Friday, June 30, 2017

Imagining the Past Podcast Series: Sulari Gentill and Robert Gott




HNSA is proud to announce the release of the next podcast in our series 'Imagining the Past'. This week we bring you Sulari Gentill and Robert Gott chatting with our host, Kelly Gardiner about their fictional detectives and the challenges of co-writing an historical mystery play. The podcast is a taste of what you will hear at the 2017 HNSA Conference in Melbourne from 8-10 September at Swinburne University Hawthorn. More information about the programme is available at our website.



 A reformed lawyer, Sulari Gentill is the author of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, seven historical crime novels (thus far) chronicling the life and adventures of her 1930s Australian gentleman artist, and the Hero Trilogy, based on the myths and epics of the ancient world. She lives with her husband, Michael, and their boys, Edmund and Atticus, on a small farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, where she grows French Black Truffles and works in her pyjamas.

Sulari has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – Best First Book, won the 2012 Davitt Award for Crime Fiction, been shortlisted in 2013, 2015 and the 2016 Davitt Award, the 2015 Ned Kelly Award, the 2015 and 2016 Australian Book Industry Award for Best Adult Book, the NSW Genre Fiction Award, commended in the FAW Jim Hamilton Award and offered a Varuna Fellowship. In 2014, Sulari collaborated with National Gallery of Victoria to write a short historical fiction which was produced in audio to feature in the Fashion Detective Exhibition, and thereafter published by the NGV. She was an Ambassador of 2015 Emerging Writers’ Festival and the inaugural Eminent Writer in Residence at the Museum of Australian Democracy. She remains in love with art of writing. Find out more about Sulari at Pantera Press and at her website.

Robert Gott was born in the small Queensland town of Maryborough in 1957, and lives in Melbourne. He has published many books for children, and is also the creator of the newspaper cartoon The Adventures of Naked Man. He is also the author of The Holiday Murders and The Port Fairy Murders. This novel is the fourth in the William Power series of crime-caper novels set in 1940s Australia, following Good Murder, A Thing of Blood, and Amongst the Dead. You can find more information about Robert's books at Penguin Books.

Sulari and Robert will be appearing at the HNSA Conference on Sunday 10 September in Session Two at 10 - 11 am in the following panel:

Historical Whodunits: Solving Clues across the Centuries

Historical mysteries are hugely popular. Why are readers attracted to the addition of history to murder and mayhem? What challenges do writers encounter when creating detectives who lack modern crime kits? Kelly Gardiner asks Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Meg Keneally and Gary Corby what ingredients they use to keep their readers guessing to the very last page.

Sulari is also conducting a super session 'The Mystery in History:  A Crime Fiction Workshop for Aspiring Authors' in which she'll take you through the basics and nuances of crime-fiction and the art of making history more than just picturesque backdrop. More information on our website.
And we're delighted that Robert will be our guest speaker at the conference dinner on Saturday 9 September at Glenferrie Hotel.

Sulari's new book, Crossing the Lines, is now available for pre-order. For more information, visit Pantera Press, iTunes, Amazon and Kobo.



When Madeleine d'Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who'd never lower himself to read the story in which he stars amuses her.

When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d'Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled.

As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other's story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

This is a story about two people trying to hold onto each other beyond reality.

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.


Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Our Imagining the Past Host:


Kelly Gardiner’s most recent book is 1917 (published early in 2017), a novel for young readers set during the First World War. Her previous books include Goddess, based on the remarkable life of the seventeenth century French swordswoman and opera singer, Julie d’Aubigny. Kelly’s historical novels for young adults include The Sultan’s Eyes and Act of Faith, set during the time of the English Civil Wars and the Inquisition. Both books were shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Her books for younger readers are the ‘Swashbuckler’ adventure trilogy – Ocean Without EndThe Pirate’s Revenge and The Silver Swan – set in Malta during the Napoleonic invasion, and a picture book, Billabong Bill’s Bushfire Christmas. Kelly has worked on newspapers, magazines and websites, and her articles, poems, book reviews and travel writing have appeared in journals, magazines and newspapers as diverse as ‘The New York Times’, ‘Marie Claire’, ‘New Idea’, and ‘Going Down Swinging’. She works at the State Library of Victoria and teaches creative writing at La Trobe University. Kelly is also the co-host of Unladylike, a podcast on women and writing. Learn more about Kelly at her website. https://kellygardiner.com/

Monday, June 26, 2017

Interview with Justin Sheedy



Our guest today is Justin Sheedy who is the author of five books and whether they be don’t-read-on-the-bus-hilarious or cry-in-every-chapter-heroic, he is passionate to share OUR Australian stories. His Australian World War II historical fiction trilogy began with Nor the Years Condemn (2011) followed by Ghosts of the Empire (2013) and now concludes with his latest release, No Greater Love. Sheedy’s saga brings to vivid life a stunning true story in our ANZAC tradition yet one which until now remained untold in Australian historical fiction: the story of how our nation’s best-and-brightest youth volunteered for the most dangerous job of World War II, crossing the planet to become the pilots and aircrew who flew against the might of Nazi tyranny. Given the ‘best-and-brightest’ fact upon which his saga is based, Sheedy hopes his readers will fall in love with his characters, their ensuing loss ramming home for the reader the anti-war message that he intends.

