Sunday, April 03, 2011

Weekend Writer: Preparing for Authorfest

I am doing a talk next weekend on incorporating history into your fiction. I'm calling it "The Devil is in the Details." I chose that title because the details are critically important to readers of historical mysteries.  Before I write I research, research, research more, then pray that I did not miss one of those devilish details that plague writers everywhere.

Long before I ever tried my hand at writing, I was one of those evil and unforgiving readers. I never read another book by the author that put General John Hunt Morgan's statue in a story more than a dozen years before the statue was cast. Of course, I have never forgiven the sculptor either.  Everyone in Kentucky knows Morgan's horse was a mare named Black Bess. Pompeo Coppini, the sculptor, thought no hero should ride a mare and had the audacity to put Morgan on a stallion.

You might think talking about the statue is a digression, but it isn't. I am simply pointing out that if you change an important part of history you will not be forgiven. In the case of Black Bess, students at the University of Kentucky have responded to this insult by composing a ballad to her proclaiming respect for "a lady's balls" and frequently sneak onto the old courthouse lawn to paint them either blue and white (the school colors) or some florescent shade. I am sure that Black Bess is kicking up her heels in some horsey heaven and having an old-fashioned horse laugh every time those balls get a new coat of paint.

As I place the finishing touches on my talk for next weekend, I hope that readers of my book are more forgiving than I am. I am sure that under close examination, errors could be found. No matter how much time a writer spends researching a historical novel, it is impossible to find everything on a subject. There are also details that are widely misreported. In my research, I discovered that Belle Brezing is believed to have moved to Jenny Hill's on December 24, 1879, but her diary clearly gives the date as 1878. Her obituary in Time Magazine incorrectly reported the date, and everyone else took their information from them. Her biographer and the University of Kentucky website both use the misinformation, and I have already heard from one reader that I have the date wrong. Such is life.

1 comment:

Shawn Lamb said...

Yes! A fellow author after my own heart! I am a stickler for correct history in those genres where history impacts the story. Go, gettum!