Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the author of 24 historical fiction and non-fiction works and the winner of more than 53 literary accolades. More than 34,000 copies of her books have been sold. For a complete list of her books and awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Favorites: Part VII of a Ten-Part Reflection on Creative Writing


While I often compare my books to children and feel one should love them all equally, some individual characters have captured my affection more completely and firmly than others. 


As I have written elsewhere, while some of my characters are my own creation, other characters exist independently. I don’t mean they are simply based on someone I’ve personally met or read about, I mean that they have a will of their own and a personality so powerful that I acknowledge that I have not invented them at all. They have revealed themselves to me instead, allowing me to employ them in my works of fiction.

Some of these characters are minor, even incidental, to the plot of my novel, but they add color and often humor and round out the novel is some way.

One example of this is the dog Barry.

Barry is a stray who begs for handouts in an outdoor cafe in Acre. A young squire, John d’Ibelin, throws him some scraps and the dog runs around the corner with them to eat. When John is finished and starts to walk back to his lodgings, he discovers the dog had been taking the scraps around the corner not to eat them but to feed his master, a legless leper and beggar. Barry features in my novel The Last Crusader Kingdom

Or there is Godwin Olafsen, an armorer, who told me his story while I was writing about the siege of Jerusalem in 1187.

He told me how he and his wife and come as pilgrims to Jerusalem because their son Sven had been crippled in an accident. But even following Christ’s footsteps on the Via Dolorosa had not restored their son’s health. With no money to return home, they remained in Jerusalem and found themselves trapped there when Saladin laid seige to the city. Olafsen worked day and night to repair the arms and armor of the fighting men and being a good Christian he charged them nothing for his services — but when the city fell to Saladin he had no money to pay his ransom or that of his crippled son and so faced slavery. Godwin’s story is told in Defender of Jerusalem

Another one of my favorite characters is Sir Bartholew, a loyal household knight.

Having fought beside his lord Balian d’Ibelin at Hattin has escaped the slaughter only to discover that his two daughters have both disappeared in the wake of Saladin’s conquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Visualizing all to well what has probably happened to his daughters, he remains beside his lord a constant reminder of the sufferings of the enslaved. Sir Bartholomew is an important secondary character in Envoy of Jerusalem

Yet, without doubt, the characters that I love best are the ones who are responsible for me writing entire novels in their honor. Robin Priestman is one of these.

As I said in a recent interview with C-Suite Network

, although Priestman is not a known historical figure, whose memoirs one can read, I do not for a moment believe he is just a figment of my imagination either. He did and said far too many things that surprised me for me to have created him. I personally believe he was an RAF squadron leader, although he went by his real name, but one who did not write his story during his lifetime — which is why he decided to use me as his voice. He is one of several heroes in my Battle of Britain Novel, Where Eagles Never Flew.

And then there is my current favorite, Christopher “Kit” Moran, who has succeeded in making me stop work on another book and devote not one but two books to his story.

The first of these is my novella Lack of Moral Fibre

, which examines his fate after refusing to fly on a raid to Berlin in late 1943. Having been posted off his squadron for “Lack of Moral Fibre,” Moran faces severe disciplinary action for cowardice, and the novella examines the factors that have brought him to this crisis. The second book is my current work-in-progress.

I hope my readers will fall in love with these and others of my characters!

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