He lives in Sydney where he enjoys connecting with his readers at his regular book signings, via his Facebook, Twitter and blog at Crackernight.com.


What is the inspiration for your current book?

Imagine a man who, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman physically and mentally, beloved by his family due to his sparkling intelligence and personality. Though he volunteered to leave his family and cross the planet to fight the worst evil imaginable. This he did in the most exciting way possible and he won, living to his 90s only to be surrounded by the ghosts of all his friends from the fight who remain forever 21. Imagine his story is true and there were 37 000 young men just like him. Who once lived just down the street from where you live right now. THOSE once young Australians are my inspiration.


Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

In my latest, No Greater Love, an exploration of whether Australia’s history is one of perpetually fighting other people’s wars due to our national selflessness or national lack of self.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
World War Two because, as subject matter for historical fiction, it’s the greatest drama ever. There is no more exciting, heroic, tragic, horrific, good versus evil dramatic story for a writer to bring alive. It’s also when, more than any other time in our Australian history, we showed the world how to win wars.

What resources do you use to research your book?

Veteran interviews, historical fiction & non-fiction, documentaries, family-loaned personal diaries, the internet (often beginning with Wikipedia as a “research road-map” for more detailed research), online correspondence with historical societies and local councils internationally.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
Authenticity.  My goal & reward is to have my readers thoroughly yet instantly immersed in the history I cover though they may have no prior knowledge or prior interest in it. To immerse them like this I must present the history to them in an accessible way. Though of course I intend forensic-standard accuracy, I find some writers lose their readers with accuracy for its own sake. In a nutshell, if you tell all the facts, you’ll never finish the story, let alone keep your reader happily time-travelling.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

My main character, Colin Stone.  “Stoney” to all.  A classic ‘rough diamond’ character, the boy from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ (the mean streets of Great Depression era St. Kilda). He is the abandoned child who becomes the greatest fighter pilot of them all, the soul from the gutter who rises to the top from where he sees a world only worth leaving.  Since creating him, “Stoney” has become real for me and I love him; he’s the underdog, the unselfish hero, the classic Aussie warrior who (based in historical fact) wins war because of the unconventional way he fights it, who lacks respect for Authority because Authority gets young men killed.


Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

A fusion of both.  I think a superb “structure” for any narrative is one of the most rewarding things for the reader and something I strive for by plotting. Yet at my every stage of writing every book I find myself with NO idea what I’ll be writing tomorrow. But this happens SO often that I force myself to say: “You always find it. Have a little faith in yourself.” Re how long it takes me to write a book, from my first, a 365-pager in 4 years, to my fifth, same length in 18 months, seems each time I have to re-invent the wheel a bit less.

Which authors have influenced you?

In terms of my Australian World War Two historical trilogy, I would nominate Ken Follett for his gripping WWII fictions, our Kate Grenville for her emotive Australian historical fictions, and Roald Dahl for the way he evokes his own war experiences as if with the involuntary perfection of a child’s eye.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Write what thrills YOU. If you write it well, it will thrill others. To write it well, re-write it until it’s the book it DESERVES to be. (That’s one third Paul Hogan, one third me, one third Peter Carey, and the rest is just good luck.)

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

Currently polishing a novella to be part of a free ebook “bundle” with other authors as promotional tool for our currently published works. Title of my novella: Other People’s Wars.


To abandoned child, Colin Stone, World War Two grants an escape from the mean streets of St. Kilda. A natural warrior, his talents qualify him to join an elite group of young men. The shining ones. Who fly Spitfires against Nazi tyranny. Rising with them, from the top Colin Stone looks down on a world that has doomed his first true friends.

Bringing to vivid life true Australian war history and events, "No Greater Love" is a saga in the classic mold, featuring the drama, beauty, heroism and horror of one young man's war journey through stunning Malta, Egypt and North Africa, Sicily, England and Europe. It is a portrait of the once-in-a-lifetime characters the war places on his path, of the tragic, wholesale waste of war, on occasion even the profound humanity of his enemy, and of his evolving perception of his world for what it is.

Though standing on its own as a ripping and also highly emotional read, "No Greater Love" is the third and final chapter of Justin Sheedy's now widely and warmly cherished World War Two novel trilogy begun with "Nor the Years Condemn" and "Ghosts of the Empire". Continuing and now concluding their portrait of shining young men destined never to grow old, No Greater Love is the full and rich story of Part 1's reader-favourite character, Aussie rough diamond Colin Stone ('Stoney'). It is the story of his war, of his loyalty and devotion to his friends, of his enduring love for the mother who abandoned him, and his dreams of being held by her once again.

Many thanks Justin for sharing your passion for world war history with us.

