Category Archives: Research

When Historical Fiction Gets Real: Finding Emotional Truth

greekcomedytragedyThe terrorist attacks in Belgium today settle on me uneasily as an author of historical fiction. As I blithely changed the timeline on my work in progress , I wondered what historical events I might be missing that might distract the characters in my novel, or even affect them. Characters live in larger worlds than our plots. For instance, my current hero is from Sicily. What might have been happening in his hometown during that week I just added to my story because I realized my plot timeline was too tight?

The other issue that concerns me is how I write about circumstances like what happened in Belgium today. My upcoming series (debuts 9/27/16), The Grand Russe Hotel, is concerned with Russian immigrants in England. Most of them are solid citizens trying to restart their lives after the Russian revolution, but some are Bolsheviks hoping to disrupt the British government. There are bombers and bomb threats and even actual bombs. Danger for all, a very real situation. As I writer, I need to make sure to keep the emotion tangible. It’s not just a plot. My characters need to feel the fear that is present in Europe today in the midst of so much sorrow, uncertainty, and despair. I must remember to keep my world of 1925 London three-dimensional. The terrorists of 2016 are different than those of 1925, but the emotions of those living through the experience are the same as those suffering today.

If we want readers to bond with our characters, understanding the mindset of people in crisis is very important. And if we can give our characters happy endings despite the traumas they live through, hopefully it can give readers a feeling of closure and hope that all is not lost, no matter how dark the sky that day.

http://heatherhiestand.com/books/if-i-had-you/

IfIHadYou

The Importance of Passion in Our Writing

curseRecently, the historical romance market hasn’t been all it could be. Early in my career, I wrote contemporary romance, but about six years ago I mostly turned to writing historical, first Victorian, and then 1920s romance. I’ve had a blast, releasing contemporary only in sexier Anh Leod titles like Tempting Josie and Wet Christmas (In Christmas Nookies, an anthology). I haven’t wanted to chase the market, even though I’ve been encouraged to return to contemporary.

I plotted out a standalone contemporary. I plotted out an eight-book contemporary arc using my favorite tropes. I even started book one, but I wasn’t feeling it. I kept going with a passion project set int the 1920s. But then, something changed.

I was offered an opportunity to write something contemporary, and for some reason, that idea set my creativity on fire. It had roots in the kind of historical fiction I was writing, in terms of location and characters. And, I could bring in a naughty pleasure I’d been enjoying in my relatively non-existent free time. That’s a reality TV show my father hooked me on called The Curse of Oak Island. It’s about a treasure hunting team working in Nova Scotia.

When I combined this opportunity with a treasure hunting hero and a reality TV setting, all of a sudden I had a novella I plotted in a couple of days, and a book I was drafting less than a week later. The timing was right and this time, I had a new found love for a contemporary project.

I love this story! It will be out in July, so it will be a while before I share much about it, but I wanted to tell the story of its birth. Sometimes, when we can’t drum up enthusiasm, it’s because we haven’t quite landed on the right idea yet. It’s there though. Just take a look at what currently is interesting to you. The answer might be hiding in your hobbies, favorite shows or books, in the garden…wherever you might care to look.

Coming this month with my newly revised Anh Leod story, Aphrodite’s Necklace:

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Coming in March…Trifling Favors…book 7 in the Redcakes series

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The joys and disappointments of research #amwriting #LosAngeles #1920s

film-set-intolerance-1916-grangerLate last night the kid was actually asleep, so I decided to be good and do some research. I have lots of research to do so I’ve been picking up all my new books at odd hours. This time, I was looking at 1920s Los Angeles for a research tidbit.

The scene above is from the 1916 movie set of Intolerance. It’s scenery for an Ancient Babylon scene, and the set was enormous, towering over local houses in LA. Apparently the film company went bankrupt and the set stayed up for a few years, falling into ruin. I couldn’t find pictures of what it looked like ruined, which would have been fantastic.

The set has moved into Hollywood lore, and it was partially rebuilt a few years ago in a mall, a bit of history for locals and tourists alike.

The first place I found this information and photo said the ruins were torn down in 1921. I eagerly started searching the Internet, trying to figure out exactly when. I have characters who might go and see it in early 1921! But every source I found after the first said the ruins had been torn down in 1919, much too early for my storyline. Argh!

What do you do when research sources contradict each other? Do you err on the side of complete accuracy, even when you don’t quite know what that is, or do you go with what works best with your storyline?

Help! My brain is going to the 1920s! #amwriting

dealpictureAfter spending most of the last five years focused on the Victoria era, I’m refreshing my research skills by setting a new series for Kensington in mid-1920s London! I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a vibrant, modern-ish time period, between WWI and WWII. I put the first words into a brand new Word document yesterday and I’m having a blast.

Don’t worry, there are still two more Redcakes novels in the pipeline. I just sent Redcakes #7 to beta readers. But meanwhile, I’m dipping into hot jazz, changing social mores, and increasingly minimalist clothing…

Victorian Marriage Licenses

bigstock-Wedding-Cake-5989041I write stories set throughout the nineteenth century, a time of flux in the details around marriage in England and Scotland. I am forever having to re-research this information, so I’m posting some research links here. This includes the all important information on Gretna Green marriages, in the final link. Based on these websites, I’m guessing it would be pretty difficult to get a special license and marry within one day.

https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Marriage_Allegations,_Bonds_and_Licences_in_England_and_Wales

http://www.songsmyth.com/weddings.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_license

http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/research/economicsocialhistory/historymedicine/scottishwayofbirthanddeath/marriage/