Sunday, July 27, 2014

Historical Research -- Politics

Good Morning. As we all know, one cannot write a period novel without doing research. Throughout my series, I've needed to delve into the politics of the time.

First of all, let me say, I am an American. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own country's political history. Second of all, I'm a genre writer, not an historian, so if I decide to use political aspects in my books, it had better be for a good reason.

I've found there are two trains of thought to using politics -- the first, as a decided focus of the main plot. And second, as an added layer to the general background of the setting.

For example:

In ROMANCING LADY RYDER, I focused on one particular point in the Napoleonic Wars -- the negotiations between Russia and England. In a nutshell, my main character the Earl of Greenleigh is a spy. He leads a double life -- in Society he is known as a lover of art. In reality, he works for the Foreign Office gaining secrets. We start out in France, but then because of Illora Ryder, we are enmeshed in the political dealings between Russia and England. (Russia's leader Czar Alexander finally realized Bonaparte was a maniac and even though he had made an agreement with him, he decided to hedge his bets and stay on the good side of England just in case.)

I used several key figures from Russian history as well as England and although 99% of it is not true, the 1% I did use, worked. Well, it worked for me anyway.


In THE LADY'S FATE, the Marquess of Haverlane and Duke of Cantin, are with Prince George as advisers to get him seated as the Prince Regent. I did not say specifically what they were advising George on, but it got them out of the house.

With each of my books, I have looked at certain aspects of British political history, but I have never done a comprehensive "lesson" as it were. Truthfully, there was so much going on, I can't wrap my head around it as a "whole", which is why I've tended to break it into smaller palpable pieces.

In LADY OLIVIA'S UNDOING, I dove into the East India Trading Company a
well as a few particular battles in Spain and Portugal. In THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE I used the alliance between France and America as a backdrop. Somewhat. (There's so much there I didn't want to get bogged down -- which I did, and then cut it all out.)

In using politics for background, I feel it is better to give a general overall feeling to the plot rather than a history lesson. Unless, as I said previously, you're writing a TRUE HISTORICAL novel. Which I'm not.

Tell me -- How do you feel about using historical information?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

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