You can purchase Justin's books at the following links:

Nor the Years Condemn DYMOCKSAMAZON

Ghosts of the Empire DYMOCKSAMAZON

No Greater Love DYMOCKSAMAZON

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Justin Sheedy will be appearing on Sunday 10 September at in the following panel:

Worlds at War: The Appeal of 20th Century Historical Fiction

The history of the early to mid-20th century now falls within the definition of ‘historical fiction’. Why do novels depicting the great conflicts of modern times hold such fascination? And has war fiction replaced Tudor fiction as ‘the favourite flavour’ for readers and publishers? Julian Novitz discusses these questions with Paddy Richardson, Elise McCune, Justin Sheedy and Julian Leatherdale.



Justin Sheedy is also appearing in our Sydney HNSA Meet the Author event on 26 July 6.00 -8.00 pm at Gordon Branch of the Ku-ring-gai Library with Winton Higgins, Kim Kelly, Michelle Morgan and Elisabeth Storrs (Chair). Bookings essential. More details can be found on the HNSA website.

HNSA 2017 is a celebration of the historical fiction genre which will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Walking Sydney: History Brought to Life


Our guest today on the HNSA blog is Danielle Castles, one of our fantastic sponsors. She is the owner of Walking Sydney, a tour company with a difference. The ‘Bloke and the Larrikin’ tour involves actors guiding visitors through the rough, colourful and riotous history of Sydney’s Hungry Mile and the Rocks. Danielle’s inspiration for her business is a story in itself. Here it is:

I attended the very first HNSA conference in Sydney 2015 and loved it! I never dreamt I would be a position to contribute as a sponsor in 2017. The conference is an exciting opportunity to discuss what inspires us. We can tell stories in so many ways. My business Walking Sydney takes people on historical walking tours that include performances along the way. At the heart of the stories I tell is a desire to get people wondering about how the past connects to the present and to feel part of a greater whole.

Walking Sydney came into being through a couple of seemingly unrelated events. For a couple of years I’d been regularly making a list of what brought me joy and then one day I compared the lists and circled what was common to them all: writing, walking, history and travel. Et voila! That’s when Walking Sydney was conceived, but only in part.  The inclusion of drama goes back a decade.


I am well-travelled and have mostly travelled independently exploring many places on a whim. I always read a novel and a history book about the country I was visiting. Yet I always felt a powerful yearning to know more. My imagination would binge on a place: I would sit in a village square or lookout trying to absorb a place at a cellular level. It was truly nourishing yet at times quite frustrating. Point and look was simply never enough for me.  

In 2006 I was exploring the Silk Road through Central Asia and read in a guide book about the Juma Mosque in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The paragraph described the history of the mosque in detail and how it was a mechanics station during the Soviet era. There was one throwaway line, barely a footnote, about how for centuries women were stoned to death there. I felt incredible sorrow. I was angered that cars warranted more lines than the lives of women. All those lives so brutally taken, it was inconceivable to me. So I went there. Driven by an insatiable curiosity and a desire to somehow know them. It was one of the most powerful experiences I have had. In the courtyard of the mosque I became overwhelmed by grief and experienced spirit of place like never before.

Spirit of place has remained the single most powerful source of inspiration for me. When I began to plot out my first walk for Walking Sydney I was sitting outside the old Gas Works along the Hungry Mile and was once again powerfully swept away by spirit of place. And so ‘The Bloke’ was born and the full concept of Walking Sydney came to life.

Writing the stories and scripts for Walking Sydney is twofold: research and creative endeavour. Although the two often blur into one process. There is an incredible thrill when a lead becomes a thread I can weave into my stories. I follow all kinds of leads: newspaper articles of the time are a particularly fabulous source as they cover everything from politics, society, culture, economy, leisure and technology. And from there you never know where you’ll end up. If you write Australian historical fiction then you can’t go past Trove: digitised newspapers and more.

The most invaluable resources I have come across however are librarians, curators and historians. They are sitting on a literal treasure trove of information and seem to love the challenge, or dare I say, the invitation, to locate a helpful story, artefact or snippet of seemingly trivial information! I am grateful for their expertise and helpfulness.  You’d be surprised who will help when you simply ask. I’m currently working on a second tour for Walking Sydney: Queens Cross: wild women of Sydney. They are not who you might expect them to be!

Of course the extra bonus for me is that I see my characters brought to life. It is the most extraordinary and gratifying experience to see your written words evolve and grow into a living breathing emotional psychologically complex being. My actors, Matt Costin and Luke Thornley have proved to be wonderful collaborators. In the process I inadvertently became director and producer as well as storyteller and writer of historical fiction. I’m also currently completing my first historical novel which is set against the backdrop of the Federation Drought at the turn of the 20th Century.

A lot can happen in a couple of years!  I’m very honoured to sponsor the HNSA 2017 Conference. How does it get better than spreading the joy of reading and writing historical fiction? Oh and by the way, when next you’re in Sydney come along with Walking Sydney as we part the veil of time and relive the dramas of the 1870s and 1930s. Look for the special promotional code amongst your conference goodies.



You can connect with Danielle and Walking Sydney via her Website, Instagram and Facebook.

