Writing and Research – Byzantines, Vikings and Saxons Oh My!
Originally submitted as a guest post to N.N. Light’s Book Heaven in October 2021: https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/writing-and-research-guest-post
When I wrote my first novel, Traveller Inceptio, I became engrossed in issues of which most writers would be sympathetic: Was my story original? Was my writing style readable? Did I really have a clue?
After all, I wasn’t a Stephen King, Andy Weir, Michael Crichton or Bernard Cornwell. What the heck did I know about innovative stories, sci-fi or historical fiction?
As my storyline looks at the survival potential for 21st century researchers sent 1000 years into the past, what did I know about the past? After all, isn’t history largely archaeology or propaganda written by the victors in war, religion and politics? I always enjoyed history and, as my father has, for some years, been a skilled genealogist, to write a story that included history appealed to me.
So many questions and a legion of doubts.
One of my main avenues of thought for any story was to rely on personal experiences. So many stories in my books are from my life or experiences of my son, who was an inspiration for one of the researchers in Traveller Inceptio. Yes, a lot of that crazy stuff actually happened!
Next, I had to make sure my presentation of the peoples of the past was as close to the actual truth as I could get. Inspired by the books on Rome as written by Colleen McCullough, I became obsessed in making sure any presentation I made of the peoples of the past was brutally accurate.
Because sometimes the truth is so much more fascinating than fiction.
I trolled my local library and accessed as many books as I could about Saxon England. Ultimately, I was threatened to have my library membership revoked as some books were kept out for about six months. Meanwhile, I scoured the Internet. Thank goodness for Wikipedia and on-line journals.
It came as some relief that there are many holes in the true knowledge of the past, especially the Saxons. I became obsessed in finding out the minutiae, such as what underpants they wore, what the floors of their homes were like, and their attitudes towards sex. For some things, I could make an educated guess, while others I would kind of fake and hopefully get away with it. Thankfully most have proved to be accurate.
As my writing progressed, I had to make the same effort in researching the various military Special Forces, Australian Aboriginals, the Byzantine Empire, Mississippi Cahokia, Maoris, Israel and Jerusalem, and more. I was most fortunate that my work contract ended, so I sold my home and property and, with my partner, Deb, I decided to embark on a trip of a lifetime. Armed only with visas to India and a ticket to Singapore (from Australia – that’s close), off we went.
We took 13 months as budget travellers and house-sitters, but that’s another story.
In the end, we were fortunate to experience Sri Lanka’s incredible Sigiriya, (in Traveller Probo), visit the great walls of Constantinople where I spent research time at an Istanbul university library, explored Jerusalem, stayed a while in beautiful England and even visited St Louis in the USA. For me, to write of those places, I had to smell and feel and see what I could.
I was driven to be credible, realistic and honest. So, yes, any ex-Special Forces personnel I met (not many I can assure you) became victim of a friendly chat about their service and thoughts. Military who have read my novels have praised me for getting many aspects of human interactions between such troops as accurate.
My research goes on! While I engage in every effort to make sure my locations, history and personnel are based on reality, I know the day will come where I’m corrected. It’s that paranoia that keeps me reading, researching and, when we can again travel, travelling.
Limited to home in this odd Covid world, I decided to try and make a few things that would help in my understanding and connection with peoples of the past. I joined the local Men’s Shed, an establishment that allows men to get together, aid in mental health, and make stuff. Thanks to my twisted imagination, YouTube, trade-qualified men and superb equipment, I’ve been able to make a Viking shield and hand axe and have just completed a bone-handled Saxon Seax.
It’s all part of research.
Do I really know what I’m doing? Well, I give it a go and bumble along.
Next? A Roman Gladius (sword) and scabbard, and then, who knows?
More novels are coming. I read and constantly research, so please check out my historical blog on Vikings (started before the show ‘Vikings’). I have to travel when I can and, meanwhile, continually look at what crazy stuff I can make.
My latest novel, Traveller Manifesto, is book three of the Traveller series. That examines the potential for modern, Special Forces trained historical researchers to travel and survive 1000 years into the past. I also have three additional, unrelated, completed novels to publish and four in the pipeline, so the joy of writing and research continues.
History is amazing and location research is an essential, fabulous and enjoyable part of my experience in being a writer and author.
Please check out my novels:
Traveller Manifesto – is coming soon
All available online as paperback or eBook.
I hope you enjoy.
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings, as shown in my other recent blogs, do feature.
I am excited to announce that Book 3 in the Traveller series: Traveller Manifesto, looks to be published and launched before the end of 2021. I am aiming at the end of November, but will keep you posted.
In reading my novels, I ask if you wouldn’t mind posting a review and, perhaps, a picture of yourself with my book – either paperback or on kindle. Link to me on Social Media. I most welcome your comments and images.
I hope you enjoy.
Check out my web site at
In my vain attempt to attract attention and promote my books – please check out my brief skit video:
I have other Blogs about:
|Short Stories||Travelling New Zealand||Travelling the UK||India by Royal Enfield|
Please check me out on Social Media.