Characters in Motion with Alan Bray

“How is your character influenced by their setting?”

by Alan Bray

The Hour of Parade

When I wrote The Hour of Parade, I wanted a story with interesting characters who were also living two hundred years ago—an historical setting. I had to decide whether these characters were or were not different from people alive now, and if they were different, in what way, and how much of it should be shown.

Since I’m not a historian and have no time machine—except arguably by flying across time zones—I had to rely on historical records and fiction from the time for answers. There are many wonderful memoirs from the period, in English and translated, and a huge amount of fiction. I read things slightly before the time, like Julie, and I also read books written several decades later, on the theory that fiction writers tend to write about things several decades in the past and not the present. It’s hard to see the absolute present clearly.

And memoir. Of course, you have to figure that people writing about their lives tend to show things in a good light.

I decided that people are largely the same creatures, but there were particular things that were different and should influence my characters.

In early nineteenth century Europe and America, people were presented with ideas that came to be called Romanticism, ideas that were expressed in literature, music, theater, and politics, and that seemed exciting and new. They emphasized individual experience and valued emotion over eighteenth century rationalism and materialism. Impulsive, heart-felt action was admired. So were intense walks in nature, storms and encounters with ghosts.

Napoleon was an archetype of Romanticism, a hero who seized control of his own destiny by defying conventions about class. He was an inspiration to many who hoped to escape the rigid class boundaries of the eighteenth century. The writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had died by 1800, remained wildly popular, especially the novel Julie that is at the heart of Hour. Julie idealizes passion, love, and friendship.

So, in writing Hour, I wanted to have the characters and story express Romanticism against the background of the Enlightenment.

Like I said, it’s hard to see clearly the ideas that influence our time. Maybe one is that technology can solve any problem. Maybe we tend to value rationality over emotional expression. If you had a character in a story set in 1800 who thought emotion was bad and that technology could solve any problems—a sort of very chill Mr. Spock—it wouldn’t be wrong, just unusual, and that unusual quality would have to be accounted for somehow, I think.

In Hour, I tried to show the characters expressing Romantic ideas—more or less. Marianne, for example, is very practical. I don’t see her valuing emotion and love much at all. But she’s not expressing Enlightenment ideas either, she’s just pre-occupied with survival. Valsin, with his internal wrestling over love vs. career, is very Romantically self-focused, as he is in his valuing friendship with Alexi.

Anne-Marie is also a practical person because she has to be, but she expresses Romantic ideas about the importance of passion and emotion in making decisions. Instead of accepting what fate brings her, she seizes control of her destiny—not always, of course, with the best of results.

Alexi is meant to be Mr. Romantic. He defies convention and his father to focus on himself. Another way to say it is that he’s a character who came out of the Enlightenment and embraced Romanticism with both hands. He’s ready to change his career, the military, because it no longer allows him the room to express who he is. (that’s a pretty modern idea). He likes to go for long walks that allow plenty of time to brood. He values his thoughts and feelings, and he values love and passion. He blurs boundaries in several ways because emotion is more important, that is, he befriends Valsin, his enemy, and he loves Marianne and Anne-Marie, who are both from different classes and countries.

Of course, there were other more concrete differences between now and then. A less developed technology meant that, with poor lighting and a lack of media, there wasn’t much to do. Many men and women at that time worked like dogs and collapsed at night from exhaustion, but the characters in The Hour of Parade were more privileged and didn’t have a lot to do moment to moment. Alexi can’t stay in his rooms all day—although he expects his mistress to—he has to get out and walk. After the event of military parade, Valsin and the other soldiers are free to do whatever they can afford. The significance of the title—The Hour of Parade—is that important things occurred during this time when others were occupied. Boredom and how it’s handled is always a significant issue for humans.

Alan BRAY

I was born in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of a sales representative for a railroad and a schoolteacher. I grew up reading books, which at that time, meant adult books, as the availability of children’s books was limited. I read a lot of things I didn’t understand, but it helped me to grow and gave me a love for literature, for the power of imaginary worlds so much like real life but with something extra.

I didn’t start writing fiction till I was in my forties. I had just moved to rural New Hampshire, my father had recently died; in short, I was ready for something new. I’m fortunate to be able to devote a lot of time to writing and to reading which I think is equally important.

I like to write about people going through a transition because of something that happens to them, something that resonates with memory and their past.

