Friday, September 23, 2016

Call for Submissions 2016

We invite authors to submit their books of 60,000 words or more to be considered for the Third Annual M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction, given each year in memory of M M. Bennetts, author and historian, whose works set a high standard for scholarship and literary excellence.
Publication date must be 2016, verifiable on line at Amazon.

The winner will be awarded $500 and the M.M.Bennetts Award Scroll. The finalists will be notified in May. The winner will be announced in June 2017.

Books must be written in English, set at least fifty years in the past and will be judged on the basis of story quality, development of characters, excellence of writing and historical accuracy.
Self-published books are welcome.

Erotica, Fantasy, Young Adult and Children’s novels will not be accepted.

Submissions must be first editions, entirely the author’s original work. Authors may submit two books if both are published in 2016. Publishers can submit on behalf of their authors.

The Submission Fee is $15 via PayPal. (You don’t have to have a PayPal account.) Include the author’s name and book title(s) in the PayPal message box.

Please copy and reply to the questions below and email them to after payment.

Please choose one of the following methods to provide copies of your book (the first method is preferred.):

1) Send three paid (gift) Kindle copies of your 2016 published book to for the first round. A writer or publisher can download a manuscript to Kindle Direct Publishers free of charge and have a manuscript up and ready in a few days. If this is not possible, please use method 2.

2) Three PRINT copies may be sent if necessary. Email the board at the address below. Mailing addresses of assigned readers will be provided by reply email. You will not be given the names of the readers. Any message other than your name and the title of the book may disqualify the entry.
Authors must not contact assigned readers or judges. Judges' decisions are final. Your email address may be given to members of the Award organization for the purpose of conducting our business. It will not be shared elsewhere.

Please read this Call for Submissions carefully to be sure your novel qualifies before paying the fee and sending the materials. There will be no refunds.

All entries must be received by midnight PST January 31, 2017. Please enter as early as possible. Judge's questionnaires will be scored and comments saved. Submitting early will not be a disadvantage.

Members of the Board of Directors of the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction, its committee members, its assigned readers and its judges may not submit.

Thank you for your interest.

Submission questions to be completed:
Author’s Name:
Publisher's name, or state if Self-Published:
Book Title:
2016 Publication Date:
Genre: Must be Historical Fiction
Sub-genre if any:
Era and location of the story:
Brief general theme of the story:
Purchase site url, preferably on Amazon
Confirm that the $15 Submission Fee has been paid

Submitting your novel indicates you agree to abstain from contacting the Award organization, its assigned readers and its judges regarding the decisions they make relating to the organization, the contest, and the outcome, and that you accept their decisions as final. Submission signifies acceptance of our rules as set out on this page and any changes the Board of Directors finds it necessary to post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 submissions

Submissions will soon be accepted for works of historical fiction published in 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Interview of Stuart Blackburn, 2016 Winner

1) Congratulation on winning the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction for your novel, Into the Hidden Valley! Did you plan a life in India as it turned out? Or what led you down that path?

I first went to India in 1970 as a Peace Corps Volunteer (similar to the British VSO). It was either that or go fight in Vietnam. When I applied, I said I’d like to go to Japan, not knowing that Japan didn’t need any ‘help.’ I was sent to south India, to train primary school teachers to teach English. I stayed for 2 ½ years, learned the Tamil language and my life was changed forever.

2) Did you think of being a writer as a child? Or when and how did the thought develop?

I’m not sure I think of myself as a writer, even now. For most of my life I was an academic, doing research and writing it up into books and articles. But the research was always the best part. When I retired some years ago, I wanted to write but wasn’t doing research, so I turned to India. I’m still learning how to write fiction, which is so rewarding because there’s so much to learn. You can improve day by day.

3) Please give us a brief idea of the story.

The book tells the story of two men—a British civil servant and an Apatani tribesman—whose lives intersect in late nineteenth-century India. These two men, the officer and the shaman, are brought closer and closer, until they meet face-to-face and become entangled in events that blight both their lives.
The novel explores the power and inadequacy of words, spoken and written. George, the British officer, documents events in notebooks and official reports, while Gyati, the shaman, is immersed in chants that describe the seen and unseen. The officer relies on his writing box and its tools; the shaman manipulates sounds and pieces of bamboo.
Another theme is concealment and its consequences. False family backgrounds are invented, protective spaces are coveted and shamanic language is deliberately confusing. Most importantly, lies are told and discovered, leaving a terrible burden of knowing the truth.

