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Writing a historical book and research

In preparation for writing the full version of Plunder, I did some research. I read a few books and thought I had “enough” to write.

After reading a lot of historical romance by Beverly Jenkins specifically and others more generally and reading an unrelated comment about anachronisms like desks when they didn’t exist, I realized that what I thought I knew and how much I needed to know were two very different things.

I may have overcompensated by buying 15 non-fiction titles on pirates, the history of rum in the Caribbean, racial politics, ships, and so forth.

I am still making a conscious choice to ignore some of the less desirable traits of piracy (the rape, the violence, the fact women pirates were super rare–we only know of two during the “golden age” of piracy in the Caribbean) but I want to get other things right. I want to get the ships right. I don’t want William to win Puerto Seguro via poker when it would have been cribbage (side note, I learned cribbage last weekend). I don’t want them wearing boots when no one wore boots in that era unless they were riding horses. Things like that.

To some extent, I’m sort of doing a Titanic story–the details are mostly correct (in the movie the details of things like china are painstakingly correct) but the actual love story is implausible.

If you write historical fiction, how much research do you do?

 

One Response

  1. Wow, awesome you spent so much time paying attention to details! I think historical fiction is hard for exactly the difficulties you’ve pointed out.

    I’ve started a historical fiction set in Georgia during Sherman’s march to the sea. I began writing it thinking that I, a well-educated Southerner, probably had a good grasp on the war. After deciding that my narrator had to be a yankee, which I knew less about, I began researching ever more details about random things (like soldiers’ underwear, literacy, the presence of eye glasses). What I discovered was that everything I thought I knew was inadequate, and there would inevitably be some Civil War junkie just raring to rip it up.

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