New Twists to Old Tales


by Kathleen Cunningham Guler

Thank you so much for inviting me to write a guest post. I am honored!

Have you ever wondered, as more and more books are set in the same historical periods, are the authors really coming up with any new ideas? How many books are about the Tudors: Henry VIII and Elizabeth I? An endless string of them. How many about Richard III? As many as there are theories about whether he killed his nephews.

Way back in the beginning of time when my interest in Britain’s early history and Arthurian legend started to develop into the Macsen’s Treasure Series, it seemed that few well known modern Arthurian novels existed. Of course we had Mary Stewart’s best-selling Merlin trilogy and its sequel, T. H. White’s Once and Future King, and a few others. Then in 1982, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon was published. Ever since, like the Tudors and Plantagenets, one Arthurian-themed book after the next has popped up. Single books, trilogies and longer series have been published by the truckload. Some are straight up historical fiction, others are fantasy, most are somewhere in between.

As writers of this sort of fiction, we all draw on the same sources: the historical facts, the legends, the archaeology, the theories, the mythology. The question taunts: what if I don’t want to produce yet another story detailing Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin or any of the other legendary characters’ lives? Or another book told from some obscure monk or retired warrior recounting Arthur’s life?

How do authors keep from writing the same old thing? Enter imagination.
And how to poke the imagination into action? Start asking the “what if” kind of questions. In digging through the trenches of history (literally if you’re an archaeologist!), questions will constantly arise that the characters must answer in the course of their lives.

My brainstorming asked these questions: What kind of hero could have existed to meet the challenge of that time? What if my hero was someone who cared tremendously about his country’s freedom and integrity? What if his upbringing was ordinary, but something happened to him that deeply influenced his thinking and impelled his need to make things right? What if he had a reason to believe the prophecy that Merlin had made of a great king to come? What if he met a woman who shared the same beliefs and reinforced them through her actions? What would he do about it? How would he go about fulfilling all of this?

All of those “what ifs…?” evolved into iron-willed, blunt-talking Marcus ap Iorwerth: master spy, master of disguise and master swordsman—Braveheart, MacGyver and James Bond all rolled together. And with him, his true love, Claerwen, strong-willed, stubborn and gifted with second sight. Through these two characters, I’ve offered new voices for the fifth century. And perhaps as a bonus, a new sub-genre—the historical spy thriller!

About the Author

Novelist Kathleen Cunningham Guler is the author of the multi-award winning Macsen’s Treasure Series. Drawing on a long background in literature and history as well as her Welsh and Scottish heritage, she has published numerous articles, essays, reviews, short stories and poetry. The author is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the International Arthurian Society and participates in various writing organizations.

You can visit her website at



Filed under authors, books, information, reviews, Uncategorized

3 responses to “New Twists to Old Tales

  1. Guler is both a gifted writer, as well as a careful historian. I love knowing the background is so thoroughly researched, but never feels that way. Her prose flows and her characters spring off the page.

  2. Linda,

    Bless you for the kind words! This means so much to me! Thank you!


  3. Great news! A Land Beyond Ravens has been honored as a finalist in The National Best Books 2009 Awards (Historical Fiction category) sponsored by USA Book News!

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