Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Immersed in the Past

Eliza Knight -- Courtesy of
Katherine Brandon.
Picture taken by a 19th Century bridge
in Eliza's village.
This is my very first post on Romancing the Past! I am extremely excited to be part of this blog and the Carina Press author team! My Regency-set erotic novella, Lady Seductress's Ball, will release on December 19th this year. I don't have my cover yet--which I am soooo excited to see, I think that is one of my favorite parts of a book being published--and you all will be one of the first to see it!

If time-travel were possible, I'd be allllll over it... As it is however, I am stuck here in 2011 until it becomes so on. But if you ask my husband, who regularly points out I am using historical words in modern speech, I do live in the past. I think my latest blunder was telling him about a merchant who'd just opened up shop in town... lol

Authors of historical fiction, have to know their setting, their characters mannerisms, the language, the style, EVERYTHING, just as authors of contemporary, and fantasy world-builders have to know theirs. The thing is, this is a world that no longer exists except in paintings, music, the pages of a books, and in reenactments (live or video-recorded such as documentaries, tv series and movies). We cannot make up the world in our head, because we aren't creating a  fantasy or sci-fi book, we have to actually study it and bring it back to life within our own stories.

Most of us haunt libraries, antique stores, and bookstores to add to our knowledge and collections. I've also started to download books that were written in the late 19th and early 20th century that have been scanned onto a computer and made into .pdf. Actually had a really cool find last night! I read a new research book on a character I'm working on and there was a portrait that was said to be her in the past, but has now been discovered to be someone else. I started last night reading a book I downloaded that was written in 1911--it had the portrait and labeled it as my character!  How amazing? I had just read about it being a mistake and to see it...okay, I'm gushing I know, I'm a nerd like that!

But beyond books, as historical authors--and esentially amateur researchers and historians--we have to find other ways to get inside our world. History Channel is one of my best friends :) I watch a lot of documentaries. Visiting museums and traveling to places your setting takes place in can be priceless.  Take a lot of notes, pictures and videos, pick the brains of the tour guide and buy a few artifacts, portraits, maps, books you can find there.

I love to go to festivals, fairs and historical villages. I feel at home there. I know a lot of authors who are also reenactors. I would love to do that, and when all my kids are older (youngest is a wee babe), I do believe I will.

In addition to visiting historical places, reading or watching about them, I also try to bring history into my life. I have historical artifacts in my home--paintings, knick-knacks, like the antique cannon balls that sit in a large medieval bowl on my piano, I love to mix it up! My children drink out of pewter goblets and don't bat an eyelash. I wear medieval and Regency fashioned jewelry.  I cook historical dishes. I listen to period music. I read historical novels. You could say I've immersed myself in the past, and that I live that way--minus the hygienic practices. I do love modern plumbing, deodarant and razors!

I also think part of history is nature. I love to hike in the woods, and walk across open pastures. To get away from modern society, not hear cars, or radios blaring. I don't want to see the warehouses, office buildings and shopping centers. I like to look around at the wide open space, breathe in the fresh air, look at the plants and wonder which herbs might have been picked to make a poultice, see a rut in the path and think about how a carriage wheel would have gotten stuck or even worse broken the carriage axel and the whole thing come tumbling down.

Does every writer of historical fiction have to live like the characters of the book? I don't think you need to do so every day, but if you really want to get inside their heads, make their world pop on the page, then yes, I encourage you to give it a shot, at least for a few hours!

I'd love to hear how you immerse yourself in your fictional world! 

Eliza Knight is a multi-published author of historical romance and erotic romance. She is the owner the blog, History Undressed, and well known for being obsessed with all things historical.


Ruth A Casie said...

Hi Eliza!

First, congratulations on your first post here and your upcoming release this December. I'm looking forward to reading it.

I enjoy reading a story that sweeps me away. The more authentic it sounds, the better my experience. IMHO, that can only happen when the author can visualize the scene and show me how it feels.

You're one of my favorite authors for that very reason.

Congratulations again,

... Ruth

Wendy Soliman said...

I certainly live with my characters when I'm in the middle of writing a book. My husband constantly complains that he can't compete with people that don't exist. Don't exist! Of course they do. They're as real to me as 'proper' people, with minds, thoughts and emotions unique to them.

Congratulations on the release and welcome to the blog.

Angelyn said...

Great post--I can totally relate! Physical reminders of the past: an old Queen Anne house on the shore of a vanished lake, a faded Edwardian wedding gown, a Regency writing desk--all are triggers that transport me back into the past even if I can only look at them through images.

Susanna Fraser said...

Welcome, Eliza!

