he said quietly, though he knew she couldn’t hear him. A bit of worry seemed to leave her face, though that might have just been his imagination. He jerked his eyes back to Amatus, still waiting for his signal.

He looked right at Caolán, a wicked light on his face and then his thumb turned down. “Kill him,” he said with relish.

That was the cue for Caolán to plunge his sword into Théodard’s chest. It was what they had been taught in the ludus; and Théodard was supposed to take his death bravely, without appeal, though if he wished to be a coward, he could have raised a finger on his left hand to appeal to the crowd for mercy. But he would not have to do either. Caolán stayed still, his sword hovering above Théodard’s chest. The crowd started to murmur as the seconds passed and then they began shouting in anger.

“Kill him!”

“Go on, finish him off!”

“Stab him!”

But Caolán made no move. Rastus stormed out into the arena, anger bright on his face.

“You said there would be no trouble!” he growled, pointing to Théodard. “Now finish him off unless you want to die with him!”

“No,” Caolán finally said and brought his sword up before stabbing it into the ground at his feet. He then reached down to help Théodard stand. “I’ll not kill this man. He’s like a brother to me, and you are no man at all, Rastus, to force me to kill him.”

Rastus went even redder at that and raised his whip. “I’ll have the hide off your back before I let you die, Celt!” he snarled.

“Wait, doctor,” Amatus called out over the crowd, quieting them down. Caolán looked up at the tribune as he stood leaning on the railing in front of his seat. “If they aren’t going to kill each other, then I think I have a better lesson for them than a flogging. Take away their weapons and bring out my surprise.”

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

9 thoughts on “Ten Things to Know about Writing Historical Fiction (Guest Post by Hazel West)”

  1. Good thoughts, Hazel. It is amazing how much you need to research just to get the feel of the time period into your story without blatantly stating facts. If we want text book history we’d go back to school, right? I can’t tell you how much more fun and interesting it is for children and adults to learn about a time period through a living book rather than dry school text. Loved your story, by the way.

    1. Thanks for writing! I agree with the posting, and research especially is critical for any and all other writing styles, as every style needs to be grounded in facts in one way, shape, or form.

  2. Another great post, Hazel! And a really encouraging one, because I know I tend to be daunted by numbers 7-9, losing sight of number 10 in the process. 🙂

    1. Yes, I know I have definitely spent more time than I should occasionally on deep research. In recent years, I have forced myself to care less about accuracy if it sacrifices a good story. That’s what author’s notes are for 😉

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