Just how close to the facts do fiction writers have to stay? Hmmm. Depends on what kind of fiction you write. If you write about worlds in space, aliens on earth, vampires, or alternate realities, you can be pretty free with the facts. But what about those of us who write straight historical romance?
Most historical romance writers try to be as accurate as possible when it comes to the history in their books. I love learning history by reading an exciting romance. And I spend a lot of time looking up the history mentioned in those books. Not to check out the author's research, but to learn more because she has whetted my appetite.
I try to stay as close as possible to the historical facts, but in minor matters, I might sometimes stray. Forgive me.
In Conquest of the Heart, the hero goes to meet with William the Conqueror to surrender. I made sure that William really was in Reading on the date I had Ranulf go to see him. And when William forced two English earls to marry Norman women, his niece and his daughter, that was true, too. I just don't know if it happened in Reading on that date. But it was convenient to my story to have it happen there and for the king to have one more ward he needed to marry off--to my hero.
If you read Conquest of the Heart, you may notice that there are no castles in the book. That's because there were very, very few castles in England in 1067. The Normans were the castle builders. They built the round tower at Windsor and they built the Tower of London. But most of the castles built then were simple--towers with a bit of fortification around them. Or as William orders Ranulf to build, a motte and bailey--an earthen mound with a wooden tower structure and an enclosed, fortified courtyard. Ranulf decides to underlie the mound with stone so that a stone structure can be built later. A wise decision.
Something else you might notice in Conquest of the Heart is how often I mention the women spinning--not with spinning wheels because they had not been introduced into Europe yet--but with spindles. Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700's, the only way to have cloth was to hand spin the fiber into thread or yarn and weave it. So it was a constant chore. It takes a lot of spinning to produce enough thread for a piece of cloth. I know. I'm a hand spinner and weaver. People in 1067 would have been spinning every spare moment they had.
So there are big historical facts you'd better not mess with, things you can bend a bit to fit your story, and tidbits about everyday life that give authenticity to the book. A strong plot and characters readers can connect with complete the picture.
Michele Stegman has loved history all her life. She lives in an 1840's log cabin, spins, weaves, makes her own soap, and sleeps in a 200 year old bed with her husband, Ron, who inspires all her heroes. You can find her at www.michelestegman.com or www.facebook.com/MicheleStegmanAuthor, or www.Twitter.com/Michele Stegman.
Michele will give an e-copy of Fortune's Foe or Fortune's Pride to one lucky commenter. Fortune's Foe is a historical romance set in 1740 in Spanish St. Augustine. In the midst of a raging war, Mariette Fortune is torn between saving the life of her brother or the enemy Spaniard she has come to love.
Fortune's Pride is a sequel to Fortune's Foe and is set in Charleston, SC, in 1742. It is the story of a woman with secrets. But how can Irish accept Ty Fortune's love without revealing the secrets that could send her to prison and endanger the Fortune family?