In addition to my copious research reading, I once took fencing lessons to feel more connected to a character, and I'd love to take riding lessons for the same reason. Method writing, if you will. :-)

Michelle Muse said...

I haven't written anything historical, yet, but I hope to someday. As far as historical types of things to do, I also love to walk through old cemeteries. The older and out of the way the better. Every once in awhile there is a sweet saying on a headstone. Congrats on all your success. You are an amazing woman!

Eliza Knight said...

Thank you Ruth :) Totally blushing over here! You said it with "show"!!! The authors job really is to bring the reader in and let them experience the story, rather than just reading it :)

I'm with you Wendy, they totally exist! My husband as said the same thing :) Thanks for commenting and the congrats!

Angelyn--beautiful name! I could totally visualize your setting... I am jealous! Sounds like a beautiful workspace! Thanks for stopping by!

Susanna, I so want to take fencing lessons! I grew up with horses, and my dad even bought us a carriage for rides it was awesome. You should definitley take the riding lessons. I would also like to take some historical dance lessons--Regency country dances, medieval dances, it would be fun! Thanks for commenting!

Thank you Michelle :) I love old cemetaries too! At my great-uncles funeral a few years ago, I was able to visit the graves of our first ancestors who came to the U.S. it was really fascinating! On a trip to Ireland once, we stuck our camera in a hole in a crypt and took a pic--bones! It was so cool! Wish I could find that pic...

Claire Robyns said...

Welcome to the blog, Eliza and congrats on your new release. I can't wait to see the cover either, Carina Press has built a reputation for amazing covers and haven't let us down yet!!

I write medieval scottish and I love nothing more than wondering around the castle ruins in Scotland. Went to a medieval banquet at an Irish Peel tower once and that was amazing. I'd live in medieval Scotland in a heartbeat (so long as I could take my piped hot water with me, lol)

Karen Erickson said...

Hi Eliza and congrats on your sale to Carina. :)

I write both contemporary and historical so when I'm in historical mode I have to immerse myself completely. I'm dying to go to England - I hope to plan a trip there soon.

Great post!

Betty Bolte said...

Hi Eliza! Congrats on your upcoming release! I like to play period music while I write to help me get in the ambiance, though I often wonder just how often they listened to music, or played it for that matter, in colonial America. It's learning the details of daily life that is challenging to me!

Eliza Knight said...

Thank you Claire! I agree, Carina's covers are amazing! I bet the banquet was amazing! I love ruins too. I've been so several in Ireland and France, and I like to visit historic sites in the US too, although they aren't medieval.

Thank you Karen! I haven't been to England yet, either, and I am also dying to go! I am hoping to get there next year for the Historical Novel Society conference.

Thank you Betty! I bet they listened to music a lot. Most families would play music every night as entertainment, since they didn't have much else to do before bed. Even if it was just a small wind instrument.

Joanna Chambers said...

Yes! Comes through in my use of old-fashioned words all the time.

My obsession is the Georgian/Regency era so my big treat last year was a kids-free weekend with my husband at London and the day we spent going round the V&A and the British Museum. The fashion and jewellery and furniture - fantastic. Esp the furniture which showed the Empire and Egyptian obsession brilliantly.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Hi Eliza -- Talk about dedication to research! Fun, isn't it? I love old paintings, photos and maps and imagining how life would have been years ago. Historical fiction really brings the past alive -- because authors like you have done all the hard work! -- but now and then I find a non-fiction book that blows me away. Peter Ackroyd's "London. A Biography" was one.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Hi, Eliza. Welcome to Romancing the Past. Great to have you aboard!

Love London. Have visited twice (well, three times if you count a plane switch at Heathrow) and loved walking around there. Must have passed White's on St. James Street half a dozen times. Never saw any rakes lounging about in the window or anything else for that matter...but still...

Eliza Knight said...

Joanna, I love the V&A Museum! Their website is also fantastic! I would love to go to the British Museum too and have a look at all the old manuscripts and such. Thanks for stopping by!

Jenny, it is so much fun! I agree that there are some non-fiction gems too! And the awesome thing about history, is there really was so much drama its hard to believe sometimes what you're reading ISN'T fiction. Thanks for commenting!

Thank you Taryn! Frown on not seeing the rakes... But I bet you could totally imagine them huh?

Susanna Ives said...

Welcome Eliza. I love to immerse myself in my characters’ setting. I map out the streets my characters would walk in London and then take a tour, feeling the air, checking the light, noting the historically correct architecture.

Patricia Preston said...

I'm surrounded by the Civil War. Walking over the fields at Shiloh is always sombering. And I work in the historical district of my town. The building where I work is from the 1860's. It was once a dry goods store and a shoe store later on. I sometimes sit there and think about all the people who shopped in there back a hundred years ago.