4) Do you feel you've had a personal connection to the native people of the valley? How has that affected your life?

Over a period of about ten years, beginning in 1999, I did various stints of research in the Apatani valley, recording oral stories and documenting ritual ceremonies. That’s how I got into the shaman’s world. I made some good friends, mostly among the many shamans in the Apatani community.

5) How long did the book take you from starting the specific research to final edits?

The whole process was nearly two years. I write slowly, a little each day. The research on the tribe and the shaman’s world had already been done, although I had to do new research on the colonial side of things, how one became an ICS officer and what life was like for these officers in India. It is amazing that so few British officials ‘ran’ the whole of the subcontinent, relying of course on a huge cadre of ‘native’ assistants. Of course, sometimes they didn’t run it very well, as we see in the novel.

6) I know you based some characters on real people. Did you do interviews of these people to guide the story line or just create on your own?

Well, I had known these people from my research and from our friendship, so, no, I didn’t do any special interviews when I embarked on writing the novel.

7) Did you have to bend history at all?

Yes, more collapse and foreshorten the chronology of the main events, all of which did occur. For example, the ‘massacre’ actually took place fifty years after the time I set it in the book. Those killings, however, were never recorded in official documents, and I only found out about them from oral history among the Apatanis. It was this discrepancy between oral and official history that inspired the events in the second-half of the book, the moral dilemmas and their resolution.
I also want to say that I wrote this book largely because this chapter of colonialism—the clash between the British and tribal groups—has rarely been told in fiction.

8) I know there is a change in publishers coming up. Will the book continue to be available on Amazon? Where else can it be purchased?

Currently, it is available on Amazon. It is also available from Speaking Tiger Books in New Delhi, who published the Indian edition. Unfortunately, the US publisher (Bygone Era Books) has gone out of business.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Announcing the Winner of the 2016 Award!

We are pleased to announce that Parnel Bennetts presented the award for this year to Stuart Blackburn for Into the Hidden Valley at the HNS Conference in Oxford, England.

What could be more appropriate for a historical novel prize than an 'ancient' scroll? Nice of Stuart to have color coordinated for our picture.

Congratulations to Stuart.

We hope you will all read the books of our long and short listed authors found in earlier posts as well. To another great year of reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Finalist Stuart Blackburn

Stuart Blackburn was born in Providence, Rhode Island and lived with his ever-westward moving family in Detroit and then Claremont (California), where he attended high school. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1969 and soon entered the Peace Corps (one of the few remaining alternatives to serving in the military in Vietnam). Two and a half years in the rice fields and villages of south India, where he learned to speak Tamil, changed his life.

He completed his doctorate in Tamil language and international folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980, after which he took a teaching position at Dartmouth College, followed by other positions at Berkeley as well as a private high school in San Francisco. In 1994, he was offered a position at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, where he remained until he took early retirement in 2003.

He is the author or editor of 16 books on Indian culture and folklore, mainly in south India (where his first novel, Murder in Melur, is set) and northeast India. One book, a study of shadow puppet theatre in Kerala, won the runner-up prize for the UK Folklore Book of the Year, while a translation of an early Tamil novel won the A.K. Ramanujan Prize in the United States.
He has received numerous grants, including a Fulbright and a Guggenheim. He was also the director of a five-year, multi-disciplinary grant to study Tibeto-Burman tribal cultures in northeast India, which provided him with the inspiration for Into the Hidden Valley.

In 1977, he married Judith Tarr, who accompanied him on several research trips, enduring heat, mosquitoes and bad food. Judith’s son (by her first marriage), Michael, has also spent many years in India, some of them with his mother and Stuart. Michael now lives in New Delhi, with his partner, the landscape architect Aditya Advani. Stuart’s obsessions include old films, Arsenal football club and organic food. He lives with his wife in Brighton, on the south coast of England.

