Today, I have the great pleasure to introduce you to Jacqui Murray, author of the popular book Building a midshipman and her Rowe-Delamagente thriller series. She has recently published a spin-off series about Lucy, a homo sapien, and her plight to survive the harsh conditions of a pre-historic world. I have read Jacqui’s books and highly recommend them if you enjoy thrillers that have a Covert Affairs edge to them (TV series about a CIA agent for those who haven’t watched it) and a great adventure the reader experiences through Lucy’s point of view.
Come along and join us for a reciprocal interview. It was a lot of fun.
1. Who or what was your inspiration to write historical fiction?
Me: It was Homer who inspired me to write Historical Fiction/Fantasy. After reading the Iliad and Odyssey, I knew that was what I wanted to write. The meddling of the gods in the lives of the mortals, changing fate and the outcome of history was for me a pivotal moment and I started to toy with the idea of writing.
I also was inspired by the myth of Atlantis. I read Atlantis: the lost continent by Charles Berlitz when I was fifteen. I was mesmerised by the concept of an advanced race of people, who created technology, flying vehicles, writing, engineering, etc that was destroyed. For a fifteen-year-old country kid, it was as if the whole world opened up for me and I was privy to some of its secrets. (Yes, even back then my head was in past 😊) I caught the Ancient History bug and delved into self-education, reading and learning about the mythology of Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, and Mesopotamia.
Jacqui: Mine was a path of discovery. I wanted to understand where man came from, why we are who we are today. I read dozens of books, everything on the library shelves, but still didn’t understand. I decided to try imbuing it with fiction’s traits for building characters, bringing the setting to life, and creating a dramatic story. I got a pack of Red Bull, fired up my keyboard, and went to work. That’s when I got it!
2. Why are you drawn to that particular time period or epoch in history?
Me: Ancient History is for me a drinking fountain. Each time I investigate the history of the ancient past, I learn something new, and I want to know more. It was a period of great inventions, burgeoning knowledge and principles, and where to this day, these concepts—arts in all forms, sciences, maths and technology stem from. When I visited the ancient sites in Italy, Greece, parts of Europe, Turkey–haven’t yet been to the Middle East—I am overwhelmed by what the ancient people created without the technology and education we have today. That’s why I love ancient history, it continues to astound me.
Jacqui: Prehistoric man was so different from modern man! He was not the apex predator we are today, not Earth’s ruler (that was Nature). So what happened to change all that? Simplistically, it was our big brain but I didn’t believe that was the whole story. And to see our evolution from that first iteration of man (Homo habilis) to the next (Homo erectus)–the star of my upcoming trilogy Crossroads–is stunning. There is no dramatic, thrilling story than that!
3. How important is research when writing about history?
Me: For me, research is one of the most important processes when writing about a particular historical period. I read non-fiction books and identify reliable sources from the internet. I will not use Wikipedia (the exception are the images as they are commons free) for my research. I keep researching until I find the nugget of information I need and make notes. I have exercise books for each of my novels where I write my notes. I find it helps consolidate information and I learn best by writing it down rather than typing it out.
Jacqui: Let me stipulate: I’m not a mind-reader. If I don’t read or hear what happened, I don’t know it. As such, research becomes critical. More importantly, historical fiction writers must be based in fact. That what our readers look for. During the research that goes into my novels, I find that the truth of our roots inspires me with the nobility of these ancient people, in their time and circumstances. I actually channel my protagonist, Lucy (and now, Xhosa in Crossroads) as I walk through my day, wondering how they would solve a problem given their different set of tools.
4. How important is it to you to represent history accurately? Do you do this at the expense of the story or not?
Me: I try to be as accurate as possible as it gives authenticity to a story. When describing a place, a building, what people wore, what they ate, the ships built at the time, and so on, I believe it gives the reader a vicarious experience; it allows them to travel back in time and get a taste of what life must have been like. That has been one of the strongest compliments I get from readers who’ve read my books.
I do use artistic license, most authors do, and playing around with timelines, or changing a few details is part of the creativity element. However, I won’t change major structures or events. For example: The Temple of Thebes (Book 1 – Search for the Golden Serpent) or the Parthenon (Book 2—The Labyrinthine Journey), these are very well-known landmarks and require respect in the description and what they represented.
What I hope and is translated through my stories is learning about ancient history, even if you’ve never studied it or know much about that period and wanting to know more. I’ve had emails from people who’ve read my books let me know how much they’ve enjoyed my stories and gone to read more about the places I’ve written about. That is awesome.
And of course, my ultimate goal is to entertain the reader.
Jacqui: Here, as often, I am very much like Luciana. I try for accuracy, allow myself artistic license, and understand that too many facts will not be entertaining (unless I wrote like James Michener, which I don’t, darn). Early in the 25-year saga of writing the Man vs. Nature collection, I planned to offer it as creative nonfiction to support anthropology classes that dealt with ancient man. I included tons of background, footnotes, as well as the robust bibliography I still include. My early readers got bored and eventually, so too did I. I needed more enthusiasm and less expertise so I switched to fiction, still reliant on authentic events but accepting I had a lot of black holes to fill in with creative (albeit extrapolated) thinking. I like this better!
Here are a few places to contact Jacqui:
To purchase her books: