|Eliza Knight -- Courtesy of |
Picture taken by a 19th Century bridge
in Eliza's village.
If time-travel were possible, I'd be allllll over it... As it is however, I am stuck here in 2011 until it becomes 2012...an 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. http://www.elizaknight.com/