Today, we have Lauren Baratz-Logsted talking about Historical Fiction!
Of the 23 books I've sold to publishers since 2003 the overwhelming majority have been set in contemporary times. Only three have been historical, all set in Victorian England: the adult novel Vertigo and the YA novels The Education of Bet and The Twin's Daughter. In each case I never made a decision first, "Oh, I want to write a historical novel!" Rather, setting was dictated by story idea. Vertigo is about a society wife who strikes up a correspondence with a man in prison for murdering his own wife who ultimately decides that the only way to get the life she wants is for her husband to get out of the way. The Education of Bet is about a teenager who will go to drastic lengths to get an equal education. The Twin's Daughter is about a teen who discovers her gorgeous mother has an identical twin who was raised in the workhouse. For either social or forensics reasons, all three stories only work if set in a time period other than our own.
In the case of Vertigo, I did no research before sitting down to write the first draft. Rather, I was guided by a lifetime of reading many novels set in that time period and a love of Masterpiece Theatre. It was only after the first draft was completed that I went back and read some 10 books on Victorian architecture and design and penal law so those details would be as accurate as I could make them.
For The Education of Bet, I re-read the classic novel of English boarding school life, Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, to get an overview of what constituted bullying at that time and to remind myself of details of that very specific setting. I also researched how Will, the boy Bet is raised with, might go about secretly joining the military.
Finally, for The Twin's Daughter, since Lucy is essentially home-schooled, I did a lot of research on what she might be reading in the 1800s. I also researched British military involvements of the time for Lucy's love interest, Kit, and a lot on Victorian fashion.
That's it, really! Except before closing I would like to clear up two points. I've seen a few bloggers, when discussing The Education of Bet, quoting something that says that girls weren't allowed to go to school in Victorian England. I have no idea where they're getting that because I never said that, the book never says that, and it's simply untrue. The reason Bet is denied an education is because of social status. Could girls go to school? Of course. Would the deceased maid's daughter be given an expensive education? Of course not. Another mistake I've been seeing is a few sites saying The Twin's Daughter takes place during WWI. Again, there's nothing I've ever written in the book or said about the book to indicate anything other than that it takes place in the 1800s so I don't know where this is coming from either. Not complaining - an author should never do that! - but I am explaining for once, something I normally caution authors against, because while I don't mind at all being taken to task for errors I have made, I rather prefer not being so for things I've never said.
And now that really is it - thanks for having me!