Into the Hidden Valley explores a little-known episode in the colonial history of British India. While a great deal has been written about the British Raj, considerably less is known about the encounter between the British and the tribes of India. One reason for this is that the paper trail for tribal history is thin, but another is that tribal populations were generally dismissed as peripheral. Yet, the British and their Indian allies were engaged in constant, low-level warfare with tribes from the 18th century right up to Independence. Even today, armed struggles continue in parts of the country, especially the northeast, where the story is set. Many of the main events described in the novel are either true or based on true events, though I have manipulated the dates of some events to fit into the time-frame of my narrative.

This photograph from 1897 shows negotiations between British and tribal leaders (flanked by Indian soldiers) in the Apatani valley, which is the ‘hidden valley’ of the novel. This was the first official colonial contact with the valley, which remains isolated even in modern India.

The novel dramatises the colonial encounter with tribes by telling two stories, one of a British official and the other of a tribesman. I made the tribesman a shaman because he takes the reader into the mental as well as the physical world of the ‘hidden valley’ and highlights the contrast with the incoming culture. The fictional shaman (named Gyati) was inspired by a shaman of the same name with whom I worked during field research. In the photo below, he is shown holding a copy of the Indian edition of the novel. Gyati died in May 2016.

I first became interested in the Tibeto-Burman-speaking tribes of northeast Indi, when I went to Arunachal Pradesh (which had been part of colonial Assam) in 1999. I spent a large part of the next decade researching the cultures and oral traditions of one particular group, the Apatanis, who live in the ‘hidden valley’ of the story. Two of my monographs document their storytelling arts.

Into the Hidden Valley is published by Bygone Era Books (Denver) and by Speaking Tiger Books (New Delhi). It is available both on Amazon and from the publisher in India.

Finalist Kermit Roosevelt

Kermit Roosevelt is the author of Allegiance, the critically acclaimed historical novel that captures the drama, heroism and adversity of wartime Washington and the Supreme Court, immersing readers in the life of an idealistic lawyer who comes of age. Published by Regan Arts in 2015, Allegiance is currently a finalist for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Kermit is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he also teaches creative writing, and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Souter.

His work as an author combines his lifelong interests in writing, history, and the law. As the great-great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, he’s had a more-than-typical sense of identity with the government, prompting him to examine the triumphs and stumbles of the political system and the many leaders within it. When it came time to write his second novel, he chose an era that closely parallels our world today. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, as fear swept the nation, FDR’s measures to keep Americans safe would lead to civil rights violations, legal debates and moral dilemmas, as seen through the eyes of his hero protagonist. During Kermit’s eight years of research, he uncovered a real-life house of cards story: “I was creating a mystery plot, but at the same time I was solving a mystery,” he says.

"I went to work on the Supreme Court, reading the diaries and personal papers of the Justices and the papers filed by the people involved in the Japanese American internment cases, around which the book centers. I researched the world of wartime Washington and the important figures within the government and the military. But I also wanted a story that would work outside the legal context, so I built in another mystery, one that would explore the same themes: loyalty, suspicion, appearances, and the fundamental question of who we will sacrifice to protect the people we love." -- KR

Allegiance is his first work of fiction since the bestselling In the Shadow of the Law, a winner of the Philadelphia Athenaeum Annual Literary Award, the New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection, and a Christian Science Monitor best book of the year. Allegiance was a finalist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction (he won 45% of the public vote). His experiences clerking and practicing law informed the book.

A frequent op-ed contributor, his work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Times, Time Magazine, and the Huffington Post, among many other outlets. He serves as a media expert, panelist, and public speaker on issues concerning the Supreme Court, constitutional law, civil rights, national security, American presidential history, conflict of laws, and his work as a novelist. He recently presented talks for organizations including TEDx, the National Constitution Center, and the Commonwealth Club, and has been interviewed by major media outlets in Europe and the United States.

Kermit’s nonfiction books include Conflict of Laws and The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions. He has also published in the Virginia Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, and the Columbia Law Review, among others, and the Supreme Court has cited his articles twice. Additionally, he hosts a Coursera class entitled, “Introduction to Key Constitutional Concepts and Supreme Court Cases.” Born in Washington, DC, Kermit attended Harvard University and Yale Law School.

Allegiance is published by Regan Arts, August 25, 2015.

