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Reading and writing a tapestry of historical fiction

September 21, 2013
Self-portrait of Alexei Serov from Banafsheh Serov's first novel.  The Russian Tapestry is a story inspired by the real life love story of the author’s husband’s grandparents.

Self-portrait of Alexei Serov from Banafsheh Serov’s first novel.
The Russian Tapestry is a story inspired by the real life love story of the author’s husband’s grandparents.

I love books. I love reading. Left to my devices, I can lose myself in a story for hours, emerging only after the last page is read.  I read across a wide range of genres (except paranormal and fantasy which I really struggle with) and take great delight in discovering new authors. And although I enjoy music and movies, books are my true passion. Our family have been booksellers since 1983 when we immigrated to Australia. As a result, I spent my adolescent years surrounded by a plethora of books. Even to this day, there’s a stack of at least 5-10 books sitting by my bed.

What inspires me most in a book is the play of words by the author to create emotion – empathy, fear, excitement, grief. I love it when an author can surprise and delight me by creating something original and emotive just by the way they string words together.

Take the example below:

She turned, startled by the raucous laughter of the Kookaburra.’

We’re all familiar with the boisterous call of the Kookaburra. They are famous for their loud and startling laugh. However compare the above example with the one below:

She turned, startled by the machine gun burst of the kookaburra’s laughter.

Both sentences are describing the same thing, but only one is using words not usually associated with the bird. Instead it does something totally unexpected with its use of machine gun burst to describe the laughter, hence surprising the reader with a new way of describing a familiar scenario. It’s these nuggets of surprise that dictates my overall enjoyment of a book. Authors who surprise and delight me in new and unexpected ways inspire not only my reading but also my writing.

Of course words alone are not enough to create an enjoyable tale. A story without a narrative is a song without a melody. The two elements go hand in hand into creating something extraordinary. Together, they can create magic. My particular favourites are those narratives that bring history alive.

Australian writer Geraldine Brooks is a type of writer whose writing I find inspirational. The Year of Wonders literally took my breath away and since then, I’ve read all her books. I love Brooks’ skill in seamlessly weaving history (often choosing real life characters) into her fiction.  Similarly Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy opened my eyes to the richness of India’s history and past. Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Hugo’s Les Miserable propelled me into the turmoil of 19th century Europe and delighted me in both their prose and bringing alive the past.

About the Author:

Banafsheh SerovBorn in England, Banafsheh Serov spent her childhood years in Iran, from where she fled with her family during the Iran–Iraq War to eventually resettle in Australia. She is the author of Under a Starless Sky, the true story of her family’s escape from Iran. She lives in Sydney with her husband and sons, and owns and manages a small chain of independent bookshops (Your Bookshop). The Russian Tapestry is her first novel.


For more information about Banafsheh visit her website ( facebook ( or twitter @B_Serov

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2013 7:06 am

    Thank you Read Watch Play for inviting me to contribute to your post. I can talk about books all day.

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