Historical Figures in Fiction by Paisley Smith

Historical Figures in Fiction by Paisley Smith

I love history. Many of the keepers on my bookshelf are biographies of notable women who drastically changed the world they left behind. Some good. Some bad. I also am an avid fan of historical fiction. Authors like Phillipa Gregory have entertained me with their works steeped in both legend and truth. Although I’ve yet to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, I’m looking forward to suspending belief to watch a historical figure such as Lincoln evolve as a vampire slayer. It’s just fun.

Series like The Tudors, Rome, Spartacus, and The Borgias thrill me with their ribald speculation into the scandal-filled lives of people who really existed.

When Delilah Devlin put out the call for submissions for Girls Who Bite, I tried my hand at a short vampire story set in Nazi Germany. At that time, Delilah and I discussed co-writing a series we named Femme Noir with characters centered around the historical grande dame of vampires, Elizabeth Bathory.

Known as The Blood Countess, the real life Bathory was a serial killer of sorts, a woman in search of a fountain of youth who was purported to bathe in her victims’ blood, thinking it would preserve her beauty.

Bathory was placed under house arrest and, until her death in 1614, was immured in a room with only a slit through which provisions were passed.

In death, Bathory has gained the immortality she sought in life through movies, games, and literature.

In the Femme Noir series, the demon-possessed Bathory becomes the creator of a line of female vampires. She can only be stopped by a blood spell and help of real-life New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau’s, ghostly daughters.

Here’s a short excerpt from my story, Butterfly, in Bitten in the Big Easy:

“1585?” Butterfly still couldn’t get past that fact. “Shit, that makes you over…four hundred years old.”

“I lost count at thirty-five.” Cissy’s smile seemed a little self-deprecating. But that smile quickly disappeared. “The gynaeceum belonged to Báthory Erzsébet, a countess who lived in Nádasdy Castle in Sárvár.” As she spoke, her accent became more pronounced. The barely visible veins under the pale skin of her face took on a bluish hue.

Mesmerized by the vampire’s strange beauty, Butterfly struggled to concentrate. “Báthory Erzsébet?” she asked, trying her best to copy the Hungarian pronunciation. “Are you talking about Elizabeth Bathory? That chick that killed all those girls and bathed in their blood?”

Cissy’s blonde lashes fluttered down. Her expression colored with long-ago memories. “Yes. She was my dam. My maker.” Her voice sounded oddly devoid of emotion. “Her marriage had given her wealth and prestige. Her beauty was renowned. Long before Elena and I attended the gynaeceum, she’d begun bathing in the blood of her maids in an attempt to obtain immortality. Our little community turned a blind eye when the local peasant girls began disappearing but when she began selecting victims from the gentry, the authorities stepped in.”

“Wasn’t she known for torturing those girls?”

The vampire pursed her lips. “Yes. She took wicked delight in the most sadistic behavior. She flogged us, raped us, cut us and drank from us. She seduced us. She filled her bath with our blood and luxuriated in it.”

“But how…how did she make you a vampire?”

Cissy’s body tensed. “She promised the most ruthless of us—the ones who helped her—immortal life.”

Books in the Femme Noir series include, Bitten in the Big Easy, Charmed in the Big Easy, and (coming soon from Ellora’s Cave) Possessed in the Big Easy.

In The Night Crow, which I submitted for She-Shifters, I took the story of ill-fated queen, Anne Boleyn, and weaved a tale of ravens, witchcraft, and reincarnation where two lovers, divided by centuries and a terrible sacrifice, find themselves reunited in London.

Here’s an excerpt from The Night Crow:

My attempts had failed miserably. I had wanted to protect her. Instead, my spells and incantations had placed blame on her. She’d been the one accused and convicted of witchcraft, of adultery. I’d stood by, knowing those accusations were meant for me and had only held my tongue at the command of my queen. Heartsick, I stood on the scaffold behind her, my gaze fixed on the sumptuous ermine of her collar, on her slender neck, which was about to be severed by the burly, hooded executioner she herself had requested from France. My insides trembled, and I fought back the tears.

I’d begged her to let me come forward, to admit my wrongdoings but she would not hear of it. Instead, she’d whispered to me one request.

Free her.

What are some of your favorite books or screen depictions of historical fiction?And, what do you think of fiction that includes real life historical figures? On Monday, July 2, 2012, I’ll draw one of the commenter’s names for a free download of Bitten in the Big Easy by Delilah Devlin and Paisley Smith!

10 thoughts on “Historical Figures in Fiction by Paisley Smith

  1. One of my favorite books is “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova. Which has Vald the Impaler, a evil ruler that impaled his victims and the number was said to have been in the ten’s of thousands. Bram Stoker developed Dracula from Vald the Impaler. I love it when you can make someone in history blend into a fictional story. I always wanted to do a story with Annie Oakley in a romantic story as a lesbian sheriff hunting down outlaws.

    1. Deb, I would love to read an Annie Oakley story. Have you seen Deadwood? I think AO was a lesbian character in it.

  2. Have you watched DOWNTON ABBEY on PBS Masterpiece Theatre? This is absolutely my favorite historical TV series. I can hardly wait for the next season. The show is fascinating and highly addictive!

    Best of luck with your release.


  3. I absolutely adore Spartacus! Being a real life character makes it even more fascinating to me 🙂

    Congrats on the fabulous books!


  4. Wow! You learn something new every day. I didn’t know about Elizabeth Bathory, but man does she sound intriguing. As does, Bitten in the Big Easy. Great post, Ms. Smith!

  5. I agree with the appeal of writing in historical periods. Besides the fact that history has always enthralled me, you have a setting where the “worldbuilding” has already been done, so you can concentrate more on the story you want to tell about what you imagined happening then.

    1. I agree, Sacchi. I enjoy exploring the inner worlds of the characters moreso than the outer.

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