I’ve worked as a professional musician, record store clerk, psychotherapist and factory worker. I have a son and a daughter, and a wonderful wife.

To me, writing is a positive and intense pre-occupation.

Website

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

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Guest post with Author Peni Jo Renner

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They slogged up Gallows Hill, forming a somber and silent queue as they took their places beneath the shade of the great oak tree. Dounton and his men lashed the two ladders together while the spectators assembled at the base of the hill. The hem of Rebecca’s mud-coated shift clung to her legs. Even without the chains, her feet felt as though they were leaden. These are my very last footfalls, she thought glumly. Ascending this cursed hill. Lord, let not my last thoughts be those of hatred and vengeance. The militia assembled, sticks poised above their snare drums as Ned dropped the ropes into a careless heap at the base of the tree. Then he clambered up the ladder and straddled the sturdy limb. Reverend Noyes again officiated, his voice resonating in the crisp autumn air. He invoked the name of God and then signaled the waiting militia to begin the execution call.

Martha Corey stepped forward with as much dignity as possible. She mumbled prayers as Dounton, puffing casually on his pipe, secured her arms and legs. Flinging her over his shoulder, he ascended the ladder and placed the noose around her neck. As she stood upon the wrung and Noyes asked for last words, she locked eyes with Rebecca. “God be with you, Martha Corey!” Rebecca cried, and Martha smiled sadly. The condemned woman proclaimed her innocence a last time before she was turned off the ladder.

So goes one of the darker scenes in Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, my debut novel! Not only is it my first published book, but it is a true labor of love. Rebecca Blake Eames, my ninth great-grandmother, was one of over 140 people accused and imprisoned during the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. We are fortunate that several documents of the times survived 2 fires and are still in existence. But unless one happens across Rebecca Eames in a genealogy search, her name is not as well-known as some involved during that horrific episode in American history.

It was during a genealogical search that I myself stumbled upon Rebecca and her story. Through www.Ancestry.com, I got in contact with a third cousin. We began emailing and immediately became close. She was the one to tell me about Rebecca Eames’ involvement with the Salem Witch Trials, a subject that always intrigued me. I told my cousin how I “used to write,” and I said, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore; that would make a great novel!”
“So write one,” she said (or words to that effect.) And just like that, my love of writing, which had been dormant for nearly 25 years, was reawakened!

Puritan Witch has gotten several good reviews on www.amazon.com, www.bn.com and www.goodreads.com. I wrote it for those of us who have a rather short attention span; its 242 pages, less than 60,000 words and can be read in an afternoon. I’m really hoping others discover Puritan Witch and I hope they enjoy it. Like I said before, it was a labor of love to write, and a tribute to a beloved ancestress whose real-life ordeal was more horrific than I can ever imagine.

About Author:

03_Peni Jo Renner

Peni Renner is the author of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames”, an award-winning historical novel based on the true-life account of Peni’s 9th great grandmother. The book is Renner’s first published work, and follows Eames’ life and struggles in 1692 Massachusetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Writing historical fiction has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I was discouraged for many years after receiving multiple rejection slips, and turned to other creative outlets like crocheting, quilting and cross-stitch for many years. Then I met a 3rd cousin of mine online who is also into genealogy and history. She told me we shared a common ancestor who was involved in the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, and her story had never been told. My love of writing was rekindled and I began to research this ancestor, Rebecca Blake Eames. In August of 2012 I had the privilege of visiting her grave in Boxford, Massachusetts.

After months and months of research, writing, rewriting and revising, Puritan Witch came into being, featuring a lovely sketch done by my sister-in-law, Jane Sisk.

I have several other story ideas I am working on at the moment, all pertaining to interesting ancestors my 3rd cousin has introduced me to.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Facebook Page. You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

Virtual Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 28 Book Blast at Broken Teepee Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Tuesday, April 29 Book Blast at The Lit Bitch Book Blast at A Book Geek Book Blast at The Musings of ALMYBNENR Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Wednesday, April 30 Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover

Thursday, May 1 Book Blast at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, May 2 Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Saturday, May 3 Book Blast at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Sunday, May 4 Book Blast at I’d Rather Be Reading

Monday, May 5 Book Blast at Kincavel Korner

Tuesday, May 6 Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, May 7 Review at Books in the Burbs Book Blast at Kelsey’s Book Corner

Thursday, May 8 Book Blast at Curling Up with a Good Book

Friday, May 9 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Book Blast at Carpe Librum

