Friday, March 3, 2017

The Challenge of Writing Historical Fiction

Writing a historical or non-fiction book can be something of a challenge as it is essential to get the facts right. There is nothing worse than reading something in either genre that you know is wrong. Not only does it make you shake your head, but in my case often is the cause of me casting that book aside. If the author didn’t fully invest him-or-herself in the book why, as the reader, should I?

I tend to be something of a nit-picker. I know this because I am a Virgo but have to say that I am more mellow now I’m older and have learned to be kinder—not only to other authors—but also to myself. However, getting historical facts right is not always easy to do without a lot of research and asking people who are experts for help.

Over the years I have found that librarians, historians, and other authors have been flattered to have their opinions sought and are usually very helpful. I remember days spent in the bowels of a library, either trolling the shelves or the stacks, for that nugget of information that was on the edge of my cognizance but remained elusive. Now there is Google and I can surf the net to my heart’s content without ever having to leave the house.

Google’s drawback for me is that it is a bit like going down the rabbit hole. One thing leads to another and unless I am very strict with myself it’s easy for me to be drawn off-topic. Pages get bookmarked, some get printed, all get noted to some degree if it is the information for which I’ve been looking. For my second Regency book, His Ocean Vixen, I needed information about the West India docks in London. I found some fascinating material, including some old dock plans and it all added that spice of real life to my text.

My last book, Brides of Banff Springs, is set in 1935 and although a more recent historical period than my Regency books, still required a great deal of research both in reading and talking to people. Learning about a slower but no less stressful part of history, tends to put my life into perspective and I appreciate all the more the conveniences I have today.

How people lived, what they ate, what they wore, where they shopped and where the goods they bought came from, never fail to fascinate me. Some details don’t make the pages of my book, but it’s all a learning curve and I never know what may come in useful at some point in one of my stories.

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