Thursday, September 17, 2015
Digging for Details: Researching Historical Fiction by Melanie M. Jeschke
Historical fiction has to be my favorite genre. I plead mea culpa to having learned much of my history through novels. Experiencing historical events along with actual or created characters makes history real to me. However, since many people besides me learn history through films and novels, authors should be faithful to ensure their stories remain as historically accurate as possible. It’s no good thinking, “Well, it’s fiction, so I can make it up. No one will notice.” Oh, yes, they will! Astute readers are happy to point out mistakes. I once had an on-line reviewer castigate my book Inklings for being historically inaccurate because I described my 1960’s character wearing a mini-skirt when the fashion hadn’t been introduced yet. I was only off by a few months! My goal was to evoke the era for my readers by using a well-known visual image; nevertheless, to cover my bases for future potential nit-pickers, I dutifully added the discrepancy to my list of carefully documented historical departures in my author’s notes for the revised Helping Hands Press edition.
Getting the facts right takes time, but research often yields not only details that enrich the setting of one’s story, but often the story itself. Besides reading a copious pile of history books and biographies when I was working on Evasions, a novel set in WWII Britain, I watched documentaries, visited several war museums, attended a WWII event in Pennsylvania (complete with re-enactors, a big band concert, and vintage planes), read numerous interviews and memoirs, and conducted my own interviews with four people who had lived in England during the Battle of Britain. The museums and documentaries supplied the rich sensory details of the daily living of the period, especially clothing, music, and rationed food.
I still smile when I read that line. Forgive the cliché, but sometimes digging for details yields pure gold.
I have loved reading, creating stories, and writing since I was a young girl, and was told that my name "Melanie" was a form of the Greek word for "ink"--- a name I hoped would be prophetic. Although I majored in English and taught high school before having our family, I put writing on the back burner of our busy lives for many years. When my youngest son was old enough for our home-school kindergarten, I had the miraculous adventure of attending a conference on C.S. Lewis at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities which inspired me to begin writing travel articles and eventually my series of historical/romance novels, The Oxford Chronicles.
Since then I have returned to the UK numerous times for conferences, research, and even as a tour guide and leader. I was thrilled when budget travel guru Rick Steves asked me to contribute a chapter on Oxford to his new "England 2006" guide book.
DROP by Melanie's Amazon Author Page to see all of her amazing titles:http://www.amazon.com/Melanie-M.-Jeschke/e/B001ITW0AK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1442504544&sr=8-1