Hello! After spending last evening cavorting around Westminster for the Romantic Novelists' Association party, I'm feeling ever so slightly delicate today. So I'm pleased to turn the blog over to the wonderful Kat Sheridan!
Take it away, Kat.
Take it away, Kat.
Little White Lies
I write historical romance, which means I probably spend as much time researching as writing. I not only need to know the big things like current events of the period. And it’s not just about the clothes, either, although that’s important. Woe the writer who errs in writing a love scene with a heroine who’s wearing gloves, a bodice, a skirt, multiple petticoats, drawers (in certain time periods—in others the ladies went “commando”), a corset, chemise, stockings and garters. And shoes. I always forget shoes. And don’t get me started on men’s clothes and the question of wigs, beards, sideburns or handlebar mustaches (and whether or not the lady shaved!)
But after reams of research are complied and sorted (clothes in that stack, politics in this one, carriages and how fast trains in that one), the writer needs to make a final decision on which facts (or misuse of fact) will throw a reader out of a story, and which ones can safely be elided, or perhaps just carefully shaded.
Food, for instance, can be problematic. An author friend once got a nasty email from a reader annoyed that a character was eating potatoes in a time when they were not yet a popular food (the author, stung, revised the book so the characters consumed the more accurate turnips). I ran into a similar problem with a plot thread concerning peaches in my debut release, luckily caught just weeks before publication. I discovered they were rare and expensive at the time, eaten for dessert, and not likely to be made into jam. I hastily swapped peaches for Gillyflower apples.
One scene involves the hero washing the heroine’s hair. She’s been through a bad time, and the scene is used to show the hero’s tender, protective side. The problem is that during the mid-19th century, hair-washing for ladies was an arduous task, undertaken only a few times a year. Forgetting for the moment that a peer of the realm would be unlikely to know the first thing about washing a lady’s hair and hardly likely to do it himself, it was simply too large a chore, and could be quite injurious to hair, given available washing ingredients of the time. Ladies, whose hair was often long enough to sit on, did keep their hair clean with daily brushing with clean brushes, and the use of oils to keep hair and scalp healthy, and with powders similar to some dry shampoos we use today. But there was no such thing as “shampoo” as we know in the time period of my story. Soap was used. Soap which was based on lye and other chemicals that could be outright dangerous to healthy hair.
But I wanted that bathing scene. So I deliberately and with malice aforethought ignored all the research I’d done on 19th hair washing and soap. My heroine got her hair washed by the hero. If you’re a reader, would that be enough to make you fling a book across the room? And if you’re a writer, have you ever glided over fact for the sake of a story?
Kat Sheridan is a former project manager whose very serious exterior hides a secret romantic. She is fond of books, bourbon, big words, coffee, and shiny things. Kat splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu. She loves to hear from readers, and can be contacted at www.KatSheridan.com.
ABOUT ECHOES IN STONE
When Jessa Palmer journeys to a castle in Cornwall to rescue her niece, she discovers the past still haunts Tremayne Hall and its brooding master, Dashiell Tremayne. Then the accidents begin. Soon Jessa must choose: abandon her mission to rescue the child or surrender to a dangerous passion.
Thank you, Kat!
I'll see you all next Thursday when I shall be fully recovered. Have a lovely week, everyone.