HNSA is incredibly grateful for the support of all our sponsors who are helping to make HNSA 2017 even better than our inaugural conference in Sydney in 2015. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, please visit our website.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Imagining the Past Podcast Series: Sophie Masson




HNSA is proud to announce the release of our 'Imagining the Past' podcast series which is a foretaste of the novelists you'll hear at the 2017 HNSA Conference in Melbourne from 8-10 September at Swinburne University, Hawthorn. This week we bring you our 2017 Conference Patron, Sophie Masson, chatting with our host, Kelly Gardiner. More information about the programme is available at our website. 



Sophie Masson was born in Indonesia of French parents and brought up in France and Australia, Sophie Masson is the award-winning and internationally-published author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults. Her historical novel for children, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, won the Patricia Wrightson Prize in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards in 2011, while her alternative history novel for young adults, The Hand of Glory, won an Aurealis Award and her historical fantasy trilogy, Forest of Dreams, has been translated into several languages. Sophie's newest novel is Jack of Spades, a historical spy novel for young adults, coming out with Eagle Books in 2017. Sophie is also co-founder and director of small-press publishing house, Christmas Press, and serves on the Boards of the Australian Society of Authors, the Small Press Network and the New England Writers' Centre.You can connect with Sophie via her websiteblogFacebook or Twitter.


May 1910…

Linda’s father is missing in Paris, and her only clue is the Jack of Spades card that was sent to their home in London. In the family code, ‘Jack of Spades’ means danger. But it is not her father’s handwriting on the envelope!

Setting out to look for him, Linda is soon whirled into a frightening world where nothing is as it seems. Who are the people following her? What was her father really doing in Paris? Who can she really trust? As she works against time to try and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance with the help of some new friends, Linda begins to realise that she has stumbled into a dark and dangerous conspiracy which threatens the future of the whole world…

Our Imagining the Past Host:


Kelly Gardiner’s most recent book is 1917 (published early in 2017), a novel for young readers set during the First World War. Her previous books include Goddess, based on the remarkable life of the seventeenth century French swordswoman and opera singer, Julie d’Aubigny. Kelly’s historical novels for young adults include The Sultan’s Eyes and Act of Faith, set during the time of the English Civil Wars and the Inquisition. Both books were shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Her books for younger readers are the ‘Swashbuckler’ adventure trilogy – Ocean Without EndThe Pirate’s Revenge and The Silver Swan – set in Malta during the Napoleonic invasion, and a picture book, Billabong Bill’s Bushfire Christmas. Kelly has worked on newspapers, magazines and websites, and her articles, poems, book reviews and travel writing have appeared in journals, magazines and newspapers as diverse as ‘The New York Times’, ‘Marie Claire’, ‘New Idea’, and ‘Going Down Swinging’. She works at the State Library of Victoria and teaches creative writing at La Trobe University. Kelly is also the co-host of Unladylike, a podcast on women and writing. Learn more about Kelly at her website. https://kellygardiner.com/

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Sophie will be appearing at HNSA 2017 our Personal History session on Sunday 10 September at 11.30 -12.30 in conversation with Lucy Treloar and Jackie Ballantyne.

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!





Thursday, June 15, 2017

Interview with Paul Hansen and Linda Weste


A treat today for lovers of Ancient Roman and Greek history, myths and legends, as well as politics, murder and intrigue.

Linda Weste is an author, reviewer, editor, and teacher. Her recent historical verse novel set in late Republican Rome, Nothing Sacred, won the 2016 Wesley Michel Wright Prize, and was highly commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers 2015 Anne Elder Award. Weste reviews for online journals including Mascara Literary Review and Cordite Poetry Review, teaches creative writing, and is Reviews Editor of TEXT. She has a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Writing) from the University of Melbourne.

Paul Hansen has worked in law enforcement for 23 years and is currently the Director for a criminal investigation unit. One of his most interesting jobs was as head of international family law in the Federal Attorney-General’s Department, where he ran the Australian Central Authority for International Child Abduction and  twice represented Australia as head of delegation in The Hague. Paul also loves writing stories –not just the standard stuff.  he love the small bits that you don’t normally find until you dig deep. For him classical literature, and ancient writers like Herodotus, Hesiod, Homer, and others, are great examples of this. Paul’s‘Last War of Gods and Men’ series – put all the myths and legends into a single tale – a tapestry – that shows how everything was interwoven in a way that is easy for the modern reader to digest, without having to spend years studying the classics in a University. You can connect with Paul via his website, Facebook and Twitter.

What is the inspiration for your current book?


Linda: The historical fault line between the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Imperium during the first century BCE has long fascinated writers. I became fascinated with this period after discovering a footnote about Clodia Metelli in a book of Catullan poetry. A German scholar had mapped Clodia onto Catullus's 'Lesbia' in 1862. Clodia and her brother Clodius Pulcher were born into the Claudii Pulchri, one of only twenty families who guided senatorial policy, commanded the armies and governed the provinces in late Republican Rome. The impression of Clodia and Clodius as firebrands – determined to live by their own rules – inspired me to imaginatively bring to life the vagaries of the period through their eyes and exploits in my current book, Nothing Sacred.

