Foodies have their favorites. Wine connoisseurs possess knowledge of vintages and grapes. Readers know the genres they enjoy and they expect certain standards. Romance readers prefer a happy ending, whether it’s the classic happily ever after or just happy for now. Historical romance readers also expect a solid historical background. Although I read – and write – various flavors of romance, nothing shakes me out of a story faster than historical inaccuracy. If the heroine’s name is something modern such as Tami and the story is set in the 18th century, I’m turned off. If the characters chatter about modern pastimes or use 21st-century slang, I’m done.
And, if they store their food in a nice electric refrigerator prior to the common use of such appliances, I’m outraged. But I’ve seen all of the above in various works and I strive to never make such a glaring error.
History is a passion of mine. I grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri, an old river city with a rich history. Many westward bound pioneers set off on their journey from St. Joe. The short-lived but long remembered Pony Express began there and outlaw Jesse James died there at the hands of one of his own gang. Old houses, vintage buildings, and noteworthy places once first of their kind west of the Mississippi River abound in the older parts of town. I grew up in a Victorian brick house and every relative on either side of the family lived in an older home. When I first visited a modern ranch house in suburbia, I realized everyone didn’t have clawfoot bathtubs, carved staircases, attics filled with odd bits of memorabilia from the past or antique furniture.
In college, although I majored in both English and history, I knew I would write. Over the years, I honed my writing skills and eventually turned to my first love, writing fiction. My first few novels were contemporary and paranormal but when I first wrote my first historical romance, I was hooked. I loved bringing the past back to life and painting images of another time to give readers a little taste of history. With my background, I vowed to make certain I got facts and research right.
How do I go about writing a historical novel? First I come up with a story set in a favorite time period or place. Then I refresh my memory and read about the period. Whenever possible, I use firsthand sources. When I wrote In The Shadow of War, a World War II novel set in the small town where I now live, I used as many personal memories, printed recollections, and original source materials as possible. I also relied on some of the family stories I heard as a child. When I wrote Guy’s Angel, a 1920’s romance with some paranormal overtones, I set the story in my hometown of St. Joseph and in the old neighborhood, not mine but my grandparents’ old stomping grounds. I used local newspapers from the decade, hands-on research, 1920’s slang, and some of the old tales. Although my next historical, Dust Bowl Dreams, is set in Oklahoma, I also relied on family lore and experiences. I also read extensively about the “Dirty Thirties”.
My next historical romance will be out September 3 from Rebel Ink Press. Hear The Wind Blow, Love begins in November 1918 just after the Armistice and end of the first World War. It’s set in the Ozarks where I now live.