There. I've admitted it.
Oh, I'm not a hardcore historian. I've dabbled in contemporaries, stuff for kids, even songwriting. But I'm always drawn back to historicals.
My friends think I'm nuts. "You have to do all that RESEARCH," they whine.
"Exactly," I reply.
You see, for historical writers, the research is half the fun.
I know. I know. You're imagining pale nerds in Coke bottle glasses, hibernating in cavernous libraries with a pile of dusty tomes, drooling over some academic's dry prose.
But it's not like that at all. In fact, I do a lot of my research by talking to people who live back then. No, I don't have a time machine. There just happen to be a lot of people who love to immerse themselves in the past, some of them reenactors, some of them craftsmen, some of them pale nerds who drool over dry prose. And they like nothing more than to discover someone's actually interested in their passion.
You can find loads of political history in books, but it's not as often you get a glimpse into social history. I want to know how people did their laundry, what they liked for supper, how many dresses they owned, what they did for entertainment. From reenactors, I've seen how women in the Middle Ages probably kept those long sleeves out of the way and felt how hot it would have been in a blacksmith's shop in the 1800s. I've heard the sound of a wooden lance splintering in a real tournament, and listened to a young man speak in his grandfather's Indian tongue. I've stood on board a clipper ship while it set sail, strode across the battlefield of Culloden to the sound of bagpipes, and hugged a man in full armor (all in the name of, ahem, research).
I don't believe people of today are essentially different from people of the past in their values and desires, in either their scorn for "the law's delay" or their love of laughter. So for me, the research is just putting a final polish on the story to bring the history to life.
Stories to keep you up all night.
Riding to the rescue April 2006