Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Get that history right, gurl! What an author must know about her words!

Pick a period in history that you love.
What do you know about it?
List that.
Can you translate that into 20,000 words of BELIEVABLE text? 30K?
Fiction? With moving parts, intelligent characters and realistic conflicts?
What does an author of historical fiction REALLY have to know?
Well, more than how to write a love scene...
Say, you're writing about folks who want to revolt against the king...
You will have to research:
What they wore to the revolution.
What they ate while they revolted.
Where they went to revolt.
How they traveled there.
What their demands were...and why.
Oh, boy.
For my latest Regency, HIS DELECTABLE COOK, I had to know (among other glamourous facts):
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  • 1820s English Law regarding women's inheritances. (No lie.)
  • How staff was hired. By whom.
  • How staff related to each other.
  • How an heiress could be robbed of her rights.
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For WITH HER KISS, my newest erotic medieval (now on pre-order, BTW, so go save $$$), I had to become re-acquainted with:
  • Structures of dungeons
  • What Dominican monks wore
  • Geography of western England and Wales
  • Structure of one famous castle (Nope. Won't tell you which one, but it DOES HAVE a SECRET DOOR!)
  • Whereabouts of King John when I set the story
  • King John's other misdeeds
  • All of which is background to the barons' decision to make John sign the Magna Carta!

Didn't know that the Magna Carta was the first blow to establish women's rights?
Well, now you do!
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Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Cerise!

I've done a few historicals and they were murder. The research consumed most of my time. Trust me, there is next to nothing on Spain in the 1400s (the date/locale of my novels). I had to look at artwork from the period to see what these folks wore.

And trying to get the dialogue to sound dated but still be understandable was unbelievably difficult.

I bow to any author who can do a great historical, as you've done repeatedly. :)

Kelli Scott said...

I bow to you. I've written some historicals, but never published out of fear for my lack of research skills :(

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

THANK YOU, both!
I was trained as a historian and I can say that I really know my stuff... but none of that is what I use in my fiction, except for background!
All the stuff in historicals is fact they never taught you in school.
Who needed to know about loincloths, anyway>
Or corsets?
Or love letters?