Posts Tagged ‘Jason Henry Evans’

Your Historical Villain

So, you’ve got a great idea for a story of historical fiction. You know who the protagonist is. You know who their sidekick is and their love interest. You’ve imagined them full of contemplation at the midpoint and you’ve thought about what would drive your hero to despair during the whiff of death moment. But you don’t have a villain?

Your first thought was to use that really cool historical figure. You know, the guy who everyone hates in the history book. That sadistic general, or sleazy politician. The out of touch monarch or the self-righteous moral crusader. But the time line doesn’t match, or maybe you want to save that dastardly villain for another book. What’s a writer of historical fiction going to do? Fear not, gentle reader! I have come to your rescue!

Here are the Top Four ways to craft a historical villain!

1. Make your villain fictional.
I know. I know. You’ve read a lot about the time period and you’ve stumbled across the perfect this really jerk who can be the antagonist of your plot. But the problem is that real historical people tend to be in certain places antithetical to your plot. Let’s say your villain is none other than Joseph Stalin. Great! Read bad guy! But the problem is Stalin tended to have his locations recorded most of the time. If you want to write a scene that takes place in the Ukraine in 1944, chances are Stalin was in Moscow or Eastern Poland. Your story will be criticized for the inaccuracy.

“But I have a secondary villain who is Stalin’s henchmen,” you say.

OK. So why not make the henchmen the true villain? This gives you a lot more flexibility then having an historical character. That antagonist can be places historical figures can’t, and can do things historical figures can’t. Stick with fictional villains.

2. Make your villain symbolic.
What’s really cool about fiction is that you can infuse themes into your story. Do that with your villain. Aimie Runyan did that very well with her fictional priest in Promised to the Crown. A running theme of the book is how men lay multiple and over lapping claims on women’s bodies. Fr. Cloutier, the head priest in Ms. Runyan’s book, is a stand in for the power of the Roman Catholic Church in 17th century Quebec.

Or, what about Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest? She is clearly a stand in for institutional medicine and the power of bureaucracy. A villain who represents what’s wrong with your society helps you develop your theme. Such a villain can also allow you to explore the values of antiquated societies and show them to your reader in a modern light. Either way, it’s a great way to add some spice into your story.

3. Make your villain a reflection of your hero.
There is nothing better than a fun-house mirror version of the protagonist. Maybe they’re the exact opposite. Maybe their very similar to the hero, but just a little off. Great villains should make your hero question themselves, their motives, and their actions. Great villains should humble the hero when she realizes there, but for the Grace of God, go I.

4. Make your villain have cause.
There is a great saying going around about villains. Every villain is the hero of their own story. This is so true! Every villain was once a potential hero, now corrupted. Make your reader understand your villains tragic arc. Of course, the story is about your protagonist, but leave enough room so that your readers can sympathize with your villain, even if they don’t agree with them. Think of the Monster in Frankenstein.

Remember that villains are just as important as heroes are. Sometimes, they’re even more important.


Jason Henry Evans: Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

You can catch up with jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Realistic Diversity in Historical Fiction

Readers, today we hear from Jason Henry Evans’ latest installment on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction. This month, Jason addresses diversity in historical fiction, the what, the why and the how.


It is January of 2018 and having diverse characters is still a big deal in historical fiction. But how do you add diverse characters when the market you write in is pretty, well, white? 

I mean, how much diversity was in the English Regency?  How much diversity was in Ancient Rome? Or Tudor England? How much diversity was in the Highlands of Scotland where my Highland Romance takes place? 

Ah, never fear, gentle reader. Never fear. We will go over this. 

But first, let’s check our privilege at the door and understand what diversity really means. 

What Exactly do we Mean by Diversity?

Diversity is not only about race. 

Diversity is about sex. 

Diversity is about orientation. 

Diversity is about gender.

Diversity is about age. 

Diversity is about ableism. 

Diversity is about thought.