Allegiance on
Allegiance on Amazon UK
Kermit Roosevelt website
Regan Arts, publisher’s website

Finalist Helena P. Schrader

Novelist, Historian Diplomat

For readers tired of clich├ęs, apologists and “blaming the victim,” award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader brings refreshing insight to important historical episodes and personalities based on sound historical research. Helena holds a PhD in history and is a career diplomat, but far from writing dry historical tomes, she conveys the drama and excitement of the events and societies described and delivers her stories through the eyes of complex and compelling characters—male and female—drawn from the pages of history.

Helena was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of a professor, and travelled abroad for the first time at the age of two, when her father went to teach at the University of Wasada in Tokyo, Japan. Later the family lived in Brazil, England and Kentucky, but home was always the coast of Maine. There, her father’s family had roots and an old, white clapboard house perched above the boatyard in East Blue Hill.

It was the frequent travel and exposure to different cultures, peoples and heritage that inspired Helena to start writing creatively and to focus on historical fiction. She wrote her first novel in second grade, but later made a conscious decision not try to earn a living from writing. She never wanted to be forced to write what was popular, rather than what was in her heart.

Helena graduated with honors in History from the University of Michigan, added a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from Patterson School, University of Kentucky, and rounded off her education with a PhD in History cum Laude from the University of Hamburg, awarded for a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She worked in the private sector as a research analyst, and an investor relations manager in both the U.S. and Germany.

Helena published her first book in 1993, when her dissertation was released by a leading academic publisher in Germany; a second edition followed after excellent reviews in major newspapers. Since then she has published three additional non-fiction books, starting with Sisters in Arms about women pilots in WWII, The Blockade Breakers about the Berlin Airlift, and Codename Valkyrie, a biography of General Olbricht, based on her dissertation.

Helena has also published historical novels set in World War Two, Ancient Sparta and the Crusades. St. Louis’ Knight won the Bronze in both the Historical Fiction and Spiritual/Religious Categories of the Feathered Quill Literary Awards 2014. Her latest project, a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin in three parts, got off to a great start when Knight of Jerusalem earned a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was selected as a Finalist for the 2014 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. The second book in the series did even better: Defender of Jerusalem took the “Silver” for spiritual/religious fiction in the 2015 Feathered Quill Awards, won the Chaucer Award for Medieval Historical Fiction, and is a finalist for the M.M.Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction. It too is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Helena a career American diplomat currently serving in Africa. In June 2010 she was awarded the “Dr. Bernard LaFayette Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting the Institutionalization of Nonviolence Ideals in Nigeria” by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria.

She grew up sailing on the Maine coast and served as a petty officer on the sail-training schooners Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller. She has owned four horses over the years and remains a resolute horsewoman. She owns property in what was once Lacedaemon, which she visits regularly and where she and her husband Herbert intend to retire.

Visit her website or Amazon page for a complete description and reviews of her publications. Follow her blog for updates on current works in progress, recent reviews and excerpts. For more on the crusader kingdoms and Balian d’Ibelin visit: or follow her blog on the Crusader Kingdoms at:

Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 Finalists

The finalists for the 2016 Award are, in order of submission:

Defender of Jerusalem by Helena Page Schrader
Into the Hidden Valley by Stuart Blackburn
Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt

Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Semifinalists for 2016

Congratulations to the authors of the long list. In order of submission:

Helena P. Schrader – Defender of Jerusalem
Carol Anne Dobson – Hecate’s Moon
Lucienne Boyce: Bloodie Bones
Stuart Blackburn: Into the Hidden Valley
Karen Charlton: The San Pareil Mystery
Gemma Lawrence: The Heretic Heir
Prue Batten: Tobias
Dean Hamilton: The Jesuit Letter
Kermit Roosevelt: Allegiance
Nuala O’Connor: Miss Emily

Finalists will be announced in May.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Call for Sumissions: Historical Fiction Published in 2015

The M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Association is pleased to issue a Call for Submissions for historical fiction published in 2015. The winner will be announced at the Oxford, England Historical Novel Society's Conference in September, 2016.

We would appreciate early submissions to take time pressure off the readers/judges. Questionnaires with scoring and commenting are filled out at the end of a read and will not be changed, so time will not affect the judge's view of a book.

Please see the Submissions page of this site to determine whether your novel qualifies and what steps you should take to submit.

We look forward to the 2015/16 season!