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  • Lynne Shelby

This Writing Life #14 - Tom Williams - From Historical to Magical

Today, I'm delighted to welcome author Tom Williams to my blog, with a guest post about his writing life and his new novel, Dark Magic.

Over to Tom ...

From Historical to Magical

Tom Williams

Even when I was young, so long ago that the history I write about these days was practically current affairs, I wanted to be a writer. What eventually inspired me to put words on paper was a visit to Borneo where I discovered James Brooke, the first White Rajah. His story was crying out to be made into a novel. In fact it was crying out to be made into a novel so much that it had already been done several times. Conrad's Lucky Jim is loosely based on him and he appears in MacDonald Fraser's Flashman's Lady. There's even a pornographic version. But I reckoned that there was room for one more and it's fair to say my take on the story is different from everybody else’s.

Some people (including some mainstream publishers) have even said very nice things about it, but the consensus of mainstream publishers was that it was "too difficult" for a first book from an unknown author. My agent (I had an agent back in those days) told me to write something easier but to keep it historical.

This started me down the path of historical novel writing. So far six of my historical novels have been published – still none of them by mainstream publishers. Even so, they've got out into the world and people read them and some people have even been awfully nice about them. I don't have any regrets about the efforts that I put into them. That said, writing historical novels is hard work. Mine are closely based in historical fact. I wouldn't like to say how many hours are spent researching for every hour that is actually spent writing, but it's quite a lot.

I kept envying people who write contemporary stories. And eventually, inevitably, I decided to try to do that too.

Dark Magic grew out of an evening with a bunch of magicians and a reasonable amount of alcohol and once the idea had taken root, it wouldn’t go away. It’s a simple idea (a troupe of regular stage magicians are trying to take down a group who are using Black Magic in their act) and it’s a short book. (That’s another nice thing about contemporary fiction: most historical novels are just very long.) In the end, I told the story in 33,000 words. That counts as a novella. I don’t know why novellas are unpopular with publishers, but they are. It’s strange because in this world of short attention spans and instant gratification the idea of a book that doesn't demand a significant chunk of your life to read it should be popular.

Dark Magic let me have fun writing. I hope you have fun reading. There are more serious historical novels on the way, but if you like this I may try another book set in the 21st century.

Thanks, Tom, for telling about your writing life. - L

If you would like to purchase, Dark Magic, please click on the link below, or copy and paste into your browser:


TOM WILLIAMS has published six books of historical fiction but DARK MAGIC is his first contemporary story and his first novella (33,000 words). He has spent far too much time hanging round with magicians.



Twitter: @TomCW99

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