Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Writing Alternate History (It's Not For Pansies)

I have no problem telling the world that I'm enamored with Sharon Bayliss:) Why not? The woman is a work horse writer, she's been my beta reader, she's a marketing guru and she's got a debut novel called THE CHARGE coming out! Add having a baby amidst it all...like I said, I'm enamored!

Today you get to share in my girl crush because Sharon has stopped by for a guest post. In light of her upcoming novel she's throwing a blog tour and has been kind enough to include me in the fun.

Soooo, without further ado, I give you Sharon Bayliss: Writing Alternate History (It's Not For Pansies)....

Okay, confession time. I'm not a history buff. In school, I liked history at least more than math, but I've always been more interested in the present and future. So, why did I write an alternate history? Probably because I love to make things hard for myself. :) But, I suppose if I'm allowed to change history into whatever I want and add a touch of magic, it's a lot more fun.

The flag of the Texas Empire, based on the first official flag of the Republic of Texas.

My alternate history fantasy, The Charge, is set in an alternate present day North America and in this reality, the state of Texas never joined the United States and instead became it's own nation. For those of you who know American history, this possibility would have been unlikely, but it is based on reality. Texas was an independent nation from March 2, 1836, to February 19, 1846. So, it follows that inquisitive types might wonder what would have happened if Texas never joined the U.S.

The Charge isn't meant to be a realistic theory of what might have happened if Texas stayed it's own nation, it's meant to be more of a fantastical "what-if". For starters, the first President of Texas in my alternate history had supernatural powers, so I play pretty fast and loose with reality. :) However, that doesn't get me off the hook research-wise.

I actually did my research after I finished writing the story, and that strategy worked for me. An interesting alternate history is all fine and good, but if you want a story that people actually want to read, (and by "people", I mean more than just history teachers) the plot and character development are far more important than an clever "what-if" premise.

However, my general readership may also include some history buffs. Every time I thought about getting lazy with my research, this fictional alternate history geek would pop into my mind and start pointing out my mistakes.

If you want to do an alternate history, you really have to sit down and re-write history. My history deviates in 1836, so anything that existed before then gets to stay the same. Everything that happened after that is called into question. I wrote the timeline of all the big events that happened from 1836-2013 in my alternate world. I had to consider how my change would have impacted real events like the Civil War and The Great Depression and had to come up with likely new wars and important events.

If you're writing an alternate history, I suggest going through your novel with a fine-toothed comb and looking for any references that could possibly have been altered by your change in timeline. Places, events, brand names, political figures, basically any proper noun. Cities were an obvious issue. For example, Sam Houston does not exist in my timeline so there can be no city called Houston in Texas. And then there are smaller things. I realized that using the term "African-American" to describe race didn't make sense when I was referring to a Texas resident, they would technically be an "African-Texan".

When you're creating new events, I suggest modeling real world events. It's easier to make events seem plausible when they are similar to real things that have happened. No one can say, "that would never happen", if actually did or almost did. I used a lot of Cold War parallels to describe the twentieth century conflicts between the U.S. and the Texas Empire, but my Cold War got hot. Instead of the Red Scare, I have the "Blue Scare," a wave of irrational and intense hatred of Texas. And I use the Cuban Missile Crisis as a model for the events that led to the U.S. bombing the Texas Empire. The main difference is that in my version, the disaster isn't narrowly avoided, it happens, and of course, Castro is replaced with the current King of Texas.

History buff or not, writing an alternate history is not for the faint of heart. Expect to spend some time with your nose a history books. But I have to say, I had a blast and I loved the challenge. And I have plenty of information in the timeline I created that never comes up in The Charge, so I've got lots of good stuff left to use for later installments or possibly even a prequel.

About Sharon:
Sharon Bayliss is a native of Austin, Texas and works her day job in the field of social work. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living in her “happily-ever-after” with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). You can connect with Sharon at www.facebook.com/authorsharonbayliss www.sharonbayliss.com and https://twitter.com/sharonbayliss

About The Charge:
When King of the Texas Empire kidnaps Warren's brother, Warren embarks into a still Wild West to save him. On his journey, he makes a discovery that changes his life forever—he and his brother are long-lost members of the Texas royal family and the King wants them both dead. 

He gets help from an activist Texan named Lena, who's itching to take on the King and happens to be a beautiful firecracker Warren can't stay away from. Convincing her he's not one of the bad guys becomes harder when a mysterious energy stirs in his body, turning his brain into a hive of emotions and memories—not all his own.

A legacy of violence is not all he inherited from the brutal Kings of Texas. The myth that the royal family possesses supernatural powers may not be myth at all.

Gone are the days when choosing a major was a big deal. Now Warren must save his brother and choose whether or not to be King, follow a King, or die before he can retire his fake ID.

Doesn't that sound sooooo good? Here are some pretty fabulous links to get your paws on this book....

The Charge - a Rafflecopter giveaway
Purchase Links: http://amzn.com/B00BNPCHGQ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-charge-sharon-bayliss/1114745688

NetGalley (free review copies): https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/show/id/28197

What do you all think about writing alternate history? 


Jaye Robin Brown said...

Love all the what-if's of alternate history - sounds like a super cool story!

Suzi said...

I'm not a fantasy writer, and I've never thought about writing an alternate history story. But it's a great concept and sounds like you could have a lot of fun with it-rewriting history.

And you gave some terrific advice on how to do it. Even though it is fantasy, I agree it is important to get some details right.

Azia said...

Wow! Thank you for such insight! This is like a goldmine of what one would need to do in order to write an alternate-history! Definitely bookmarked this :) Cant' wait to check out this novel!

Robin said...

I liked History even less than math. It was the bottom on the barrel for me, so when I've considered alt. history I've always scared myself from starting. I like the way you attacked the challenge. Looks like an exciting read.

Carrie-Anne said...

One of my hiatused books is an alternative history that's going to span about 90 years. It begins with the rescue of the Romanovs in Yekaterinburg at the last minute and the turning of the Civil War in favor of the Whites. The Bolsheviks are executed or brought to prison. Eventually Lenin and even Stalin are reformed and become productive members of society. In 1925, Tsar Nikolay II dies and Aleksey takes the throne, becoming Russia's most enlightened, beloved ruler. The vast majority of the book would show his long, fruitful, successful reign.

My original idea, and the way in which I wrote the rough draft of Part I, was to have it told in five Parts, each through the journal of a different young woman who knew Tsar Aleksey II and was affected in some personal way by his reign. I recently realized that was a rather gimmicky idea (rather like a certain massively overrated historical novel, coughthebookthiefcough). It would require each of these five young ladies not only somehow knowing or coming to know Aleksey, but also making them be witness to all these historical or personal events. The entries in Part I were padded out by newspaper clippings and such. My usual third-person omniscient seems a far better fit for this story, or perhaps a third-person limited focusing on our hero.

Rachel said...

Your book sounds really interesting! I recently wrote an alt history changing the events of the american revolution (to favor the British) so I completely loved reading your process. Mine was very similar. Glad to know there's other alt'ers out there!

Sharon Bayliss said...

Thank you for your comments! And thank you to Deana, I have a girl crush on you too and I can't wait to buy one of your books!! :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love the premise of this book. It's on my to-read list. Is it going to be an audiobook? I get to books faster if they're audio. lol

Leslie S. Rose said...

I am a big fan of twisted histories. They often make me want to go find out what really happened so I get the best of both versions.

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