Author Terry Coffey on the research process for historical fiction

I’m a sucker for well-written historical fiction. Add Egypt into the mix, and I’m all over it! So even though I am on a bit of a reading hiatus this month, I devoured The 18th Dynasty from cover to cover and loved it!

I’ve also been fascinated with how authors undertake research for their novels. And when it’s based on history, the inspiration and research process would be even more interesting. So that’s what I decided to ask author Terry Coffey about – his research process while writing the book, including any interesting anecdotes and suggestions for others wanting to attempt a similar genre. Over to Terry:

‘Valley of the Kings’ is my historical fiction series that chronicles the turbulent lives of some of the most known and sometimes lesser known pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Told in story form, it’s a fictional biography based on historical facts and true events. ‘The 18th Dynasty’ is Book One of the trilogy, which recounts the reign of pharaohs of that particular dynasty.

I actually started researching the story for ‘Valley of the Kings’ in 2001, after stumbling across a televised biography about King Tut. Though the bio focused mainly on the young pharaoh, I was more intrigued by the story it wasn’t telling; the story of his father, the pharaoh Akenaten and his mother, the beautiful yet elusive Queen Nefertiti. The untimely death of the young pharaoh Tut was ominously tied to the life of his father who at the time of his reign was considered a heretic, and it was his actions and decisions that almost destroyed the Egyptian superpower.

I was fascinated by just the little I knew of his story and from that initial spark, I really got into researching the history of the 18th and 19th dynasty pharaohs. After two years of research, and visiting just about every library in Atlanta, Georgia US, I wrote a 50 page outline for a television mini series based on my story, and from that I wrote a one hour pilot episode. I then put the whole thing away and would periodically update it whenever new information or recent discoveries in the tombs of Egypt were revealed.

A decade later, I rediscovered it and asked a friend to read it and give me his opinion on it. He loved it but felt the story deserved to be told in its entirety first, before being presented in an hour long TV script format. He suggested that I write a novel based on the complete television series outline. At first I didn’t take the suggestion seriously because I had never written a book before, but because he was so tenacious in his opinion that it would make a great novel, I decided to give it a try.

Once I started writing the novel in early 2014, I literally couldn’t stop. I worked on it at least six days a week, spending 5 to 8 hours on it a day. It was as if the characters were telling the story themselves.

It took me about a year to actually complete the first draft and an additional six months for the second and third draft. The editing took a total of five months. I then tried unsuccessfully to get an agent to represent the edited manuscript, but everyone of them rejected it or rejected my inquiry.

Instead of allowing myself to become cynical or overly pessimistic about the whole process, I entered the manuscript in Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, where thousands of new and established authors submit their novels for a chance of winning a publishing contract with Kindle Press. My manuscript ‘Valley of the Kings: The 18th Dynasty’ was chosen for publication and has since been a #1 category bestseller in Amazon’s historical fiction category US, and a top 20 historical fiction bestseller in Amazon India.

I owe it all to the 3 P’s: Persistence, Perseverance and Patience! Without it, I would have believed my manuscript was unworthy of publication!

The next novel in the  ‘Valley Of The Kings’ trilogy is the ’19th Dynasty’ that will focus on the infamous pharaoh Ramesses.


If you enjoy historical fiction, and are even remotely interested in Egyptian history, I’d say this series is a must read!

You can buy a copy of The 18th Dynasty on Amazon. Happy reading!

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4 Comments

  1. History used to be my fav subject back in school! Egyptian history does make me want to explore more. Lucky enough to visit and see the mummies few years back I would definitely like to read about it!

  2. I have never read historical fiction before as I was never sure if I’d like the genre. But the way you have described it, it seems magical. If I ever start this genre, I’ll start with this series for sure.

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