This is one of those Nerd Posts: a blog about books and research. And if you parse writing into high school cliques, with literary fiction being the Cool Loners, the commercial men’s fiction as being Popular Athletes, romance the Popular Girls, and Sci-Fi as the kids who play D&D and can’t leave it at home, then Historical Fiction is the realm of the Straight-A, Kind of Annoying Super Nerd. I’m just going to raise my hand right now.
The reason I say this is because one of the backbones of Historical Fiction is Research. Some people groan and moan about (okay, sometimes even I do that), but in the end, it’s the details of reality that give Historical Fiction its gravitas. The historical notes at the end of a book is the author’s way of raising their hand and saying, “Actually…”
But this post isn’t about Actually, it’s about books! What else?
In my Historical Romance, A LADY’S REVENGE, and the upcoming THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH, I use some modern language usage to allow the non-historical readers to get drawn into the story. Every fact I double-checked, and tried to go to source if I could. I didn’t have the money to travel to London to verify with actual records in places like British Museum, even though that would have been amazing.
Time Period References:
But there are a ton of books out there to use as secondary sources that give direction to primary material. For instance, books like What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, R. Johnson’s London by Liza Picard, Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins, and Georgian London: Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis are all helpful guides into the time period surrounding 1816.
Side-note to clarify: The Georgian time period refers to the reign of the Hanoverian kings in England, who are named George (I, II, III, IV). This is from 1714-1830. The Regency time period is nestled inside of that time period, from 1811-1820, when King George III went mad, and his son, the Prince, took over duties, becoming the Regent, until King George III’s death in 1820. The Prince became King George IV, until his death in 1837, and his niece became Queen Victoria. This ushered in the Victorian era (1837-1901).
For the pugilism aspect of A LADY’S REVENGE, I referred to my primary source material of Pierce Egan’s Boxiana. Useful and contextual secondary sources were Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan’s Boxiana World, by David Snowdon, Regency Slang Revealed by Louise Allen, and The Regency Underworld by Donald A. Low. This was all well and good for men’s boxing, but women’s boxing is a lot harder to find.
For those, I have A History of Women’s Boxing by Malissa Smith, and a novel, The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman.
And that doesn’t count the books I read to try to give context–fiction of the period, about the period–and the articles online which included snippets from different historical societies and museums, blogs and experts.
Right now, I’m in the middle of more research for THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH, although, I needed every one of those prior sources to get where I need to be to write this one, too. But I’m an ambitious sort (see Historical Fiction authors as the Annoying Super Nerds), and there is more to write.