Sunday, June 05, 2005

Maybe There's a Reason the Historical Market is Down

I just started a novel by an author I've never read before, and I never will again. She isn't a new author, she has a string of bestsellers. Maybe she thinks this gives her the right to be sloppy and careless with her research. Maybe she just doesn't care, I'm not sure, but I find her historical inaccuracies so abhorrent, I can't read the story.

I'm not a historical-accuracy fascist, really, I'm not. An anachronism here and there is okay. Misnaming an article of clothing doesn't bother me neither does a slight error in title-usage. But this author has shown complete ignorance about the era in which she is writing about. She assumes the era she is writing about fits the rest of the century when it doesn't.

It bothers me on so many levels. I find it insulting as a reader. It is apparent she underestimates her readers. However, I haven't found a review that has pointed out the errors, so maybe I'm just crabby.

As a writer, it bothers me because the reason I write historicals is because I love history. I like to research an era, learn as much as I can and try to pass my enjoyment on to my readers. I almost had a nervous breakdown when I realized I used the word "hello" in my Regency-era novel. Would anyone really have picked that up? Probably not, but I knew better, so I knew it had to be fixed.

I work hard to make sure my historicals are as accurate as possible and I can't help but hold other authors accountable as well. I'm not expecting an author to have insight into the deep political philosophies of a time period, but to have a good understanding of the basics. While a fashion faux pas seems nit-picky, quite often clothing reflects the attitudes of an era and thus changes the story.

Researching is not that hard, particularly if you are using a historical setting more as a back drop than an actual plot point. I don't think I'm asking too much, am I?


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

No, I don't think you're asking too much. I'm guessing the inaccuracies you found pulled you right out of the story and that's something we as writers do NOT want.
And you're right - since this is a romance set in a historical time period, it doesn't need to be completely full of the politics, economics, etc., etc. of that time period. Historical fiction should take that role.
I'd like to see a poll taken of historical romance readers and see what their reasons are for 1)still reading the genre or 2) pulling away from it in favor of contemporaries, paranormal, etc.

2:30 PM  
Blogger ~~Olivia said...

I agree, Rene. Historcial inaccuracy sucks. I read historicals because I like history. To read inaccurate history spoils the story. And with the wealth of historical information on the web and in libraries, there is no excuse for mistakes. Heck, just reading other authors will give a person a sense of the time period.

To attempt to write a historical novel, I think the most basic research is to read other novels set in the same time period.

I find some historical romance to be boring, with vanilla pudding heroines and domineering alpha males for heroes. How many times must the same characters/plots be used? Don't tell me that NO women in the 1800's had brains?

Give me a contemporary, intelligent woman anyday.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Tess said...

Rene - Ditto what Melissa and Olivia wrote. For me accuracy is really important. Again, little things occasionally slip through, but an obvious disregard for any attempt at accuracy is a) really bad for the genre overall and b) insulting to the readers.

7:06 AM  
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