Hearts Through History Romance Writers

What Is Historical Accuracy?

I had this idea in my head that in my blog post this month I would pick a fight about how historically accurate we really need to be in our novels.  After all, a few weeks ago I attended Angela James, Executive Director of Carina Press’s workshop “Before You Hit Send”, and she made the passing statement that absolute accuracy is not that important and a lot of things can slide if the story is good.  I tend to agree with her.  I think a lot of people tend to go straight off the deep-end mental about historical accuracy, thereby destroying a good story for themselves. 

So as I thought about how best to tweak some noses, a new, odd thought hit me.  What are we even talking about when we get wrapped up about this historical accuracy stuff?  What does that term even mean? 

The Afternoon Visitor, by Frederic Soulacroix Settle down, ladies!  There are social rules here!

The Afternoon Visitor, by Frederic Soulacroix
Settle down, ladies! There are social rules here!

To my mind, we’re talking about two entirely different things when we use the term “historical accuracy”.  One I agree is essential to any historically-set novel.  The other is subjective, fuzzy, and more often than not, people who think they know what they’re talking about haven’t a clue. (more…)

The Trial of the Pig

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

For today’s blog, I’m turning back to Michael Powell’s book CURIOUS EVENTS IN HISTORY. It’s a small book, but it’s chockful of interesting historical events. “The Trial of the Pig,” page 40, is about more than just one event. It’s about several that took place during The Middle Ages, the prosecution of animals for, well, acting like animals. Powell explains that “Humans were trying to work out their place in God’s scheme and were uncertain about the roles of animal”. They would put the animals on trial to help “exert control over the uncertainties of life and symbolically restore order to their chaotic world”.


The Question of Historical Accuracy

Before we discuss how accurate your historical novel should be, we should look at why we decide to write a historical novel in the first place (we know most of us aren’t doing it for the money).  So why did you decide to write historical romance? 

From my perspective as a history teacher, I want a historical novel to allow the reader to exist in another time and another place. But you’re not a history teacher you say. Well, if you’re writing a historical novel – you ARE a history teacher. Remember the old Chinese saying “every time you open a book you learn something”. Your readers are learning something from your books. It up to you to determine what they learn.  (more…)