Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Swashbuckling action and Religious Principle: An interview with Christian historical fiction author Shawn Lamb

Today I'm speaking with former screenwriter and Christian historical fiction author Shawn Lamb about her novel The Huguenot Sword.


1) Please tell us about your book.

The Huguenot Sword is about the struggle of the young Protestant religion in France under Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII. It's a war within a war - The Thirty Years War. What is fascinating is that those involved were so powerful they withstood Richelieu based upon principle and personal fortitude.

2) What inspired this book?

The book started out as a tribute to Dumas and the writers of swashbuckling historical fiction I enjoyed reading when I was younger. Where girls swooned over Mr. Darcy or longed for their knight in shining armor, I wanted to be a Musketeer and fight beside D'Artagnan. In fact, I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner, the predecessor of Bob Anderson in Hollywood, and responsible for working with such actors as Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone and others. I also was cast as the stunt double for Bo Derek in the 80s for a pirate movie that got canned before shooting started.

As I researched the period, I came across Henri de Rohan, a figure not mentioned in Dumas' book. I became intrigued by him, and wanted to know more. The deeper my research took me, the more the story evolved from a tribute to telling about the struggles of the Huguenots to defend their faith and freedom.

Your book contains a mixture of historical and completely fictional characters. Did you have any concerns about the way you were depicting any of the historical characters?

No, I try very hard to keep true to historical events and portray the people as they were, good and bad. Example, Richelieu wasn't all bad or his motives ruthless. He was a lover of the arts, encouraged education, not the total evil villain seen in movies.

I'm telling about real people and events in the 17th century, and feel an obligation to tell it correctly, but be entertaining as I introduce my readers to the time period.

One problem associated with writing historical fiction involving known events and groups is that the historical record gives us an insight into what will happen to them. Do you worry that people's knowledge of the grim fate of the Huguenots in France will affect their reaction to events in this book?

 No, and for a similar reason as mentioned earlier. I only describe a fraction of the events, battles and conflicts that happened with the Huguenots, but I'm hoping what I do use helps readers to understand and appreciate them. I know it affected me learning more about these courageous people. The Three Musketeers and some older books, truncate them, concentrate more on the Catholic side or the secular and downplay the importance of religion during the time in people's lives. Probably because it's not politically correct today, but religion and faith affected every day life from the King down to the lowliest peasant.

Writers have a variety of backgrounds that influence their novels. How did your screenwriting background affect your writing process and final product?

It was tremendously helpful in teaching me to craft my story visually. With scripts, pacing is critical; dialogue must be tight, the action compelling and the story constantly moving forward. Yes, in prose writers have the luxury of going in-depth in description and developing characters, but not to the point of belaboring a story. I try to merge my love for epic historical fiction by placing the readers in the time period with authenticity and incorporate the energy of scriptwriting, thus my style is cinematic in nature.

If The Hugenot Sword were turned into a film, who would be the perfect fit for your main characters?

Oh, I don't know. To be honest, I don't keep up the new or young actors. Sounds funny coming from a former screenwriter, but I more watch movies for story then for a particular actor or actress. To me, I don't care whose name is on the marquee, if the story doesn't interest me, I won't watch the movie.

Can you give us any hints about your current works-in-progress?

I'm working on a couple of manuscripts, one set in England during the Civil War, and the other in Scotland at the beginning of the Highland Clearances. That's for the historical fiction side.

I'm also editing and preparing the 5th book in my YA fantasy series, Allon, for release in May. Yes, I write in multiple genres, but not totally unrelated. My historical fiction background is heavily employed in creating my fantasy kingdom.


Thanks, Shawn.

If you'd like to see more from Shawn, please check out her website http://www.allonbooks.com/home.html.

The Huguenot Sword is available at a wide variety of vendors. Click here for a list.

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