Monday, 25 June 2012

GUEST AUTHOR ANNE GALLAGHER on Research, specifically for Regency Romance.

Hello fellow RFWers.  Today We have the pleasure of hosting a guest post by Regency Romance Author Anne Gallagher (Piedmont Writer).  Anne has published several Regency Romances, and as she eloquently describes, proper research into the setting, historical figures, culture is essential to creating believable fictional characters and plot concepts.

Over to Anne:


Research is vital in writing historical fiction. I have at last count, fifteen folders in my Favorite Bar with titles like – Parliament, Aristocracy, Maps, Napoleon, Etiquette, Fashion – with articles such as  “How to Load and Fire a Flintlock” “Field Surgeon's Tools and their Practical Use” “How to Address a Peer,” “Lord Sittings in Parliament”. I once had to change three different stories’ timelines because the Lords weren’t in session during the months I wanted to use. Some people called me crazy for changing them, but I wanted to be accurate. There is nothing worse for a dedicated reader of the historical genre to find a mistake. (I once used “tuxedo” for want of another description “of a man dressed in blacks.” I received several letters from outraged readers stating the term “tuxedo” wasn’t invented until 1922.)

I write Regency romance, the era in which Good King George III succumbed to his final bout of madness (porphyria). Parliament declared his son, Prince George, Regent, hence the Regency period – 1811-1820. When George III died in 1820 and the Prince became King, some say the genre encompassed the whole of George IV’s reign from 1811 through 1830 when he died and his brother William took over until the reign of Victoria in 1837. However, the timelines of my stories never go further than the winter of 1811. In any historical era, it’s good to know exactly when your timeline begins and ends.
If you write in the Middle Ages, which part do you write about – Early, High, or Late? Different things happened in each of these eras and you want your reader to know your research paid off. You don’t want to be writing about Charlemagne and then the story takes a swift turn through the Renaissance. There’s almost a thousand years difference between the two.

In this modern day and age, you're only one click away from Wikipedia and Google, but that does have its drawbacks. Yes, you can get an overview of the Napoleonic Wars, or who the hostesses were at Almack’s, but those are generally bare bones factoids. In my research, I also watch movies to get a feel for the language, fashion, and ‘tone’ of the day (Sense & Sensibility, Amazing Grace, Master and Commander to name a few). When I rely on books, certainly the tome PRIMER OF NAVIGATION, (George W. Mixter 1940) left a lot to be desired, while JANE FAIRFAX (Joan Aiken 1990) was delightful and I found that someone other than Jane Austen could write a Regency romance.

I, for one, am a stickler for dialogue. Certain words were not in use in the early part of the 19th century – "tuxedo", for instance. An etymological dictionary is a lifesaver for using the correct word choices of the day.
As a character-driven writer, I do use some figures from history, but they are always minor characters. I also take ‘creative license’ when writing them. For example, when writing the Prince Regent, I took into consideration the newspaper accounts from that time, which portrayed him as a randy, drunken sot; but I did give him a human side. I allowed myself to think about the reasons why he could have become this way. Raised to be King, he had an education unparalleled by any of his Peers, although he was not allowed to use it when he gained the throne. His ideas were too radical. (I believe he was a forward thinking man, way ahead of his time.) I have always looked on his vices as a pointed rebellion against the establishment. His forced annulment to his first wife, Maria Fitzherbert left him broken hearted. He hated the woman he finally married, and after their child was born, never saw her again.

In my book THE LADY’S FATE, Ellis, the Marquess of Haverlane, doesn’t know what to do about Violet (an impoverished daughter of an Earl, sixteen years his junior). Prince George tells Ellis a story about his own marriage to the love of his life, Mrs. Fitzherbert (widowed twice, six years older than he and a Catholic). I have allowed George to be vulnerable when he says to Ellis: “It matters not who she is. There is no life when one lives without love.” Whether the real George would have said such a thing, matters not. It is how I chose to portray him.

