Episode # 75 – Gordon Doherty on Historical Fiction, Translations, and Audiobooks

In Uncategorized by Julius S5 Comments

gordoncoverThis week I have a chat with Gordon Doherty about the complexities of writing historical fiction, and why fans of the genre can be a little more demanding about the accuracies of the novel than others. We also chat about how Gordon successfully branched out into translations (through a publisher) and audiobooks. Show notes at rspcast.com/gordon.

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Strategos – Gordon’s latest series.

Amazon Profile

Gordon’s Website


Audiobooks for Indies – My latest book, check it out on Amazon.USUK

Legionary Audiobook – The book I narrated for Gordon.

Natural Reader – Have your manuscript read back to you! Perfect for spotting errors.

Show notes:

Historical Fiction

Gordon’s first book was a 120,000 historical fiction piece, certainly a complicated place to get started. He said that he had been reading so much about the period that he already had a place in his mind, and he eventually realized it was time to write something in that world. Still, it took him years to write the first book, but by the time it was ready self-publishing was really a realistic option. As well as having the world in his head, he has built piles of documentation that he can go to, not just for information, but as a way to get mentally back into the world.


Wikipedia is a great source, although he does note that it is important to make sure that the facts are accurate. Although he does note that even the original sources that Wikipedia uses can be biased, just like any historical document. When writing Gordon always tries to remember that each historical person has their own biases and history isn’t always accurate.

With historical fiction the readers can be a little more “communicative” about specific issues in the books relating to research. This leads to spending more time researching that with a lot of other genres. Gordon says “accuracy is important … but don’t spend an entire chapter describing a loom.”

Gordon also takes trips to the places he is writing about, he says that the online research can provide a great level of detail and information, but going there allows him to add a more immersive feel to his books. He will go through the draft of the book after he has taken a trip and add to its atmosphere with his real experience of the place. Obviously there are some places he can’t or didn’t want to visit (Syria), so for those he just relies on online research.


Gordon uses the Kindles text to speech function to have it read the manuscript back to him so he can spot errors, while he admits this is a boring process, he finds it leaves him with a very clean manuscript. I’ve previously mentioned the app NaturalReader.

After that it will go to his beta readers and they will spot the remaining mistakes. He did work with an editor for a time, but he was still finding mistakes in his manuscript and wasn’t sure that they were adding much to the overall process of writing the book. Having read one of his books, I can say that they are remarkably clean.


Gordon did his own over at the start and was pleased with it. But a reader got in touch saying that they very nearly didn’t buy the book because of the cover. It was at that point that he realized that perhaps his cover was not as great as he thought it might be! The cover was a “game changer” and once he had it completed and put on his books his sales just started increasing.

Translations and Audiobooks

Gordon has had audiobooks and translations of his books created. He says these are great extra ways to get the word out and bring in some extra money. For audiobooks he has worked with me (and directly with ACX for his second series). Translations also came out of the blue with a publisher approaching him to have it translated into Italian.


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Julius SEpisode # 75 – Gordon Doherty on Historical Fiction, Translations, and Audiobooks
  • robertscanlon

    Hey, Simon and Gordon!

    Thanks for a great episode, each one has at least one nugget, and usually several reminders of what every author should be doing.

    I also use a text-to-speech App on my iPad – it works on PDFs, epubs, word docs etc – and has a less robotic voice (you can buy extra voices too, there are loads of variations, even Indian and Irish, and Australian of course). It’s called VoiceDream and I can’t speak highly enough of it.

    Gordon is dead right about the read-out-loud process bringing to light clunky sentences, awkward dialogue and close repetition (the previous paragraph may have also used your favourite adjective, but you don’t see these when reading!).

    A cursory Google search reveals that, of course the Romans didn’t eat broad beans. They ate FAVA beans! :p

    PS. This site does a few funny things on an iPad (layouts and some button positions), and the comments system is hard to use on same.

    • SimonRSP

      Ah, I have heard of voice dream, a guest has brought it up before… I can’t remember who though! They were proofing their book on the bus on the way to work! And yeah, the site needs some serious mobile optimization… sorry.

    • Gordon Doherty

      VoiceDream you say? I’ll be checking that out. Word’s T2S voice is better than Kindle’s, but still it grows tiresome after a few chapters.

      As for the great bean debate. In the next book, I’ll use the term fava beans, then in the glossary, I’ll have this entry:
      Fava beans: broad beans. 😉
      In truth though I’m sure someone would still contact me and insist that they should be called vicia faba.

      Hmm, perhaps I’ll just have my legionaries enjoying pizza next time. No problem with that, surely?

  • Hey!
    I can so relate to Gordon! My first book was over 120,000 words set in Hungary during the Ottoman Wars, but its a Dark Fantasy so I have more license. Even so, to be convincing, fantasy has to be grounded in reality, so the research was extensive. It also took 5 years to write and I think I started in 2006 as well—getting the first draft of 50,000 words out during November when I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo. Its first in a series, but it was such a huge job that I have taken a break from that world the last couple of years. I will be putting another one out in 2015.

    I can relate to the same sense of being in the pre-Indie reality and working so hard and wondering if there if anyone would ever read it. It was almost published…then not.
    Because mine is a fantasy, I don’t get the “advice” that he gets. Whew!
    I want to go to Spain for research as well. Nice to know that Gordon s going.

    Thanks Simon and Gordon!

    • SimonRSP

      Ha, “advice.” 😉 Thanks for the comment Alyne.