Paul: Sword of Olympus is the first book in a five book series based on ancient writings and fragments dating back to the 7th Century BCE.  It details the civil war and split between the Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus, a split which was reflected in the mortal realm in a war between the many cities and tribes of ancient Greece – and eventually culminated in the war with Troy.  It is the thrill of placing these myths and legends all together into a single coherent tapestry which inspires me – and rediscovering small pieces of information and knowledge that we have lost over time.

Bits like Helen of Troy was actually never at Troy.  The warrior Achilles and the Priam of Troy were not their real names – but derogatory references or nicknames.  How did Agamemnon become king of Mycenae – when his family wasn’t originally in control of the city, and as a child he was a fosterling without a kingdom?  Where was the most important family of ancient times during the war with Troy – the Hellenes, after whom the Greeks (and the modern country of Greece) take their name?


Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?


Linda: As a novel in verse, Nothing Sacred offers a fresh way of knowing late Republican Rome through the medium of poetry. It also differentiates its representation of late Republican Rome from other historical novels set in this time, by not being solely about the triumvirate leadership of Crassus, Caesar and Pompey. The theme I'm most interested in is transgression – which is closely linked with desire, hence the book's frequent use of sexual metaphors – metaphors that have been with us since antiquity.

Paul: I wanted to tell the story of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece, but in a way that the ancients themselves would have understood.  To them myth and wasn’t just a bunch of individual stories – it was history!  There was even a profession in the ancient world that set the myths and legends into a historical frame – mythographer.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?


Linda: Antiquity – but while I'm interested in what existing representations of history tell me, I'm more interested in what they don't tell me; the facts that aren't readily accessible are what I'm most curious to learn.

This curiosity shapes my view that historical fictions can fill the gap between the pasts we are permitted to know and those we wish to know.

Paul: I am interested in all history – but in particular areas that converge with myth and legend, which after all is only history that we’ve forgotten or remembered slightly differently.

What resources do you use to research your book? 


Linda: For Nothing Sacred I undertook extensive research: Catullan poetry; Latin and Greek etymology; numismatics; naming conventions; architecture and monuments; political speeches; ancient place names and geographical boundaries; agricultural methods and food preparation; festivals and artefacts; gender and sexuality; mythology and religion; slavery; gladiatorial combat; and use of animals for pleasure and show.

The many resources included digital material for the study of girls and women in antiquity, classical libraries, museum archives, a corpus of Latin inscriptions and a topographical dictionary of Ancient Rome.

Paul: I try to track down as many original sources as possible – which with Greek myth is a mix of translated ancient texts, fragments, and archaeology.

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?


Linda: I had to decide which approach – historicism or presentism – would be best for my representation of late Republican Rome in Nothing Sacred.  If I chose an historicist approach – to honour historical actuality, authenticity and factuality – I could risk making my representation of the times inflexible, unresponsive to fiction's needs. If I chose a presentist approach – imposing present-day attitudes on the past could stifle the 'otherness' of antiquity.

I faced the decision anew with each poem. In 'Gargantuan' for example, I recount – in the voice of the character, Cicero – the killing of twenty elephants (an actuality). To do so, I had to think about this death as a Roman of the times might (authenticity). But to engage today's readers – who would likely view the killing with revulsion – and draw attention to the significance of the incident for the times, I aestheticised the scene, and made the language as beautiful and beguiling as I could.

Paul: I try for both.  There is usually a way to turn the facts to fit the story you want to tell – but you also have to be willing to let the facts guide the story, and take you in directions you might not have originally anticipated.  For me that is the absolute joy of writing historical fiction.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?


Linda: Definately the siblings Clodius Pulcher and Clodia Metelli – their audacity is fascinating.  

Paul: Dorus – king of the Hellenes.  He is a complex character and one that is almost completely forgotten in the modern myths, but he was the founder of one of the three branches of ancient Hellenism – the Dorians.  He finds himself out of his depth, trying to live up to the memory of his father, the warrior king Hellen (after whom the Hellenes are named) and having to deal with the fact that his nephew Macedon (after whom the Macedonians are named) has turned out to the a son of Zeus.  Writing his internal struggle was enjoyable.

The other character I really like is the Oracle Dodona – she’s a mysterious and unknown factor, and is clearly reading from a different papyrus scroll than everyone else.  What else would you expect from an Oracle?

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?


Linda: I'm a plotter definitely. This book took several years to research and write.

Paul: It generally takes me about a year to write – but a large part of that is research.  My books are also quite large – around 150K words each.

Which authors have influenced you?


Linda: For this work I was probably influenced most by Robert Graves – his first rule of historical fiction is not to use your research, or at any rate to use only a tenth of it.  Graves warns against ‘the temptation to stick in facts just because you’ve discovered them’. In the best historical fiction, the reader can sense the presence of the research that isn’t being used, out there in the shadows… the novelist’s function according to Graves, is to take the research and convey impressions – to go beyond the bare facts.

Paul: Sara Douglass; David Gemmell; Valerio Manfredi; Rick Riordan

What advice would you give an aspiring author?


Linda: Research as much as possible and have a good reason for whatever choices you make.

