Join Historical Fiction author, Thomas Berry, as he talks about the inspiration behind his books.
There is something remarkable in the smile of a young child or the gleam in their eye when they learn something for the very first time. It brings a joy to my heart and lifts my spirit to new heights. There is an innocence which transcends adult vices, bigotry, and intolerance. I was blessed with five children and most are all grown now. Some have graduated college and started lives of their own. Others are still navigating the academic and social circles of higher education. Despite their ages, I still enjoy looking at an old picture of them or reflecting on a favorite memory. Those are priceless to both me and my wife of 26 years.
I have always enjoyed reading and the rich stories brought forth in the pages of a good book. The best are those which taught me something when I didn’t even know I was learning. A novel from a historical period or a biography of a person who made an impact on society. When I started writing about 15 years ago, I began with short stories based on the world around me. My children were at my core and the natural basis for my earliest muses. As I grew as a writer, my stories took on a life of their own in ways I never could have imagined.
I began writing the kind of stories that I had always enjoyed reading, those that taught me something of value within the framework of characters, dialogue, and plot twists. My style was honed by the authors I was fond of. I keep my chapters short so the reader is more likely to continue on, even if it’s late! I have exciting endings and cliff-hangers which hold their attention and keep them coming back for more. Most of all, I want my characters to be 3-dimensional, fully developed people. I have never encountered anyone in the real world who are wholly good or completely evil. They are nuanced and flawed. That’s life.
An essential part of writing historical fiction is the research involved. I chose a topic we’ve all heard about in classrooms but have rarely explored in much depth. What better way to help others touch the past? My novel Lewis and Clark:Murder on the Natchez Trace offered a rare look into the famous expedition of the American west in the early nineteenth century. Names such as Sacagawea and Tecumseh came to life alongside William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, and Thomas Jefferson. The novel took a unique approach into the death of Lewis six years after returning from their journey and the subsequent investigation that took place during the War of 1812.
|The author at the Alamo during the 175th anniversary, 2011.
My second novel kept with the old west theme but set the geography a little further south. I wanted to see what really happened to the men and women of the Alamo in 1836 and the more I researched, the more interesting these American colonists became for me. Davy Crockett was no simple frontiersman with a coonskin hat. He was a congressman who hated the backwoods caricature his political opponents put forth in the media. James Bowie, famous for the sturdy blade that bears his name, was a daring, larger-than-life figure who succumbed to illness at the worst possible time. TexasFreedom: Last Stand at the Alamo is an exciting tale that outlines the events surrounding the massacre on the Mexican frontier.
My third book, Crosshairs, moved the time period up 100 years as it details the real-life adventures of three veterans during World War II. One of them was my grandfather so you can imagine these stories hold a special place in my heart! I had the privilege of interviewing these men and uncovering the truth surrounding the harrowing ordeals and missions they undertook. Two of them were American pilots flying bombing raids over Europe. One was shot down and survived several POW camps and numerous escape attempts. The other flew over 30 missions and ended his combat duties in a top-secret operation alongside Joseph Kennedy Jr., the older brother of JFK. The third veteran entered the war on the beaches of Normandy and fought through the rugged mountain passes of Italy up into the Po Valley. I spent countless hours of extensive research to bring their stories to life and even found the planes and crewmates the pilots flew with! Those were exciting moments for me.
|The author’s grandfather, Donald Malloy, (L), and crew prepare for a bombing mission over Europe.
Throughout all these novels, I had a pet project I was developing on the side. As the stories of the old west took fruition and the skies above Nazi Germany filled with large four engine birds, I kept harking back to another time and place, far removed from the events I was writing. I understood only too well how life can bring you back to your roots. Time runs full circle and the days of your past eventually catch up to you. I wanted to explore the very beginnings of our society, when democracy and socialism were not yet synonymous with America and Russia.
Gifts of the Gods: Iron and Bronze is my latest novel, the first in a trilogy on Ancient Greece. It explores the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta and uncovers the very framework on which our present world is based. The events of World War I and II all have their roots here. We live in a society of black and white thinking. America is ‘good’ and Russia ‘evil’. We are told that democracy and socialism cannot co-exist together. However, these ideas both started from the same fundamental problem. When the rich have too much power and the poor have nothing, what do you do? Athens and Sparta answered the problem in completely opposite ways but they both set about trying to create the perfect society. Did they succeed? More importantly, how do we learn from them?
The terrible wars that continue to plague us today hark back to those times when allies formed alliances for safety but dragged us down a dark road we weren’t prepared to deal with. The statesmen who gave all their citizens the right to vote soon learned that mob mentality is a frightening concept. And when everyone is equal, and society seems perfect, what price are you willing to pay to secure it? Brutal regimes and systematic purges, together with deep isolation, kept a tight rein on its citizen body. Do these ideas sound familiar? They existed in Ancient Greece and in the 21st century as well.
If we learn anything from history, we know that life is not black and white, and intolerance is often at the root of most conflicts. We must understand the nuances and flaws not only in each other but in ourselves as well. As I develop as a writer, I find myself growing as a person and I hope to challenge others to do the same. So put down the remote, turn off the video games, and grab a good book!
Gifts of the Gods: Iron and Bronze
Five men and women in Ancient Greece are set on a dangerous journey of self-discovery during the bitter conflict of the Peloponnesian War.
Fifty years after King Leonidas of Sparta and his brave 300 fought to the death against Xerxes’ Persian hordes at Thermopylae, a long and bloody rivalry erupted between the new superpowers of the era. The world of Ancient Greece in 480 B.C. was evolving into a new landscape. The isolated, socialist regime that grew from their king’s sacrifice soon found itself at a vital crossroads with the democratic empire of Athens. The Peloponnesian War was not just a battle for political ideology but a brutal military campaign pitting the world’s strongest army against the most powerful navy that ever sailed the seas. The fallout from this consummate struggle would change the course of human history forever.
Amidst the battlefields, ordinary men and women continue to work together behind walled cities and open farmland in order to survive. The Olympic festivals honor the gods with their renowned athletic contests and one woman finds herself in a deadly gamble when she must make an agonizing choice. A young helot slave longs for freedom while a new wife imperils herself to stand by her husband and home. When a wealthy aristocrat finds his world turned upside down, he must learn what true sacrifice and honor are all about. A Spartan officer who has lived by a strict code of tradition must discover new ways to cope in an unconventional war.
Five people from different walks of life must adapt to their changing world while remaining true to themselves. Who will survive the war and what will their lives be like when it’s over?
Giveaway is now closed.
Thomas Berry is giving away two paperback copies of his award-winning book "Gifts of the Gods: Iron and Bronze.
*ebook copies for international winners.
All you need to do is answer this question:
“What is your favourite period in American history and why?”
Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm BST on March 28th.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is only open to Internationally.
•Only one entry per household.
• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
•Winners will be announced in the comments.
• Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Thomas Berry received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University. He takes pleasure in extensively researching both historical fiction and non-fiction stories. In his spare time, he enjoys long distance running and has completed several marathons. He currently lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey. You can learn more about Thomas and his historical novels at his website.