Literature scholars maintain there are only twelve major plots in the universe (some say there are less than six). In developing your own plot line, sure you can write a romance, boy meets girl, gets girl, lives happily ever after. But it’s what happens between those highlights that matter. At one point, I knew I wanted to write about something taboo (forbidden, unmentionable, prohibited,) so I tackled THE DUKE’S DIVORCE.

Divorce was almost impossible in the early 1800s.  Gaining an annulment was a long, drawn out process that sometimes took years. For the book, I took creative license again and made the annulment proceedings last only six months.

When writing ROMANCING LADY RYDER, I knew I wanted to make the Earl of Greenleigh a spy for the Foreign Office. I spent countless hours researching the who’s who of Secretaries in the Foreign and Home Office, the Napoleonic Wars, Russian diplomats, the country of France, sailing vessels, even true Russian and French dialogue. I believe I spent more time researching than I actually did writing the story. However, I wanted to make sure everything was as true as I could get to historical fact. You never know who’s going to be reading what you write.

My characters are all from the upper echelons of Society, the haute ton. I like the class structure of the nobility. Of course, taking the time to learn precedence is a bear. Who bows to whom, what you may call your friends, your wife, even your own mother. The social customs of the day are exhausting. Women were known to change five times. And the era was all about money – who had it, who wanted it, who lost it.

My characters may be of noble birth, but they are also human. In LOVE FINDS LORD DAVINGDALE, the Earl of Davingdale’s father lost the family fortune gambling. Davingdale joined the Army to try to maintain his respectability. After his discharge with a serious injury, he finds himself “working,” much to the chagrin of his friends. The aristocracy didn’t “work.”

I once did a writing exercise that took my heroes and placed them in present day circumstances – what kind of job they had, where they lived, who their family was. The lesson I gained was that no matter where or when you were born, people are people. They all have the same intrinsic core values. Invaluable information when forming your characters.

Writing historical fiction and using historical figures is not easy. Research is the key. I cannot stress that enough. It can make or break your book. Even if you never use the word “crinoline” in your story, at least you’ll know what it is (a stiff fabric made of horsehair and cotton or linen used in the making of petticoats for use in hoop skirts). And be the better writer for it.
* * *
Anne Gallagher was a voracious reader at a very early age. In her teens, with Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew and even the Hardy Boys as her constant companions - she one day hoped to be a detective. Her first foray into the romance genre with THE HONEY IS BITTER by Violet Winspear, trounced the idea of being a female Columbo.

Instead, she decided to become a romance writer. Unfortunately, her dream would have to wait nearly thirty years. As a professional chef, she was forced into an early retirement from the restaurant industry by a serious injury, and Anne finally found herself with the time and dedication needed to pursue a new career.

She writes sweet, single-title Regency Romance with heroines who are not afraid to speak their minds. Her heroes, on the other hand, do not realize when they've met their match. Sparks fly, sexual tension sizzles, but never spills out of the pan, so-to-speak. Anne believes you don't have to end up in the bedroom to have a good book.

Currently, Anne lives in the Foothills of the Piedmont in North Carolina with her daughter, three dogs and a cat named Henry David Thoreau.

Anne also writes character driven women's fiction set in her old home-state of Rhode Island, where the sounds of the ocean, east coast accents, and Providence -- both literal and figurative -- feature prominently.

  You can contact Anne at her writing blog, Amazon profile page, Smashwords profile, or visit her author website for synopsis and purchasing links to her romance novels.




Don't forget our next challenge, no 39. Stuck in the Middle. Check it out on the Challenges Page. Linky up this Thursday 28th June.


Donna & Denise


33 comments:

  1. Thanks for guesting for us today Anne. I've always known researching a particular era was difficult so you've certainly confirmed this.

    Denise

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  2. Agreed! Agreed! Agreed! If you're writing is based on historical facts then it is best to always do your research and I too am a stickler for dialogue. I like to give me characters unique voices as well.. Like when I'm writing about youngsters or teenagers, I want to make them real by using words that they would use.. Good point Anne!

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  3. This has a lot of info I didn't know about the Regency period Anne. And I must say research is vital for authenticity. From reading a couple of your works your research has paid off.