Paul: Research as much as possible – and map out all your key facts and characters.  Seek input and feedback on your writing – but don’t take no for an answer. 

Tell us about your next book or work in progress


Linda: The next book is an historical novel in verse – set in Melbourne during World War Two. I'm interested in this as a period of complex social change, for the Second World War engaged the entire Australian community in a way that the Great War did not. 

Paul: I’m currently working on book III in the series – The Dragon Throne (yes – they had dragons in ancient Greece.  The Oracle in Delphi is even named after one – the great She-Dragon Delphyne!).  The focus of the book is the brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus – and how they move from being homeless youth to retaking Mycenae from their uncle, and then bringing the rest of the Greek Peninsula to heel.  It wasn’t just armies – there was a lot of political intrigue between the various cities, tribes – and even the Gods themselves.



They may have been born privileged into the Claudii Pulchri family, but siblings Clodius Pulcher and Clodia Metelli are firebrands: kindred spirits; brazen, impetuous, headstrong; determined to live by their own rules.

Together they incite the wrath of Rome’s elite - and in particular, Cicero. But nothing is sacred in late Republican Rome - and rules keep changing when change threatens to rule …
The vagaries of the period are brought to vibrant life through the eyes and exploits of Clodius and Clodia in this historical novel in verse.

Nothing Sacred is available at Readings or Scholarly



In an ancient world of gods and heroes, the threat of war is rising…

From the city of Trachis, near the pass of Thermopylae, three kings set sail for the holy island of Asteria and the gathering of kings called by the twin temples of Apollo and Artemis, intent on foiling the plans of Atreus, king of Mycenae, who seeks dominion over all the cities and kingdoms of the Aegean sea.

To the north, in the shadow of Mount Olympus, the hero Heracles looks to free the besieged city of Elone, joining forces with the Centaurs to wage war against the combined armies of Lapith and Dryopes warriors, who under the command of the Strategos Coronus have been ordered to destroy the city of the Hellenes.

While Hera, the outcast Queen of the Gods, strives to raise a new god to cast aside the old, and will sacrifice the immortals of Pelasgia to achieve her goal. Yet all the while the question remains, where are the other Olympians?

Against a backdrop of war and betrayal, a young man will struggle to understand the power of the gods, and his role in the struggle to come. In an ancient world of gods and heroes, the threat of war is rising… And if they are not careful, the Dark Queen will sacrifice all to chaos.

Sword of Olympus and Rage of a Dark Queen are available via Amazon.


HNSA Meet the Author Satellite Event

Paul Hansen and Linda Weste are appearing in our Melbourne HNSA Meet the Author event on 18 June 2.30-4.30 pm at the Mail Exchange Hotel, 688 Bourke St, Melbourne discussing Ancient and Medieval Historical Fiction with Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Lindy Cameron and Rachel Nightingale. Bookings essential. More details can be found on the HNSA website.

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University.

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Interview with Rachel Nightingale


Our guest today is Rachel Nightingale. Rachel has been writing since the age of 8 (early works are safely hidden away). She holds a Masters degree and PhD in Creative Writing. Winning the Mercury Short Story competition (junior section) at the age of 16 fueled her desire to share her stories with the world. Subsequent short stories have been shortlisted in a number of competitions and a play, No Sequel, won the People's Choice Award and First Prize at the Eltham Little Theatre's 10 Minute Play competition. Another, Crime Fiction, was performed at Short and Sweet Manila and Sydney.

Rachel’s second passion after writing is the theatre, and she has been performing in shows and working backstage for a rather long time. She co-wrote and performed in the 2013-2015 version of the hugely popular Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920s murder mystery set on the iconic Dandenong Ranges train. The inspiration for the Tarya trilogy, which begins with Harlequin's Riddle, began when she read a quote by Broadway actor Alan Cumming about that in-between moment just before you step onstage, and began to wonder might be found in that place between worlds. You can connect with Rachel via Facebook and Twitter or her blog.


What is the inspiration for your current book?

 Harlequin’s Riddle grew out of an article I read about the Broadway revival of Cabaret. Alan Cumming, who was playing the emcee, spoke of the moment before you step on stage as being a ‘moment between’ where anything was possible, like the Hindu idea of heaven, or Turiya. Hence the idea for Tarya was born, a realm that artists enter when they are in the flow of creating their art. The fun part was working out exactly what becomes possible in this realm.


Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

We’re at a point in time where technology has enabled anyone to produce a professional looking ‘product’, whether that be a film, book or digital art, and many people think that’s a substitute for hard work, original ideas and getting good at your craft. We’re seeing the rise of very formula ‘art’, where people copy what others have done to try to capture their success. This is encouraged by the big entertainment corporations who hold the marketing strings. The fact that the final decision about whether a book will be published is made by the marketing department on the basis of whether it will sell, not by a skilled editor who knows good storytelling, is appalling. So in the Tarya Trilogy artists’ work is proscribed – they are not allowed to do anything that is too original or that might actually move or transport the audience. If they do, they are severely penalised.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

The Tarya trilogy is fantasy, but it is essentially set in the Italian Renaissance. I have only stepped sideways into a fantasy world in order to bring magical experiences into the story. The books centre on the travelling players, the Commedia dell’Arte (Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot and others), who travelled around Italy in the 1500s. The setting and costumes are all based on that era, and the arc of the story, in terms of the dominance of the Commedia dell’Arte as an artform, follows historical occurrences.

