Ye olde Englande, land of Shakespeare, King Arthur, Queen Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe, Dickens, Monty Python (all time favorite comedy program) and on. Among the British authors covering a subject area I happen to love are: Alison Weir (#1 favorite), Antonia Fraser (for the salacious bits) and being married to Harold Pinter, a fave author, and Phillipa Gregory for yet more salacious bits. Last but not least, Dan Jones (brilliant Tudor scholar). I love that women authors are represented in this mix and as themselves no less. Bravo.
I do sense, however, that when an American such as myself crafts not one, but three, novels all involving a varied cast of Tudor greats such as Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward IV, Richard III, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour, readers might view the titles with not a small amount of suspicion. After all, what could I know about British monarchs and life during the late Medieval and Renaissance periods that a British native does not know better by mere virtue of geography? The answer: quite a lot. The fact of being British does not mean one is a scholar in particular time periods.
I majored in Medieval and Renaissance history at Emory University. Although I’ve written stories featuring well known British monarchs, more novels are coming featuring other countries. I do like to have an afternoon tea with cream but not as function of being an Anglophile. I spent a good deal of time both as a child and adult in France. French is my second language. Along with the language came the culture and a the san (pronounced, “tay-sah,” health tea) with cream in the afternoon. My preferred leaves? Green, Earl Grey, and black.
Few people unfamiliar with history will know who Eleanor of Aquitane was, and even fewer will know that Bretagne (Brittany) was ruled by a Duke whose power rivaled the King of France. I research my subject matter as I would anything of interest. For me, it’s the act of gaining that knowledge of time, place, or person that makes writing the story enjoyable.
I know in today’s world, places and people in my novels will be deemed anachronistic by many yet interesting to another sector of readers. As I said in a previous post, I shy away from the actual language and linguistic syntax of the time. That would be too much realism and boring. Nobody cares whether I can translate an early Modern English manuscript into 2015 speak, and neither do I since it is irrelevant to the story.
I think many American authors can offer credible ripping yarns about famous people from other countries in their historical fiction. All one needs do is read “Outlander” to see I’m right. Diana Gabaldon is an American. That said, when you stumble across novels that seem to be written by someone who ought not to have done so due to geography, check it out anyway. You might be surprised. Oh and the next novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo? Yeah, Southern literary fiction. Who knew?