Archaeology and Historical Fiction: Creating Characters from Dust

I have a fairly standard background in archaeology (a degree from Cambridge, a PhD from UCL) and have worked both as a museum curator and as a university lecturer. I am also the author of several archaeological books (details can be found on my website), but I currently combine teaching for The Open University with writing historical fiction. My novels are directly inspired by archaeology. My first novel, Undreamed Shores (set in the Early Bronze Age) draws strongly on my own archaeological research carried out in the Channel Islands and elsewhere from 1981 to 1995. My second, An Accidental King (set in the 1st Century AD) is based on published archaeological discoveries at Fishbourne, London, Colchester and Thetford. My third, on which I am currently working, will revisit some of my own discoveries (specifically my excavations at La Hougue Bie, Jersey). For every day that I spend actually writing, I’d say that I spend at least two days researching (often at the British Library, or at the National Archives in Kew, but also visiting museums and the places I plan to write about) and three days editing (today is an editing day). Some of my characters are historical, and some are simply made up (it is fiction, after all), but some are based directly on archaeological discoveries (I have posted a specific example of this on my blog). My move from writing archaeological (and biographical) non-fiction to writing novels inspired by archaeology and history was prompted by a desire to transcend the inevitable limitations of the archaeological record in getting closer to the people of the past, to envisage them as real people with names, passions, hopes and desires, but I try to base my fiction quite closely on the archaeology and the history, writing nothing implausible, and frequently allowing the archaeological record itself to suggest a storyline.