What resources do you use to research your book?

As a historical reenactor, I have researched, made and worn Italian Renaissance dresses, so that very much feeds into what people are wearing in the books. Being in the SCA provides fabulous research opportunities because there is always someone who has done in-depth research on something you want to know about and is happy to share their knowledge, or point you in the right direction. I have also done mask making and have an extensive background in theatre and improv so the performance side of things comes from direct experience. John Rudlin’s book, Commedia dell’Arte, An Actor’s Handbook, was a key resource. I used other resources on the Renaissance for things like the ‘Memento Mori’ skeleton jewellery that appears in the second book. In terms of setting I experienced one of those inexplicable things that sometimes happen to writers – I describe towns and cities with buildings covered in tiles that form pictures. I’ve never been to Europe, but after I’d written these descriptions I found photographs of European towns where these buildings existed!

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

Writing fantasy gives me the room to play with things, so I’d have to say I aimed for an authentic feel as the backdrop to the more magical occurrences rather than trying to get things exactly write, although sometimes I do work from an image (eg a piece of artwork from the time) and try to describe it as accurately as possible. I’m currently writing a play based on a historical figure though, and that is completely different – I am absolutely aiming for accuracy. Her life is pretty dramatic, so I definitely don’t need to make things up to create drama. 

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

Luka, who plays Pierrot onstage, has to be my favourite. You don’t see much of him in the first book, but he becomes increasingly important in the second and third books. He’s quiet and gentle, the antithesis of Hollywood’s definition of a hero, but without him Mina’s story would be very different.

 Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Definitely a plotter. When you’re writing over three books you have to keep track of plot points closely, and it was important to me to seed events or ideas in the first book that would come to fruition in the final one, so that meant thinking it all through well in advance. I much prefer reading books that do this, so that’s my aim. I’m hoping my writing speed picks up – real life has always got in the way so writing has been a slow, slow process, but I’m making it a priority now. The second book in the Tarya trilogy, which will come out in the middle of next year, is already complete luckily so I have a bit of time to work on the third one!

Which authors have influenced you?

I nearly failed my first year of university because I spent swot vac reading The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The way in which she takes myth and makes it believably real in a historical context is a huge inspiration for me. I also love Ray Bradbury’s wordsmithing ability – I hope to be half as good as him in a few more decades.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Read and write a lot, and if you seriously want to be a writer, take your writing seriously. There is some luck involved, but a lot of it is hard work, professionalism and the willingness to keep developing your craft.

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

I’m writing a full length play about an intriguing historical figure. It started out as a ten minute play, but she wasn’t happy with having such a short time to tell her story! I’m working out how I can use theatrical techniques to play around with the idea of truth in the story of someone’s life. I’m hoping by interval I can convince the audience of one thing, then show them after interval that this can’t possibly be true!


The Gazini Players are proud to present
For your Edification and Enjoyment
Tales of great Joy, and of great Woe

Ten years ago, Mina’s beloved older brother disappeared with a troupe of Travelling Players, and was never heard from again.

On the eve of Mina’s own departure with a troupe, her father tells her she has a special gift for Storytelling, a gift he silenced years before because he was afraid of her ability to call visions into being with her stories.

Mina soon discovers that the Travelling Players draw their powers from a mysterious place called Tarya, where dreams are transformed into reality.  While trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, she discovers a dark cost to the Players’ onstage antics. Torn between saving her brother or exposing the truth about the Players, could her gifts as a storyteller offer a way to solve Harlequin’s riddle?

Thanks Rachel. Good luck with your debut!

Harlequin's Riddle is available via Odyssey  Books.


HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Rachel Nightingale is a busy girl! She will be appearing in in Session Three on Saturday 9 September at 11.15am-12.15pm.

How to Transmute Research into Compelling Historical Fiction
A passion for research doesn’t always translate into creating compelling fiction. Gillian Polack discusses the challenges of converting historical facts into page turning novels with Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Stephanie Smee and Rachel Nightingale.

She is also acting as our narrator in our First Pages Pitch Contest on Saturday 9 September and will be conducting a super session on Recreating Historical Costumes on Sunday 10 September.

What is it like to wear a Tudor outfit or dance in a Renaissance dress? How heavy is an ancient Chinese hanfu and how much fabric goes into its creation? These questions and more will be answered by Rachel Nightingale in this workshop, where you will have a chance to get up close and personal with a range of outfits made by historical re-enactors based on research and portraits. You will have the chance to look at a number of costuming books that deconstruct historical costumes, and perhaps even to try on a historical outfit. 

Rachel is also appearing in our Meet the Author satellite event on 18 June at the Mail Exchange Hotel, 688 Bourke St, Melbourne from 2.30-4.30pm discussing Ancient and Medieval Fiction with Lindy Cameron, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Linda Weste and Paul Hansen. More information and tickets are available from the HNSA website. 

