|Photo Credit: Emily Hosie|
Joan of Arc: Writing Historical Characters into a Fictional Tale from Donna Hoise
As a time-travel author, one of my favourite activities in the writing process is the research. I’m a bit of a history buff, (which is probably the English in me), but I think the world already travelled is a melting pot of ideas, scenes, and characters just waiting to be explored and used.
My latest novel, THE DEVIL’S DREAMCATCHER, follows on from the first book in the series, the critically-acclaimed, THE DEVIL’S INTERN, and features several characters from book one and times past. There’s Alfarin the Viking from 970AD, Elinor the peasant who died in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the enigmatic Septimus who is a former Roman General. But book two in my DEVIL’S series introduces several new characters, including Joan of Arc, who is known in this novel by her original name, Jeanne d’Arc.
Joan of Arc is such a symbolic person, and you have to delve deep into the history books to separate fact from fiction. What is well known is that she was captured by the English and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old. What I wanted to explore was the personality behind the martyr. How was a young woman, in a medieval, misogynistic time, able to command a French army, even though she had no military training?
Whether you are researching for a novel, an essay, or just for fun, you must first understand how to categorise your sources. Primary sources are first-hand accounts written during the actual time or event you are studying. A secondary source will be from a record that discusses information presented elsewhere.
After researching mainly secondary source material, (because there is little primary source documentation from 1431), I came to the conclusion that Jeanne must have been a formidable woman – strong, opinionated, and devout to her cause. But because my DEVIL’S series steers clear of religious imagery, allegory and opinion, I had to do the same with my interpretation of Jeanne. I decided to incorporate my thoughts on her strengths – and weaknesses – into her overall characterisation. Jeanne d’Arc in THE DEVIL’S DREAMCATCHER takes no nonsense from anyone, but she also has frailties, such as an absolute fear of fire because of the way she died. I’ve made her distrusting of others, but that is more than just a plot device. Joan of Arc was betrayed and tortured before her death. In my world-building, the dead souls who reside in the Afterlife keep their personalities and memories of living. It is more than plausible to suggest that the soul of Joan of Arc is fractured. But that in turn makes her interesting with lots of room for development. Fiction is make-believe, but an author needs to make the fantastical believable. By taking a detail from a historical character’s past, evolving it into a fictional yet potential truth, you make the character believable. But I am also strongly of the opinion that if you are incorporating real historical characters into a fictional tale, you owe a duty of care to that person.
The historical Joan of Arc commanded a French army. The fictional Jeanne d’Arc is quite capable of doing the same in the Afterlife!
Links to Checkout:The Devil’s Dreamcatcher book page
Donna Hosie’s website
Donna’s Twitter account
One copy of The Devil’s Dreamcatcher for giveaway.
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