I plunged headlong into classes on the kings and queens of England, the effects of the Black Death on continental European economies, the Crusades, and the history of saints and their relics. I took any class my history department offered that even remotely interested me. I wrote papers and read books. I graduated and applied to graduate school, ready to pursue a Ph.D. in medieval or Renaissance history.
Then, reality hit me. Medieval history was an incredibly popular field in the 1980’s and there were tons and tons and tons of history professors still working fifteen years later. Strangely, they all insisted on continuing to work and refused to retire. There weren’t a lot of professor jobs available in my field and there weren’t likely to be a lot when I finished my Ph.D. in seven to eight years.
Discouraged, I left my master’s program and found a job at a high tech company, where I’ve stayed for the last thirteen years. But, I’ve always had a great fondness for history.
I also wrote a lot in high school, but in college I had to stop to concentrate on school. I didn’t try writing again for nearly fifteen years. When I decided to give it another shot, I thought I’d stay away from historical fiction. I had written a lot of papers on the Renaissance and Middle Ages, and done a lot of research. I knew I would devote the same amount of time to researching a book as I did when I wrote papers in college. I would drive myself crazy - I’m a bit of a perfectionist (Just a little bit, despite what my husband says!).
Then, I found myself drawn to the idea of writing a fantasy romance. I realized I could control everything about my story. Fantasy writing meant that I could decide how advanced my world was. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not a particular type of side saddle was appropriate in France in the 1600’s. I could make it all up. It was so freeing! I got to research the awesome parts of history that most college courses don’t touch on. Sure, the impact of the plague on English peasant society is really cool and crazy important, but who wants to read about that for fun? (Okay, maybe me once in a while.)
For my first book, I decided to set my world roughly between 15th and 16th centuries. It’s a nice broad range, but because it’s fantasy, I didn’t have to stick to it religiously. I could, for instance, say no to gunpowder but use Renaissance clothing. I researched types of cloth and cuts of dresses. Then, I realized I needed a sword fighting scene, but I didn’t know anything about it. Off to the internet I went to learn about Spanish rapier fighting styles. (These are super, wicked fun to learn about.) And so, A Gift Freely Given was born – a fantasy romance that is a vehicle for my compulsive need to collect random bits of trivia.
My main character was going to ride a horse for the first time. Suddenly, I needed to know about side saddle riding. I hit on an article about how women riding side saddle were occasionally killed on horseback. Their dresses would get caught on the saddle pommels and they couldn’t get free if the horses ran wild. That actually led me to take a scene in a totally different direction than I expected.
I did really, ridiculously in depth research into Renaissance dance steps. Medieval dance isn’t documented as well, so I got to borrow what I wanted. My long suffering husband never once rolled his eyes at me when I told him all I learned about curtain walls and postern gates.
This was so much more fun than college paper writing! I was totally hooked. I planned on my first book being a standalone story and wrote it that way. But, after all the fun I had researching it, I’ve decided to stick with fantasy for a while and write a sequel. It’s going to have a lot of new things I need to read up on.
When she’s not busy chasing dogs around or rushing someone to the vet, she loves to read and play video games. She has a hobby of having hobbies, so she’s also been known to do sculpting, beadwork, and painting.