The conference is a celebration of the historical fiction genre which will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!






Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil



Our guest today is Barbara Gaskell Denvil, author of The Flame Eater, Sumerford’s Autumn, Fair Weather and many more. Her full list is available on her website. You can connect with Barbara via Facebook and Twitter.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Gloucestershire, England and later moved to London where I grew up surrounded by books, paintings and antiques. My father was an artist and playwright, my mother a teacher, and my elder sister a successful author first published at age 16. The classic Victorian author Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell was a great, great, great aunt. We were a bookish family. I have worked in many literary capacities, as a publishers’ reader, a television researcher and script writer, an editor, literary critic and published numerous short stories and articles. Then motherhood took precedence. Having three young daughters, two of whom were identical twins, writing had to take a back seat.

Years later I moved to Australia where I now live in a semi-rural area of exceptional beauty, watching the amazing birds and wildlife, and at last writing full length novels. My passion is for late English medieval history and this forms the background for my historical fiction. I also have a love of fantasy and the wild freedom of the imagination, with its haunting threads of sadness and evil. Although all my books have romantic undertones, I would not class them purely as romances. Although we all wish to enjoy some romance in our lives, there is also a yearning for adventure, mystery, suspense and experience. My books include all of this and more, but my greatest loves are the beauty of the written word, and the utter fascination of good characterisation. Bringing my characters to life and taking the reader with me, is my principal aim. I am now self publishing my books, as I found that traditional publishing is not what it used to be. I now have total control over content, covers and titles. With advice from my lovely agent Sheila Drummond, we have hopefully everything covered.

What is the inspiration for The Flame Eater?

I discovered a little known fact occurring during the time period in which my book is set, and this inspired me to look further and develop the situation.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

I believe the theme for me is twofold both the detailed extent to which characterisation can be developed and yet remain believable, and also the complex possibilities of the crime mystery, while retaining the surprise ending.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

The late medieval period interests me most. I believe that the modern standards and ideals began during Edward IV’s reign, and continued to develop from there. I also became interested in the character of Richard III, and enjoyed the research to discover whether this was the villain or the hero of the late 15th century.

What resources do you use to research your book?

I have been researching this period for many years. I used to read constantly and studied both original and secondary sources. I am no longer able to read so much since I am losing my eyesight, but I still study when I can.


What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

Both. I see them as essential in every way. Accuracy is my particular priority, but authenticity is much the same thing as far as I am concerned.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

Both Nicholas and Avice, simply because I find them both intensely alive, and I thoroughly enjoyed giving them both reality.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Most of my books have taken approximately 7 to 8 months. And yes, like you I am definitely a ‘Plantser’. 

Which authors have influenced you?

Oh, gracious, every single book I have ever read in one way or another. I suppose Dorothy Dunnett was a principal influence amongst historical authors.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

To write and then rewrite over and over again. Believe in yourself and don’t listen to advice!

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

I am now starting a children’s series which is partially historical and partially fantasy. This first book (Bannister’s Muster – Book 1 – SNAP) will be published in early June.  I am so enjoying bringing my favourite medieval era alive for children (8 – 15 year olds).


Intrigue, Romance and Adventure, the ideal escape when curled up with a good book. Nicholas, now heir to the earldom, has no desire to marry his dead brother’s cast-off. Emeline has no desire to marry the brutal monster who murdered his brother, the man she loved and hoped to marry. This arranged marriage is a disaster, Fire rages through the castle and takes over the wedding night, and any hopes of reconciliation. Murder and arson are destroying more than one alliance, the culprit unknown.

It is 1484 and Richard III is England’s monarch. The king entrusts many of his lords in the service of their country, so Nicholas is charged with the undercover investigation into desperately important situations.

Emeline joins with her younger sister and others of the household, determined to discover who is responsible for the disasters which have entirely disrupted their lives. But the suspects are so many. It is therefore a group of eager but desperate women of various ages, characters and capabilities who attempt to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Nicholas learns that he has a wife to admire and to adore.

But is he a murderer? Is her mother? Her nurse? And will England’s political turmoil threaten their peace and cause even greater uncertainty? Life will never be the same. But perhaps that is just as well.

Many thanks Barbara! 

The Flame Eater is available via Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon AU

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Barbara Gaskell Denvil will be appearing in in Session Three on Saturday 9 September at 11.15am-12.15pm.

How to Transmute Research into Compelling Historical Fiction
A passion for research doesn’t always translate into creating compelling fiction. Gillian Polack discusses the challenges of converting historical facts into page turning novels with Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Stephanie Smee and Rachel Nightingale.

Barbara is also appearing in our Meet the Author satellite event on 18 June at the Mail Exchange Hotel, 688 Bourke St, Melbourne from 2.30-4.30pm discussing Ancient and Medieval Fiction with Lindy Cameron, Rachel Nightgale, Linda Weste and Paul Hansen. More information and tickets are available from the HNSA website. 

The conference is a celebration of the historical fiction genre which will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!