Whenever I write a historical novel there’s always a component of research to be added to the Writing Schedule. I put that in capitals because I’m one of those folks who has to write by a strict schedule or my discipline falls completely to pieces. So the Writing Schedule is very important- although I confess I hate it most of the time :). I try to get ten raw pages done a day on writing days- which are Monday through Friday. if I deviate from this goal, sometimes weeks disappear into the oblivion of playing, crafting, surfing, life in general, and my personal favorite- sitting on the deck swing with a great book and reading in between watching for the local dolphin pod. I really love me some baby dolphins!
But back to the topic of research. For Faith’s Keys there was not only a ton of research to be done on the time period itself, there was the tweaking of facts to fit my story line. OK, let me say this loud and clear for all those folks with PHD’s in Medieval History- I write fiction. Or as Chaucer says in the movie A Knight’s Tale, “Writers give the truth scope.”
So with that said, I try very hard to stay true to the flavor of the era I’m writing about, But I’m not trying to author a thesis on why Such and Such King lost the Battle of This and That. Most readers understand that fiction means not factual, so there’s no issue.
With the research for FK I learned a lot about fashion, jewelry, gunpowder, crusades, religions of the period, folklore, and herbal medicine. I must say it was all quite fascinating. Who knew Medieval ladies wore so many layers of underpinnings? The costumes you see at your regional Ren Faire do not come even close to the modesty maintained by these historical women.
And I learned that times were very hard in Medieval Scotland…really, really hard. Most babies didn’t survive and neither did their mothers. Men of all ranks most typically had many wives over the course of their lives for the simple reason that women died at an astounding rate.
When I was in Europe this past winter, remember my post about my broken wrist in Romania, I visited lots of castles and churches of the period. I added lots of these details to FK. But what surprised me most was The Peasant Village Museum in Bucharest. And yes its called Peasant. I asked one of our tour guides if that wasn’t considered a cultural slur. His response was, “No, of course not.” He said it so matter of factually, I felt rather dim even asking the question.
Peasants in the Medieval Period lived lives I would consider bleak. Those tiny thatched shacks I strolled through had no chimneys, no windows, and most of them you had to kneel down as if entering a cave to get into. Once inside there was no furniture, no kitchen goods to speak of, but loads of beautifully woven colorful woolen blankets. In fact it seemed most of the clothing was merely a cut down blanket that was hemmed and seamed on two sides. A few handy iron brooches made the garment fit whoever was wearing it. Kind of an ancient one size fits all approach.
As for dwellings, royalty had it little better than the peasants. I visited Vlad the Impaler’s castle up in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania.Let me tell you, that keep was COLD! And the twisty turny stairs, oh my Giddy Aunt! The folks living in the castle did have beds. And they did have a nice array of simple heavy looking furniture. The one nod to wealth in the whole place were the gorgeously carved mantels, braziers, and stove mounts.
So when you’re reading FK and you run across some lavish detailed descriptions, please know I reveled in some of those spots first hand. But don’t get me started on those Romanian farmers’ sheep’s milk cheeses.
Hope your day is blessed! Love Never Fails, Grace