Ethan Kaille is one of Colonial Boston’s leading thieftakers. He is also a conjurer, an ex-convict, and a veteran of the War of the Austrian Succession, in which he served as a sailor in the navy of His Majesty King George II. Though an intensely private man, he recently agreed, albeit reluctantly, to sit down and answer a few questions about his life, his career, and, of course, his rivalry with Sephira Pryce, Boston’s famed “Empress of the South End.”
*****Mister Kaille, thank you for joining us today. I wonder if you wouldn’t begin by telling us a bit about your work as a thieftaker.
There is little to tell, really. Boston is filled with reprobates and fools, and invariably men who fall into one category or the other take it upon themselves to improve their meagre lot in life by stealing from the city’s monied class. When they [...]
Continue reading An Interview with Ethan Kaille, Thieftaker and Conjurer
My wife’s department at the university includes a guy named John and another named Jon. The university’s president, provost, and dean are all also named John.
My younger daughter has three close friends (two are boys, one is a girl) who are all named Sam.
My brother’s wife is named Karen, and they named their first-born son Jonah. My college roommate’s wife is named Karen, and they named their first-born son Jonah.
There is a Greenville in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Utah, Georgia, and twenty-eight other states. Well, actually twenty-seven; there are two in California.
Washington is our nation’s capitol. It’s also a state. And it’s the name of cities in at least twenty-five other states. Who was the genius who came up with all of that?
Here’s one from history:
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were friends and intense political rivals who both signed the Declaration of Independence, served together [...]
Continue reading On Writing: Is Your Book Too Normal?
Today is a national holiday — the one that celebrates all the Presidents, which seems a little strange to me. I mean, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Kennedy? Yeah, sure. But does the Presidency of James Buchanan really deserve a holiday? And what about William Henry Harrison’s pneumonia-plagued tenure of exactly one month — surely a highlight in Presidential history and worthy of a national holiday. It all seems a bit odd to me. Then again, it’s a day off, so what the heck.
Anyway, these holiday Mondays are usually pretty quiet here at MW, so I thought I’d take a week off from the serious writing stuff and focus on something on the fun side. And what’s more fun than lists? Nothing, I say! (And, in fact, I’ve done something like this before.) To wit:
A list made especially for President’s Day, by a writer who is lately [...]
Continue reading A List for President’s Day
“The clock hath stricken three…”
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act II, scene I
A.J.’s Friday post, and the discussion that followed has had me thinking about research, historical accuracy, and artistic license all weekend long. So I decided to share some thoughts, in the hope of generating more conversation and perhaps more understanding.
Let me begin by saying that I have a Ph.D. in history, and that I am just completing a historical fantasy set in colonial Boston. I have worked harder on this book than I have on any other, not just because I want to make this novel as good as it can be, but also because I want to fit the story into its historical context as comfortably and seamlessly as possible. The last thing I want is for historical inaccuracies to jar my reader out of the story. As Beatriz put it in a [...]
Continue reading Accurate, Schmaccurate; As Long As It’s Right
Did you know that Eleanor of Aquitaine, in addition to being married to two kings and giving birth to three more, and in addition to riding to the Holy Land with the Second Crusade, spent sixteen years of her life in prison (by order of her second husband) and outlived all but two of her ten children? Did you know that Samuel Adams, in addition to helping to build momentum for the American Revolution, and in addition to being a brewmaster (yes, he really was, although not a successful one), was afflicted all his life with a mild palsy, lost his first wife when she was only thirty-two, and spent much of his early career deeply in debt?
Character, we often say here at MW, is the most important element of storytelling. Stuart wrote about this on Friday. You can come up with a great story and set it in [...]
Continue reading Making Historical Characters Your Own
Under the heading of “Careful What You Wish For . . .”:
Fifteen years ago I was at a professional crossroads. I’d recently completed my doctorate in history and had job applications pending at a number of colleges and universities. I had also started work on the novel that would become Children of Amarid. Within a span of 24 hours, I received a job offer at an excellent university out West to teach U.S. environmental history (my specialty) and a call from an editor at Tor Books asking me if I was still interested in becoming a published author (“Ummmm . . . yes, please.”) I chose writing, in part because I realized that I didn’t love historical research enough to make a career of it. I just wanted to write fiction. I am reminded of an old saying: ”Men plan; God laughs.”
Continue reading Research and the Writer
In a comment to my post last week one of our readers (Thanks Alan!) asked about the level of detail we put into our worldbuilding. The question, I think, was prompted by my description of the details I put into my character development, and in many ways I consider the background work I do for my characters, and the work I do for my worlds to be very similar.
I was trained as a historian — I’ve got the Ph.D, to prove it. And I believe that if my academic background has done nothing else for me, it has at least given me an appreciation of the complexity and richness of the human past and its influence on today’s world. People — characters — are, at least in part, the product of where they come from: their family background, their upbringing, their past experiences. Nations — or kingdoms, if we’re [...]
Continue reading With Worldbuilding, Every Detail Counts