Monday, May 12 Interview at Flashlight Commentary Book Blast at West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, May 13 Review & Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 14 Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, May 15 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Review at Impressions in Ink

Friday, May 16 Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, May 19 Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, May 20 Review at 100 Pages a Day Book Blast at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 21 Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 22 Guest Post at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Friday, May 23 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer Book Blast at Reviews by Molly

Saturday, May 24 Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, May 26 Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, May 27 Review at WTF Are You Reading? Guest Post at Layered Pages

Wednesday, May 28 Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, May 30 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, June 2 Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

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Guest Post with Author R.L. Syme

02_The Runaway Highlander

I would like to welcome, R.L. Syme to Layered Pages today. Author of the The Highland Renegades Series.

When I first conceived of The Runaway Highlander, I had one basic plot point. I knew that two minor characters escaped from the dungeon at Berwick. I knew that there was someone there to help them, but I didn’t know who that someone was yet. Then, I started writing character sheets and the connection between Anne de Cheyne became clear.

The de Cheyne family are a real historical family who really did have power in the Caithness region of the Highlands during this time period. There were some discussions in my research about fealty to England being the deciding factor for some of these lorships, and given that the Sinclair family already had ties to the historical de Cheyne family, I decided to flesh them out and meet them.

Anne de Cheyne was born out of the knowledge that, in The Outcast Highlander, Broccin Sinclair was engaged to Anne for most of his childhood. It made sense that, when she found out he was in Berwick and she was about to be sold into marriage, she would consider helping Broc escape from prison in exchange for his helping her escape from her bad marriage contract.

The research for this book was partly done when I researched the first book, because their timelines overlap and I wanted to stay true to the real events (big events) that were happening during the wars of Scottish independence taking place at the time. For the first book, I spent about six months buried in books and maps and library catalogs. So much fun. For this book, I reprised some of that research, but did a lot of locational searching.

I’d discovered the “Street View” version of Google Maps, so once I figured out exactly where these things were set, I used the street view to look at the surrounding areas in order to get a sense for the setting. That was a lot of fun. But lots of work. It’s amazing how much time it takes to go even just a mile or two in that kind of street view.

This particular genre, Scottish romance, requires a good amount of detail, so the discovery of Google Street View was really a fantastic one for me. However, this Fall, I’m going to be making my first research trip to Scotland and I’m absolutely ecstatic. I feel like the more authentic details (things like smells and touches) can really only be known if you’ve physically been in the space.

Of course, that provides a huge challenge to write well in this genre, because I haven’t been to Scotland yet. But I’ve done so much research and have been reading Scottish historical romances since I was a kid. So I definitely love the genre.

My favorite part of writing Scottish historical romance is actually the community of writers I belong to who all write Celtic romance. In the national Romance Writers of America organization, we have created a little home called Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, where we all love Celtic romance of all kinds. I’ve been the President over at CHRW for almost three years now, and on the Board for five. I adore Celtic Hearts and I’m so happy to get to have research conversations with my favorite Celtic authors, and hear about their work process and take workshops from them. It’s so rewarding.

The Highland Renegades Series

Book One: The Outcast Highlander Book Two: The Runaway Highlander Book Three: The Pirate Highlander — Coming Soon!

Buy the Book

Amazon UK Amazon US Barnes & Noble CreateSpace

About the Author

03_Becca Syme

R.L. Syme works at a youth theatre, teaching kids performing arts and musical performance classes/camps when she’s not writing. Otherwise, she’s putting her Seminary degree to good use writing romance novels. Let not all those systematic theology classes go to waste…

For more information please visit R.L. Syme’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 14 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 15 Review at Bibliotica

Monday, May 19 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, May 20 Review at A Bookish Girl (The Outcast Highlander)

Wednesday, May 21 Review at A Bookish Girl (The Runaway Highlander)

Thursday, May 22 Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Girl

Friday, May 23 Guest Post at Layered Pages

Monday, May 26 Review at My Not So Vacant Bookshelf

Tuesday, May 27 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 29 Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, May 30 Review at Lily Pond Reads Review at From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 2 Review at The Mad Reviewer Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, June 3 Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, June 4 Interview at The Most Happy Reader

Thursday, June 5 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Friday, June 6 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Monday, June 9 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, June 11 Review at Fic Central

Thursday, June 12 Review at Reviews by Molly Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, June 13 Review & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read

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