Irina Shapiro

Blog Posts

 

March 9, 2014

 

I’ve recently been tagged by a fellow time-travel author, Anna Belfrage to answer a few questions about my writing style. So, here it is.

 

1. What are you working on at the moment?

      I’m working on a ghost story entitled Haunted Ground. Of course, there will plenty of mystery and romance, in both the modern story line and the one that takes place in the seventeenth century.

 

2. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

     I try not to read too many books in my genre as I don’t want to subconsciously borrow from other authors, so I’m afraid, I can’t really answer that question.

 

3. Why do you write what you do?

      I love history, and have always been intrigued by the notion of falling back through time. The great thing about writing fantasy is that there are no rules. You can do whatever you please with your characters as long as the historical background facts are accurate, and you, as an author, can come up with situations that are completely unique. I also think that every ruin has a story to tell, and since it can’t speak for itself, I can give it my own voice, and tell its story in a way that I perceive it.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

      My writing is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. I come up with different themes, ideas, and characters, but don’t necessarily put them together in a linear way. I start out with the bones of the story, then insert chapters and scenes that I had written separately and use them to flesh out the characters and bring depth to the narrative.

 

 

February 15, 2014

 

Shipping and the New World 

 

 

     A handful of brave souls traversing the Atlantic in rickety wooden ships in search of a place where they could escape religious persecution is how most of us picture the first colonists to settle in the New World. We envision Pilgrims in Massachusetts Bay Colony sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinner, ready to overcome tremendous hardship and sow the seeds of freedom that would eventually become the United States. 

     However, the reality was not quite so romantic.  Just like today, most ventures were driven by profit, and the colonies were initially established with just that in mind. After centuries of supporting a population, and the more recent wars with Spain, England was in dire need of natural resources, especially timber.   King James I was well informed of the commercial potential of what is now Virginia and the Carolinas from Walter Raleigh’s previous visits to the area in late sixteenth century, and wasn’t to be outdone by the Spanish who’d controlled the southeastern part of North America for decades, then known as Spanish Florida.   The French and Dutch also had a presence in the area, and colonized parts of North America ranging from the south to what is now parts of Canada.

     In April 1606,  James I granted a charter to the Virginia Company, which consisted of the join stock London Company and Plymouth Company, giving them permission to establish settlements along the coast of North America with the express purpose of shipping materials back to England.   Although in later years tobacco became the primary export of Virginia, the initial interest of the British was in timber needed to build ships for the Navy.   The heavily wooded coast was the perfect place to establish a foothold for this purpose.   The investors of the Virginia Company also hoped to trade in precious metals, spices, and animal skins traded from the Natives, who they saw as savages with no claim to the land they’d lived on for generations.

     Ships left the colonies loaded with raw materials bound for England and returned with much-needed supplies for the colonists.  However, it wasn’t long before the ships bound for America began to arrive with a different type of cargo.   Ships from England brought loads of indentured servants, some of whom had sold themselves out of dire financial need and some who’d been convicted of a crime and sentenced to seven years of servitude.   The indentured servants were treated marginally better than the black slaves who were brought to the colonies and sold at slave auctions, usually held right at the dock.    Both the indentured servants and the African slaves were an integral part of the survival of the colonies as they toiled in the fields and the forests, lining the pockets of their owners and providing the supplies so eagerly awaited in the England. 

     For England and the American Colonies shipping was a lifeline that flowed both ways, and continued to do so until the Revolutionary War.   Today, we pride ourselves on our global community and business acumen, but centuries ago, Europeans had pioneered and colonized new lands, and took trade to a whole new level using only stars for navigation and wooden ships for transport.  A handful of brave souls indeed.

 

 

January 13, 2014

 

Time travel and romance: a perfect match.

 

      Many male readers would not agree with me on this one, since fighting the ultimate nemesis and saving the world trumps romance any day, but for female readers time travel and romance go hand and hand, like the proverbial horse and carriage, or apple pie and ice cream.  What’s the fun of sending a heroine falling through time if she can’t find in the past that which was so sorely lacking in her modern-day existence?  And she usually does, which I find very intriguing. I’ve read many time travel romances, and not once does the heroine return to the present when presented with the opportunity.  Why is that? Could it be because the men of the past knew something that modern men have only read about or seen on T.V.? 

 

     I, myself, have always been drawn to male characters in historical fiction because they differ so greatly from the men of today.  Is it just a clever marketing tool designed to sell books, or were men really more devoted, honorable, and passionate?   Were they more willing to commit to a woman or a cause, or lay their lives down to protect the ones they loved?  Did having more clearly defined roles make it easier for people, or did it imprison them within the rigid mores of the time and the unbending expectations of a society governed by class distinctions and financial status?  Writing a time travel romance gives the author a unique opportunity to examine the differences between the courtships of the past and the relationships of today.   And, of course, the more obstacles there are to the romance between the characters, the greater the love story.

 

     It’s fascinating to read about the historical events of a particular time period, and learn something of a life that was so different from our own, but it’s the romance that’s at the heart of the story, and it’s the romance that stays with us long after the last page has been read.

 

 

December 15, 2013

 

Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person (or Third)

 

     I or she – that is the question!  As a reader, I’ve read plenty of books that are told from the first person or the third person perspective, but it wasn’t until I started writing my own novels that I was confronted with the question of how I wanted to present my story. I’ve written both in the first person and in the third, and was surprised to find that some readers were put off by the first person narrative.  Now this was puzzling.  Why would anyone find that less preferable? 

     My honest answer is that I think it makes them feel like voyeurs.  When writing in the first person, I can express my feelings with more depth and insight, and create raw emotion in readers since there’s no barrier between the heroine of my story and her audience.  I can express desires and feelings that I might not be able to capture as profoundly if I were telling a story from someone else’s perspective. It makes the reader feel as though they were reading someone’s diary when no one was looking, or peeking into someone’s window or a keyhole, curious to see events that they shouldn’t be privy to.  We all wish to be a fly on the wall at times, eager to know what’s really going on in someone’s mind or life, but how would we feel if we actually got the chance?  I think most of us would feel a little guilty, perhaps even ashamed of the thrill of watching or hearing the forbidden. 

     As a writer, that’s exactly how I want my readers to feel.  I want them to experience the raw emotions of love, loss, and desire, and feel that thrill tinged with shame when feeling as if they are right there in the room when the heroine is in the throes of passion or in a fit of despair.  The main point is that I want them to feel, and it’s easier to do that when the comfortable distance of a third person narrative is stripped away, and all that’s left is the voice of the character, whispering into their ear, taking them by the hand and leading them deeper and deeper into her world, and leaving them with a terrible sense of loss when her story is done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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