If you are a new writer without a formal education in history, sometimes the world can seem pretty vanilla. Sometimes it can seem segregated, too. But with a little research and a little creativity you can peel that veneer off of the tableau you’re looking at and discover a rich and varied world. 

Also – and let me be blunt – you are writing historical fiction. No one is going to get 3 units transferable to the college of their choice by reading your book. You don’t have to be absolutely historically accurate to write a compelling piece of historical fiction. 

Don’t get me wrong – you do have to get the details right. You gotta know your stuff about horses, crops, firearms and swords. You have to know your way around corsets and fabrics and etiquette and politics. But you do NOT have to be perfect. 

How do We Write Diversity in Our Stories?

So, how do we write diversity into our stories?

Maybe you are writing a romance set in the English Regency. You feel diverse characters would add richness to your story and make it pop. But you can’t bring yourself to make one of the supporting characters from Africa or Asia. That’s OK. What if your character were disabled, in some way? A veteran of the war in the colonies who’s now in a wheel chair? Or, perhaps blind? How many romances have disabled characters?  What about a supporting character who is very old, but wise? Someone who can reminisce about the love of their youth and give good advice to the protagonist. 

Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Occur Natural in Times of Great Exchanges

But if you did want someone to stand out because of their ethnicity and background, please remember, the settings of most of our great pieces of historical fiction have been during times of great exchanges. Many take place in cities or on frontiers where cultures meet, clash and trade. It is there you will find the diversity you seek. 

My first novel takes place in 1590s Ireland, in the Queen’s Army. It is a hotbed of war and culture clash. English Anglicans work alongside Irish and Highland Catholics. There are Italian mercenaries and French smugglers. And the Spanish. Boy, are there lots of Spanish. More importantly, able bodied women who work in and with the Queen’s Army. Sometimes, they fight too. 

Don’t Force Historical Characters to Adopt Unrealistic Modern Attitudes

I’ve said this before, but there have always been gay and transgendered people. Why not have a gay or transgendered character in your novel? It would not feel right to me for my characters to adopt modern attitudes about the gay and transgendered. I think that would be going too far. (Although, open minded people always existed.) But wouldn’t it be a lovely subplot to add to your novel if your protagonist discovered one of their friends were gay and have to wrestle with that knowledge? And, as the book moves forward, your character realizes that their friend is their friend and comes to accept them? I would read that book. 

Ethnic Diversity in Historical Fiction – It Comes Naturally

But maybe you really want ethnically diverse characters in your novel. Ok. Then let’s talk about diversity. 

Any story set during the Columbian Exchange is going to have diversity. Native Americans went to Renaissance Europe. (Many, unfortunately, as slaves.) The French, Spanish, Papal and English courts all had ambassadors from the Ottoman Empire. (Turkey.) Those ambassadors brought staffs of servants and slaves from throughout North Africa, the Mideast, and Persia. 

If your story is set later, say the 18th century, the same thing applies. However, now you can add Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and people from Southeast Asia as potential characters into the mix. The closer to our modern period you get, the more diversity becomes apparent. Mexican miners in 19th century Colorado. Black cowboys and buffalo soldiers. Chinese migrant workers who toiled on the railroad and in San Francisco immigrant communities.  

Is your story set in Medieval Europe? Crusaders sometimes came back to Europe with Armenian and Arab Christian wives and servants. Spain before the Reconquesta was a home for Jewish and Islamic scholars and artist for a millennia. People who came from around the Islamic world. As far south as Timbuktu, and as Far East as Jakarta. That is diversity. 

Remember, adding diversity to your story can be as simple as thinking about outside the box about the culture you’re trying to explore. There have always been diverse characters, we just have to illuminate them. 


Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans

Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer

Read my personal blog at www.jasonhenryevans.com

 

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Book Launch Marketing – What Works and What Doesn’t

Readers, today we have installment number eleven of Jason Henry Evans’ series on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction.  Today he shares book launch marketing, what works and what doesn’t.


