New video and series: Characters from History

I made a new video today, the first in a new series. Now that I’ve been pondering over worldbuilding for a while, I felt the need to explore the relationship between history and character creation. Just like we can look at the past for inspiration for our worlds, we can also find wonderous examples of fascinating people to help us create more authentic characters.

I believe that I’ve said this before, but writing is hard, and coming up with a crazy amount of stuff all on your own can put a real strain on your creativity and motivation. I’ve found that researching various aspects of history is incredibly inspirational, and since I enjoy historical fiction and fantasy, I happen to find writing and history to be natural BFF’s.

The aim is therefore to make a series that can be helpful to writers when they want to lean back and have some inspirational stuff presented to them. I think it’s rather brilliant, if I may say so myself.

The first episode is dedicated to none other than the magnificent Theodora of Constantinople – the 6th-century actress turned empress. If you didn’t already know about her, well, in less than 5 minutes you can know enough to hold a satisfactory dinner conversation surrounding this fascinating woman. All you have to do is click the link above!

The farm and the castle

It’s been a pretty busy weekend. My boyfriend and I went to visit his uncle who has a farm at Österlen (a region in the south coast of Sweden). It’s wonderful to get away from the city from time to time, but it has been a bit too much of that recently. I feel no shame at all in saying that I’m ready to get a bit too comfortable in my couch in the upcoming weeks.

On our way there, we decided to go and visit Svaneholm Slott, a renaissance castle situated by a beautiful lake. It’s also a museum, so naturally I had to go and see it.

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Svaneholm Castle

I was thoroughly impressed, to say the least. Often times, countryside castles have very limited exhibitions, sometimes only by guided tour as well, so it was a pleasant surprise to find such a big exhibition. Fun fact; as you can see on the photo above, the architectural style is different on the left and right side of the building. That’s because the left side dates back to the 1500s, while the right side is an addition from around 1700.

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Me by the lake

I don’t know about you, but I simply love creepy castle ghost stories. When adding a bit of mystery to the history, it becomes all the more engaging. I was therefore delighted to find a spooky chamber (very spooky indeed) in the basement. I was far too creeped out to enter it, so I sent Oskar inside to snap some photos of the ghost stories that were featured while I stood rooted at the entrance, staring at a veiled mannequin in the corner.

Svaneholm is said to be haunted by many mysterious, ghostly figures. Over the centuries, reports have been made of a white lady with dark curls, a man in dark clothing with a cape, even a lady in a black veil that has been mistaken for a real person. I have of course checked every one of my 84 photos from that day, and all of them are ghost free. I’m not sure whether I’m relieved or disappointed by this. While I relish in the eerieness of things like this, it still takes multiple glasses of wine before I enter any haunted house at a carnival. It’s a complicated relationship.

Overall, it was a very pleasant weekend, but I’m also glad to be home and to stay home for at least a few weeks now, which makes it a lot easier to stay on top of my editing, Youtube, blogging, drawing etc., so I’m looking forward to that.

Common misconceptions about historians

While I’m not a fully fledged historian (I didn’t go for my Master’s), I still get these strange questions from time to time when people hear that I majored in history. I know, there is no such thing as a stupid question … oh, wait, yes there is.

Person: “Oh! That’s great! What are your thoughts on that particular war, revolt, revolution or reform, that I happen to be so incredibly interested in?”

Me: Eh… I don’t know.

Honestly. Just because we studied history, that doesn’t mean that we’re living encyclopedias. Chances are, we have no clue what you’re talking about, best case scenario is that we recognise the event you speak of, but have no idea what to say about it. Most of the time, studying history at university means trying to understand the why, rather than the what. This means that as soon as you leave the first year level, the time for remembering specific events, dates and places is over.

On to the next one.

Person: “Oh! That’s great! What is your favourite time period?”

Me: Eh … I don’t know. *grits teeth silently*

If I had a penny (or öre, as we say here) for everytime I got this question, I would probably be able to buy myself a bath cushion. And that’s saying a lot.

Having a favourite time period as a historian is a bit like being a baker that only makes croissants. Sure, you can choose to specialise, but historians usually love history for a different reason than what one particular time period can give us. We don’t endure years of study simply because something looks good, or sounds nice. We love it because we have a longing for the past – a fascination with everything that involves the people that were here before us, no matter when.

I think it all comes down to a lack of respect for the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s reconised as fully respectable compared to some other subjects (not getting into that today) but it’s still a far cry from that of law, medicine, economics or engineering. People generally think of history as a pseudo-science, and don’t know what you can do with a degree like that when looking to make a career. All of this is partially true.

But history is hugely important. We need to analyze and be aware of our past in order to not repeat the mistakes that have already been made, and to tread carefully regarding necessary changes that haven’t gone so well the past.

If you happen to be a person that have asked one of the above mentioned questions, don’t worry. The next time you meet a history major or historian, why don’t you ask them what they would change throughout history, if they had the chance. I’m sure that would create a much deeper and meaningful discussion.

Went and bought myself an old brass candelabra

You know when you get that unexplainable urge to go antique shopping? That happens to me far too often than I care to admit. I’ve bought quite a lot of junk over the years… but sometimes, it’s almost like it’s meant to be. Like when you find the perfect brass candelabra after several years of searching, and it’s cheap. The satisfaction is too good for words.

A similar thing happened when I lived in Luxembourg. I went to the town square one Saturday afternoon, where a bunch of old people usually sell some old stuff like books, porcelaine etc., and I found a set of six crystal champagne glasses – hand made – and the price tag said 25 euros. I had been looking for this particular style for a long time, the flat one that looks a bit like a bowl and can be seen in many period movies. I asked the old lady whether it was 25 for all of them, but my bad accent must have given the impression I was trying to bargain with her – as she immediately offered them to me for 20. Little did she know, I would have paid 200.

Unfortunately, only four remain today, and each loss was a grievous affair. Let’s not get into details.

All in all, I highly recommend visiting thrift shops, antique stores and markets, as you never know what sort of treasures you might find. Mixing new with old things in your home gives it a more unique feeling, I think. Gateways to the past are all around us in the form of buildings, stories and tradition, but something as small as a brass candelabra can be of equal significance – if you let it shine anew.