    Thank you for guesting with RFW today Anne.

    Crystal: getting the voice of Teens down has to be hard without research into vernacular. Sounds like a good topic as a guest post . .

    .........dhole

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    1. I would love to do something like that!!

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    2. yay! I'll be looking for an e-mail :)

      ......dhole

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    3. Sounds Great! I'll get to working on that right away!! Thank you Donna!!

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  4. Hi Donna and Anne .. always loved the Regency period - and we have the best mansion here .. in the Regent's Palace (Royal Pavilion) in Brighton just along the coast.

    Writing a book .. has to be accurate .. I agree I hate things that jump out at me ... or as you mention words that are 20th C and weren't around then.

    Great post and points made .. your books sound very interesting and good reads .. cheers Hilary

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  5. What a well written and interesting post. I wonder if the vocabulary aspect of your research is slightly more difficult as you are writing about a different time period and culture to your own?

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  6. Hi Denise and Donna, Thanks so much for having me over today.

    Chrystal and Sally -- The dialogue is difficult. There is a different cadence to speech when not using contractions, and even in writing it, you need to think about what you say before you say it. (Or write it down as the case may be.) Thanks for commenting.

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  7. I LOve authors like you who do the research, so I can sit back, read, and learn something while I'm enjoying the story. And I had no idea the regency period was just eighteen years. I just wish there was a place on the book jacket (or somewhere) that let readers know that the info inside is accurate. Nice to see you here, Anne

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    1. Leigh,

      Some people place the Regency within the larger context of the "Georgian" period. (King George reigned for almost 60 years, although he was mad for the last decade of his monarchy, hence the Regency.)

      I wish there was that same stamp on book jackets. Perhaps I'll do that.

      "This book has been researched diligently by the author." How's that.

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  8. Very informative post. Thank you! I was never good at history so writing historical fiction would be a stretch for me

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    1. Heather, I wasn't very good at history either, and even though the research is exhausting at times, it's rather fun. You learn something new every day.

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  9. Sally: it did sound difficult.

    Leigh: I had thought it spanned a much larger time period too. I'm with you, I enjoy reading other's hard work, lol.

    Heather: I like history, just not all those pesky details that need memorized. I can see where it would pay off in writing though.

    .......dhole

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  10. I haven't read much about King George *hangs head*. Guess I've been stuck in the Tudor Period. So, Anne, your book's on my TBR list. Research kicks the devil out of the details.

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    1. Hi Kitty, The Tudor was an exciting time. All that bloodshed and behind the scenes maneuvering for the throne. Too much for me, I'm afraid. Thanks for putting me on your TBR list.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this information, Anne. Yes, I have thought about writing some kind of historical romance, so your article is of great interest to me.

    You are so right about knowing when your timeline begins and ends to avoid or minimize the number of anachronisms. Even if your readers may not know the difference, you have an obligation to your craft to think of the historical background. (And then there are always history-buffs who see it!)

    Hope I will be able to read something that you have written. It's hard for me to get some books here, but I'll try.

    Best wishes,
    Anna

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    1. Thanks so much for trying. Yes, timelines are important. It keeps everything in perspective.

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  12. Hello again, Anne,

    Good thoughts about historical language. I am presently reading the diary of Petrus Forsskal 1761-1763, Resa till Lycklige Arabien [Swedish for approximately 'Journey to Happy Arabia']

    Forsskal was one of Carl Linneaus' followers. He made a trip to the Middle East to collect information about plants there. But he died before returning to Sweden.

    This travel diary is published without modernising the spelling or grammar, so it really shows how the language has changed over time.

    I think I would have to write my historical novel in Swedish. I don't think I know enough about English to do what you are doing. My guess is that you read a lot about a period, and even contemporary texts like diaries to get a feel for how people of that period expressed themselves in writing.