OK today we talk about the digital book launch and the things you have to do to make your book financially successful. Now I am going to say some controversial things to say about common ideas about book launch marketing and it might upset you. So this is your trigger warning. 

Things that don’t work

Kirkus Reviews. Among the professional writer community, receiving an excellent Kirkus review is a mark of status. It means you have literary chops. It means you have arrived among your peers as a well thought of writer. 

However . . . 

The vast majority of book readers don’t even know what Kirkus is. They go to Amazon, they look at the section called “Customers who bought this Item also bought . . .”  and the peruse titles like the titles they’ve already bought. 

Look, if you really want a Kirkus review, go get one! But please do not think this is going to help book sales. 

Spamming Private author FB sites or any other sites. Dude. You’re just going to piss people off with this. Stop it. If you’ve been invited into a private fb author group, please know that blasting the same old add about your book is only going to upset people. Besides, why are you trying to sell to other authors? Sell to readers, not authors. 

Book launch parties. Unless your Diana Galbadon or JK Rawlings, planning a book launch party should be a fun event to celebrate you. I have gone to these things to be supportive of other authors. Some will buy $400 in hor d’ourves. I went to one where we got free, premium beer! These parties are great and you should have one. But if you spend $600 bucks on a book launch party, how many books will you have to sell to break even? 

These activities are about you, the writer, celebrating your hard work. You should do them, if you want to. But disabuse yourself of the idea that these things will help you sell books. 

What does work? 

Getting reviews. Many authors use a lovely little tome called The Book Reviewers Yellow Pages by Christine Pinheiro. This book is updated every year. (Currently on edition 8) What I love about this book is it has an extensive list of websites that actually give reviews on new books. If you get twenty to thirty of these websites to read and review your book a couple of wonderful things happen. 

First, your book is now in front of their audience. These are readers from all over the world who now know about your book. They trust these websites and will probably go buy based off of their recommendations. You now have an audience. 

Second, the vast majority of website reviewers will also write a review on Amazon. This is HUGE. Everything I’ve heard from authors is that fifty reviews on Amazon seems to be the magic number. If you can get those from these book review websites, that makes selling your book a lot easier. 

Send out a press release to the sixty or seventy sites you want to review your book about 2-3 months before you launch. Actually read the details in The Book Reviewers Yellow Pages of each website so you know when and how to submit your book copy. (Most take digital copies, a small few only take physical books. Do your research.)

Sign up for Instafreebie. This site is for whale readers. (Readers who will read your entire back catalogue.) If you put up a novella, a long short story, or a chapter or two of your novel on this site, readers will download it and read it. Are you getting sales? No. But you are getting publicity. You can even ask that readers surrender their email address before downloading your piece of historical fiction. This helps with your mailing list, which helps with your sales. 

Write your next book. I was recently at the RMFW conference and I met author independent  David Gaughran. He said something author Susan Spann and others have said before. The biggest marketing tool you have is your next book. Constantly write. Constantly publish. The world is changing and there are readers out there who won’t even consider your book unless you have two sequels out. They want to get to know characters over the long haul. 

Writing multiple books, regardless of the genre, will capture your reader and get them to buy more!  

 


Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans

Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer

Read my personal blog at www.jasonhenryevans.com

 

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From Art to Can of Soup – Marketing Your Book

Readers, today we have installment number ten on Jason Henry Evans’ series on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction.  Today he shares marketing tips.


Wow. Ten months ago I said I wanted to do a series of basic how-to’s for historical fiction. While this was originally conceived as an eight part series, it has grown to ten – yes ten blogs – on how to write and publish your historical fiction.

Over this year we have covered:

  • Story ideas
  • Historical research
  • Story planning
  • Character arcs
  • Publishing goals
  • Writing strategies
  • And a bunch of other stuff.

So now what are we going to talk about? Cover art? How to handle your millions in royalties? Managing the paparazzi in three easy steps? Make-up techniques for television?

Nope. None of that. There is one area we have not covered. It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

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