Writing the last part of Gisborne, I’m second guessing myself constantly. Is my language anachronistic, are my facts solid, how much variation from the accepted history am I allowed?
Recently I was re-reading the dates of Richard 1st’s reign and found that he was crowned in September of 1189. So… the beginning of autumn. That now requires me to go right through the whole novel to change the season in which Ysabel travels through France and England with Gisborne from autumn to summer.
That doesn’t just involve changes to the settings (eg colour of leaves on trees) but the kind of foods available, the clothes one might wear, journeys on the high seas, how thick a horse’s coat is, what flowers might be blooming, the presence of certain seasonal ailments and so on. In addition, I am now having to do a lot of counting of days and months so that the story ends at just the right point of factual history.
For me, so new to this venture, I read and re-read what I have written. Anything I am remotely unsure of I will change to red type so that I can re-read my research and insert the correct fact in the next edit. Even so, I am aware the true historical fictionistas, those whose reading and knowledge is exceptional, will find plenty to dispute and argue about.
Blondel de Nesle, Richard’s troubadour, appears in this novel and I can find no account of his physical attributes. Because he is a favourite of the king, and because Richard himself is known to have been golden and attractive and potentially bi-sexual, I am taking a great liberty and making Blondel to be lithely good-looking, bordering on the feminine. I am waiting for the trip-up, I can tell you.
Writing hist.fict is wonderful satisfying but it’s also a terrifying prospect releasing a historical fiction novel to a reading public that may know as much as, if not more than you. So much is known, so much must be respected. In many ways I’m glad my main character is essentially a character of legend as that gives me room to play, but with others like Richard the Lionheart, I am hamstrung by history and can deviate little from what is known.
I’m just wondering what other little gems I shall find on tomorrow’s read.