Historical novels written so far about William Marshal left me wanting more. So, I decided to write one myself. Why not? I was qualified to explore the events in twelfth-century England (and the western part of today’s France) because of a lifetime spent reading scholarly history books and a strong background in the writing profession.
I had earned a Master’s Degree in journalism from NorthwesternUniversity in Evanston, Illinois. I had worked as a reporter for U.S. News & World Report magazine for ten years. As a freelance writer, I had as clients Science Research Associates, the National Safety Council, Riverside Publishing Company, Ligature, Dow-Jones Irwin, and Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing. I had even worked as a fact-checker for World Book Encyclopedia.
Those jobs meant I had a thorough grounding in how to get things right. I did, however, have to conquer my fear of tackling such an intimidating subject as the life and times of William Marshal.
After I took up fiction-writing as a hobby, I published short stories in literary magazines and won an Illinois Arts Council Grant. I had taught fiction-writing at Chicago’s prestigious Newberry Library (a history library) and at several area colleges.
The one thing I had not done was to learn Latin in order to translate the original sources of the material. Many esteemed historians had already done that. It took up all my spare time just to read them!
What truly got me started, though, was the genealogy research I had been doing. In my zeal to find famous ancestors, I had connected my family to that of William Marshal. I had told my young nephew, Will Salon, that he was related to a famous knight. He was as excited as I had been.
Later, however, looking for proof, I discovered we were not, in fact, related to “England’s greatest knight,” as he is often called. (Another knight vies for the unofficial title. There is little doubt, though, that Marshal was one of two great knights of the twelfth century, along with King Richard the Lionheart. Along with his amazing physical skills, Marshal had developed good judgment, loyalty, and political acumen.)
Chagrined by my genealogical error, I decided to write a novel about William Marshal for our family’s Will Salon. I decided to give myself a male pseudonym because action-adventure novels are predominately written by, and read by, men. Notice, though, the pseudonym I chose, “Marc Schaeffer.” It takes the “Mar” from my first name, “Margaret;” and the “Sch” from my surname, “Schmidt.”
Thank you to my readers and fellow-writers! Know that I am happy to give limited advice on your own problems with fiction-writing. I am convinced that there are dozens of excellent writers who need encouragement to start writing and keep on writing. My advice: don’t spend the rest of your life trying to attract a mainstream publisher – you can publish yourself relatively inexpensively. Feel free to contact me through my blog – or, I should say, “our blog.”