05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You know you’re a Historical Romance writer when…

You are playing "Bookworm" on your iPod Touch, and you make words like: kirtle, quirt, borne, or chamberlain.
You speak in phrases like "off the reel" or "settle their hash."
You know that the stethoscope was invented in 1816 and consisted of a rigid tube, belled at either end. That "hors de oeuvres" were first served in 1821. And the word "flirt" didn't exist in the 1300's. Jillet, hure, or trifler. No flirts.
As an author of historical romance, I need to know when certain words originated. I can't say my 1720's hero was "mesmerized" because F. A. Mesmer died in 1815, and the word came into common usage a decade later. I can't reference an adrenaline rush in any of my characters' responses, because that hormone wasn't identified until the 1900's.
Do I do much research, you might ask?
Oh, yes. And God bless Google! I know what day of the week March 20, 1721 was (Thursday). And where the medieval monasteries are in southern Norway - and when they were built or burned.
In light of all these necessary details, why do I write historical time periods?
Because mistakes can't be corrected with a text message. Letters take weeks or longer to arrive - plenty of time for misunderstanding to ferment. For wrongful revenge to be plotted and implemented. For a wedding of retaliation. Confrontations must bow to social conventions. And there are no DNA swabs to prove paternity.
Knowledge is limited. Choices are limited. Travel is limited. But dangers are limitless. A sore throat can kill you. Babies and mothers don't always survive birth. Accidents are fatal. If anyone survives, all manner of tragedies can result. This is great news for a writer who needs to torment her characters before she lets them have their triumphal ending!
And then there are the clothes. Women with corseted waists and sweeping skirts. Men in tight breeches and shoulder-hugging tailored coats. Silk slippers. Tall boots. Lace everywhere.
What about the weapons? How romantic is a glock? Imagine instead a double-edged sword, glinting in the sun, the extension of a muscular arm. The sting of steel on steel, sweat making a linen shirt cling to a rippling chest? Hair tied back with a leather thong, coming loose and hanging in thick strands along a chiseled jaw.
Why do I write historical time periods?
Isn't it obvious? :)

Kris Tualla
June 4th - Arizona's 1st Romance Reader Event!
"Norway IS the new Scotland"


Linda Lovely said...

What a fun post. Though I don't write historicals, I agree that research is essential and can be lots of fun. My problem is always establishing limits. It's oh so easy to look up one word/topic and then allow myself to be led into a maze of related topics that burn up potential writing time.

Betty Gordon said...

Great post! I started a short historical and the research far outweighs the manuscript (at least so far. My pattern seems to be -- I write a little, research a lot, and put it aside for awhile.

Betty Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Colleen said...

Hey Kris, you're turning up everywhere. Great post. Check out my reason for writing historicals at my "new" website:

Loved your reasoning.

Judith Ashley said...

Well, Kris, since I don't like to research I find your post and comments interesting. Getting lost following a thread of information on the internet, checking into Google? Makes me shudder.

One of the visions Sarah and I had when we came up with the idea of Romancing the Genres was just what you and Paty have shown us so far. There is a reason we write what we write and it is fascinating (at least to me) to know what that is.

Ilona Fridl said...

You've found why I love writing historicals. Since I was a child, I've loved finding out about past times and that just translated into novels.

Sarah Raplee said...

Kris, what a great post! I love reading historicals and learning about a different time and place. Your reasons for choosing this challenging genre certainly make sense. I hadn't considered some of them. Thanks for the laughs and the insight. :)

Christie Walker Bos said...

Loved your post. While contemporary romance doesn't involve quite the same amount of research, it does require some. All novels do.

And I have to say, Google is my friend, too. Need a hospital in a certain city? Google it. Need a hotel? Google it. In my novel, The Write Man for Her, my character was going on a business trip to Vancouver and I needed a hotel. Not only did I find one, but it had great pictures of the lobby. Now I could add great little details, like her high heels clicking on the marble flooring in the lobby because I could see that the lobby had a marble floor.

The toughest thing, I think, about research is knowing what to leave in and what to leave out. I've read some novels where the author was so excited about all the research they did, they included a million details that I, as a reader, didn't need to know.

When authors use the details of their research to enhance the story, then I'm all over it.

Paty Jager said...

Kris, Fun Post. I love online entomology for finding out if a word I want to use is accurate. And I love the research involved or I wouldn't be writing historical westerns. Great job.

Diana Mcc. said...

I so-o-o agree with you on the research. It is fun. I do find I have a hard time not getting caught up in the thread of Google. Loved your post.

Kris Tualla said...

I guess the bottom line is this: as authors we get totally lost in our characters and their worlds - no matter what time period or location! It's an amazing experience and I am blessed to be walking this path. :)

Amylynn Bright said...

I write Regency and even then, oh the research. My killers have been sugar cubes, muffins, estrogen, the price of passage to America....I own so many research books is ridiculous.

Love you.

Tam Linsey said...

Sounds like you love history! ANd i agree - Google rocks. I myself get lost in threads of scientific papers. I love to read historical romances because I hate to say it, I get a lot of my history from them. I'm glad you take your research so seriously. It assures me I'm getting a quality read. :)

Judith Ashley said...


That may be why I love to read historical romances and even history books...I love history, just don't want to research it. My preference is to be entertained or enlightened by it.

I'm very glad I have Kris and you other authors who are so diligent in your research.

It isn't that I don't do any research. If I don't know, I find out. But it is the one thing about writig that I have to 'make myself' do.

Sarah Raplee said...

I, too, am a research junkie. I have to use harsh delf-discipline or I would never get my books written - and they have all been contemporary settings! LOL

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I love history, too. It opens all kinds of ideas and who can even come up with better stories than what actually happened. It's like another food for me and I never get enough of it. Your stories are great and all the research is much appreciated. Continued success to you, Kris. :)

Donna Hatch said...

Great post, Kris. I always knew you were a kindred spirit!
Research was a slow addiction for me. At first I did it because it was a necessary evil because the book I wanted to write had to be a historical based on the plot--so I researched out of need. Later, as I became immersed in the era, I totally fell in love with it--not just the technology (or lack of) and the clothes, but the customs, manners and mores. Now I just research because I need to feed my hunger for more.

Kristen said...

Clearly from this post you are a very talented and spirited writer! I absolutely LOVE historical romances too ~ there's something about the blend of fact and fiction that really makes a story come alive! Speaking of romance stories, I'm working on creating my own this year. I'm thinking of joining yachtdates, a new online community where I hope to meet and live out a real-life romance on the sun-kissed waters of the vast ocean. Anyone can check them out on FaceBook at