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August 17, 2020

Against All Odds / Why I Write Historical Fiction / Jacqui Murray (Guest Post)

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

Why I Write Historical Fiction

By Jacqui Murray


An efriend writer originally published this as a guest post on their blog to help me launch Against All Odds August 2020. In case you missed it there, here are my anecdotal thoughts on how to add drama to your story:


Historical fiction tells a story based in the past. It requires lots of facts and must wrap readers in the atmosphere of the time. Its popularity often relies on our need to make sense of the tumultuous world around us.  In my case, this is absolutely true. I didn't understand how man thrived in a violent world where he wasn't king and had no survival tools other than his big brain. The more I dug into the history, the more reasons I uncovered for his prowess. Now, I feel like I understand that anomaly.

That is why I write prehistoric fiction (a sub-genre of historical fiction) but there are other reasons:

  • I like to learn from the hills where man planted his flag. The reasons why he drew a line in the stand, refused to cross it seem less about rational choice than relentless passion to stand up for something undefinable inside of him. Sometimes, this choice is as simple as it seems the right thing to do at the time. Rarely does he know what the consequences would be, or care, until s*** happened.
  • Writing historical fiction is a lot like grasping at another man's straws. You weren't there so you view it through the lens of other people's experiences and then own it by building a story around it.
  • If history were a person, it would be wrapped in an old blanket muttering to itself, asking why you don't understand it better. But no matter how many questions we ask, we can't find out enough. Sometimes, through the elements of fiction--characters and plot--we reveal an understanding of past events that would never be gained by reading a history text.
  • Historical fiction writers (or prehistoric fiction writers) must be willing to fail. Facts are fungible, often relayed by the victor, through his lens, his experiences. The real truth is often impossible to reveal, layered so completely in opinions, emotions, and time. But that doesn't stop historical fiction authors. We relentlessly dig, pull one thread after another until the pieces pop into place. Then we can tell the story.
  • Historical fiction writers aren't PhDs in history. We often aren't even experts in the history we write. But we're good at researching, connecting the dots. We never quit, never compromise, never fudge the facts in our stories. We always peel back layers to see what is hidden beneath. It doesn't matter how long it takes, how many books we must read. We continue until we can feel the truth.

Let me use Jean Auel as an example. She's probably the most well-known prehistoric fiction author in the world. She's an educated woman but not a paleoanthropologist (anthropology of ancient man) or an expert in the times she wrote about. What she did well was research and tell a compelling story based on the facts she uncovered. That turned out to be good enough for a career writing prehistoric fiction.

If you write historical fiction, what keeps you going?

#amwriting #IndieAuthor

Title and author: Against All Odds

Series: Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

BLURB: A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

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L. Diane Wolfe said...

Wrapped in an old blanket and muttering - LOL!

Historical fiction is what I like to see in kids' books - that opens up more opportunities.

Jacqui Murray said...

Thanks so much for inviting me over, Chrys. I can tell it'll be a great day!

Jacqui Murray said...

That's an idea, to rewrite this in a kid's version. Hmm...

M.J. Fifield said...

I love historical fiction and would love to write it someday, but the sheer amount of research involved in it keeps me scared away. I salute anyone with that perseverance. Congrats on your latest release, Jacqui!

Jacqui Murray said...

It does take a ton of research. I often have to stop and figure out if a particular insect or animal existed then (insects usually yes; animals usually some proto version). Luckily, I like to research!

Sherry Ellis said...

I love writing historical fiction. The research for it is so fascinating.

Carrie-Anne said...

I've wanted to write some prehistoric fiction for many, many years. It's always exciting to learn about hist-fic set in this era, since there's not that much of it. My dream job is paleoanthropology.

nashvillecats2 said...

I wonder what it would be like..... and to achieve to write a prehistoric poem?
Great post Chrys,
Have a good week and stay safe and well.


Jeff said...

Interesting idea. However, one could argue that's that the epic of Gilgamesh and the first 11 chapters of Genesis is--a prehistoric poem. Of course, Jacqui Murray's story goes back long before these stories.

sherry fundin said...

great post. all looks good to me
sherry @ fundinmental

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've never written historical fiction but I love reading it. Congrats on your book, Jacqui!

Jacqui Murray said...

That would be clever, Yvonne. Those times were very much focused on the person, nothing he owned. In its own way, a clean time.

Jacqui Murray said...

Jeff--Hadn't thought of it that way. Now that's really interesting.

Jacqui Murray said...

Thanks for visiting, Sherry!

Jacqui Murray said...

It is. Going off on tangents while researching the topics is pretty much de rigeur!

Jacqui Murray said...

Thanks, Natalie. I'm hesitant to even call this 'historical fiction' because it's so darn much older! But, really, that's what it is!

Liz A. said...

I am in awe of historical writers. The amount of research. . . I don't have the stamina for that sort of research, so I leave it to better minds, and then I just enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jacqui - you've done a wonderful job with this series ... I imagine once you got started you couldn't stop - you've read, thought about and researched so much for this series. I do think there's more here as Diane mentions in her comment.

@ Chrys thanks for posting for us - it's a stand out series ...

Excellent - stay safe both of you - Hilary

Neurotic Workaholic said...

These are all fascinating reasons for writing historical fiction. I don't write historical fiction, but I enjoy reading it. I think it's important to not only study historical facts but really understand what it was like to live during those previous time periods, and historical writers do a great job of showing that.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I hadn't ever really thought about prehistoric fiction being a genre, but it makes sense, of course. Great reasons to do it!

Jacqui Murray said...

It's about surviving the impossible. Who knew our forebears were so strong?

Jacqui Murray said...

Thank you! This era is pre-history, pre books and writing and even stories told around fires. We only know it exists from artifacts and rocks. But what a fascinating story it is!

Jacqui Murray said...

You do have to enjoy it. Then, research is like any other hobby--the time flies by!

Jacqui Murray said...

Sorry I'm so late responding, Hilary. Don't know what happened... So good to hear from you over here.

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome! Come back anytime!