    Best wishes & Happy Summer!
    Anna

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  13. Kitti: Tudor Period? Hmm, I thought that was an architectural style. Something for me to look up :)

    Anna; sometimes authentic writings can be difficult to get through, but if you are going for linguistics, or fashion of whatever; in my view, it is best to read writings of the time period, no matter how difficult to get through. The eis no substitute for research when it comes to authentic writing. Nothing is a waste of time if the author learned from the experience. If writing it is Swedish first helps you organize your thoughts and concepts, then that is just a step in the process of perfecting your craft. Is that any different than writers I know who write the entire novel in longhand prior to putting the second draft on the computer, and then editing and revising? A writer's process - whatever that may be - is unique to themselves, and the only outcome that matters is if it works for the author or not.

    .......dhole

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    1. Ah, Donna, British history is riddled with 'periods' based on the royal family at the time. Some are short and some are very long, a la the Victorian period which is a personal favourite of mine. How does America divide its history? Civil War Period etc? All very interesting. D.

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  14. Dear Donna,
    Thanks for your reply to my comment to Anne's post. When I talk about writing in Swedish, I mean just that. There are publishers here, there is even a group for NaNoWriMo here, who write in Swedish. So I could do it, but it is as difficult to get a manuscript accepted for publication here as it is anywhere else, just as it is in the English-speaking world.

    If I want to write something in English aiming to send it off to a publisher in Britain or the US, I write it directly in English. But some stories 'feel' better in Swedish. My troll-story sounds good in Swedish. I am writing that story in both languages, since it is so short. And if I succeed in writing two versions, I'll send them off in two different directions.

    I was just thinking, that I am limited in my ability to write English historical novels, because I don't think I could write the dialogue well enough. That was all. I would have to dig deeply into Jane Austin's novels, before trying to write something set in that period.

    Whenever you try to write a text, that is pretending to be from an older time period, you can never get it completely authentic. What you can do is a pastiche, a text that fits the mood of the time period, but is still understandable for modern readers.

    It was interesting to read that Anne writes as an exercise, the plot and characters in modern times to see if it works as a story. Then she dress them in their historical linguistic costumes.

    On another subject, after reading the description of what is required for 'Stuck in the Middle', I realise that I have written it all wrong! What to do!? I may not have time to re-write it.

    Best wishes,
    Anna

    P.S.
    I write often in long hand first.

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    1. Hi Anna. The suggestions for Stuck in the Middle are a little complicated. Leave your story. Mine doesn't follow the guidelines either as I'd already written it and no time to rewrite.
      I do hope you start work on a novel Anna.
      Denise

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  15. Hello Anne.
    Fascinating information and post. Even your cat has a regal-sounding name! LOL
    I agree wholeheartedly with this: "There is no life when one lives without love"
    Great guest post!
    Thanks for sharing Denise & Donna.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Andy. The cat is a curmudgeon, but loves Thoreau.

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  16. Hi Anne,

    Gawd, late to the party. Never mind, you know I'm with you all the way on the long haul! ;)

    best
    F

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    1. Francine, I'm always late for every party. Thank you so much for all your support. It means the world to me.

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  17. Like they say, better late than never. I found about Anne on Donna' blog post where she reviewed Anne's books. i have her books on TBR list. Her approach sounds perfect. And double checking the research stuff found on the net with non fiction books depicting that era can be useful.
    I recently read a book's reviews on Amazon, of an upcoming author of historical romance, where a lot of readers have bashed her for using tomatoes in a dining scene, for the simple fact that they became available after the journey to the Americas and accepted in Europe almost a century later.
    I had to laugh at the sheer laziness of not clicking the Google button.

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    1. Be sure your sin will find you out! D.

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    2. Rek, as with my "tuxedo" all it takes is one click to not be made a fool. Thanks for stopping by. Appreciate being on your TBR list.

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  18. Thanks again so much, Denise and Donna for having me over. I'm sorry I wasn't around much for the day, I've been moving all this week. Crazy stuff, moving. I hope I helped some of your readers with this post. I'm gearing up to do a more comprehensive series on my blog in the coming weeks so I hope they'll stop by.

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  19. Great post, Anne! I love it when authors take their research seriously, down to the tiniest detail. And, actually, I find research fun!

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