Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Understanding Ourselves by Understanding the Past.


My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birth of A Book, Part 1: The Idea

This is the first of a ten part series on the process of producing a novel.

In my experience, the origin of a novel distinguishes itself from the origin of a work of non-fiction by the role of inspiration. I have written and published four non-fiction works, and each of these came into being as the result of a rational process. In each case, I considered a variety of topics that might meet my objectives for the book, did market research on what books were already available on these and similar topics, adjusted the focus as appropriate and then got to work.

Selecting the topic for a novel, in contrast, is not a rational process. Ultimately, people don’t read or like novels for rational reasons either. Novels by their nature must appeal to the heart more than the head. Novels are like human beings. Each is unique – even if they tell a familiar story – and each needs a spark of inspiration if they are to succeed.

I have been told that some novelists can write novels based on a formula. Perhaps this is even a useful way of writing crime fiction or dime-store romance. I have no experience with this kind of writing, however, and question whether something that is uninspired can ever read as if it were. I have also listened to aspiring novelists agonize about not knowing what to write. There is a very simple answer to this common dilemma: If you don’t know what to write, don’t.

To create is to imitate the Creator of us all, and creation always has a spark of divinity in it. That spark manifests itself as inspiration.

The origin of each of my works of fiction has been a spark of inspiration.

Next week: Part II will look at the importance of research for a novel. 

Meanwhile, the first reviews of Where Eagles Never Flew our out:



Great story with superb flying accounts, October 15, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
By Hawgheater
This review is from: Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel (Kindle Edition)

As a retired US Air Force fighter pilot, I just finished reading "Where Eagles Never Flew"...for the 2nd time! As my bread and butter, I found the flying scenes to be most accurate, but I also really enjoyed how the four main characters were all interconnected as the book continued on. I found the book to be very readable...hard to put down...and perfect for a follow-on Hollywood cinema production.

A wonderful complement to non fiction Battle of Britain books, October 17, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
By Roy Crawford (Whitesburg, KY)
This review is from: Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel (Kindle Edition)

I must begin with a disclosure: I reviewed the manuscript of this book for technical and historical accuracy. I am a forensic engineer and serious amateur historian of the Battle of Britain. Among other things, I have read dozens of books about it and sat in the chairs Rex Harrison and Winston Churchill sat in at RAF Uxbridge on Eagle Day.

Since one of my favorite ways to take in history is to read fictional stories woven into historical events, I loved Where Eagles Never Flew and very highly recommend it for everyone. The major differences between it and straight history books is that it allows the reader to get inside the everyday lives of airmen, both inside the cockpit and out, including their romances, on both sides of the Channel. Battle of Britain Wing Commander Bob Doe wrote that Eagles is the best book he's ever read on that piece of history, adding that authoress Schrader got it "smack on the way it was for us fighter pilots." High praise indeed. You'll get details you wouldn't elsewhere, and you'll feel as if you're right there in the thick of wartime life rather than just observing from the future and the outside.

One of my first thoughts upon finishing this book was that it should be a movie. The ending is particularly stunning.











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