Charlene Newcomb: Finding inspiration for a story

My guest this week is Charlene Newcomb who lives, works and writes in Kansas. She’s an academic librarian by trade (and recently retired), a U.S. Navy veteran, and has three grown children. When not at the library, she is still surrounded by books, trying to fill her head with all things medieval and galaxies far, far away. Her twelfth century trilogy ‘Battle Scars’ and sci-fi work including the recent ‘Echoes of the Storm’, have found many happy readers. She loves to travel and enjoys quiet places in the mountains or on rocky coasts. But even in Kansas she can let her imagination soar…

Charlene is the driving force behind the new collection by twelve authors of historical stories, ‘Betrayal‘, which is on on 17 November. I am delighted to have contributed ‘The Idealist’.

Over to Charlene!

A memory. A family diary. An event. A scene from another book or dramatic presentation. There are so many ‘moments’ in a writer’s life that may tick off a chain of thoughts that lead to a story.

Looking back, I think there were two main things that stirred my creative juices: the desire to be part of the crew of the Starship Enterprise; and a childhood fascination with King Arthur, Camelot, and the knights of the Round Table. The far off future, and the distant past.

If you know me, you’ll know my first published work and many subsequent short stories were in a science fiction publication. I couldn’t be part of the Star Trek crew, but I could write sci-fi.

But today, I’ll stick with the historical. King Arthur fueled my passion for the past and my interest in researching the facts. I always wanted to know more than the limited information presented in school textbooks, or the shows I saw on television and on the big screen.

I knew I wanted to write historical fiction set during the American Revolution, and with a university degree in U.S. history that seemed perfectly logical. But after an extended break from writing, I became fascinated by Third Crusade history because of an episode of a Robin Hood television series. I headed down the research rabbit hole. Inspired by that show, I wrote the Battle Scars series, a trilogy which takes place during the reign of King Richard, the Lionheart.

I am from the pantser school of writing. My novels evolve as I write, starting with a few bullet points—the ‘beats’ I know I need to hit to get from beginning to end. My first draft is the place where I get to know my main characters. I have identified the basic conflict, what the characters must overcome, and I think I know how they’ll react in a given situation. I don’t know everything about their background, but I add details to my character profiles as I plod through that first draft.

Often there is just a kernel—a line or two—in a novel that opens up possibilities for a character’s backstory. My contribution to the anthology Betrayal was born in the second chapter of Men of the Cross (Battle Scars I), after the young knight Sir Stephan l’Aigle runs into an old friend, another knight named Geoffrey.

“… It was not my fault you lost that chess game.”

Stephan planted a hand on the hilt of his sword. “You abandoned me.” He patted his coin purse. “No coin, no horse, miles from camp, and breaking Richard’s curfew.”

Geoffrey flashed a smile. “You forgot to mention ‘naked.’ Winning the clothes off your back was a delight.”

I admit I laughed out loud when I wrote those lines in Chapter Two, and they still bring a smile to my face. What led to this game of ‘strip chess’? The reader doesn’t get that backstory in the novel, only the insight into a bit of the knights’ history.

After Book III of Battle Scars (Swords of the King) was published, I decided to write a few short stories about turning points in my characters’ lives. The three stories to date are part of a series I call Passages, and Stephan’s was the first one. But I discovered that I couldn’t just write about a chess game. I had to figure out how the development of the relationship between these brothers-in-arms leads to the Stephan the reader meets in my novel.

I hope you will want to learn more about Sir Stephan l’Aigle in this short story prequel to Men of the Cross. You’ll have that opportunity if you read “A Knight’s Tale” in the historical fiction anthology Betrayal.

Thank you, Charlene, for the fascinating trip to another ‘world’.

Connect with Charlene:
Twitter:   @charnewcomb
Instagram:  @charnewc
Newsletter: Subscribe-to-my-newsletter

The short story “A Knight’s Tale” is a prequel to the Battle Scars series. Read more about Men of the Cross, For King and Country, and Swords of the King on Char’s website. Or buy the books on Amazon.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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