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Lost in Time

Posted by on 14 March, 2013

I’ve recently acquired some additional research books to do a thorough fact check of my manuscript before sending it out for submissions. As I’m writing historical fiction, this is important to get right.

Finding the right balance between the nugget of time in which my characters thrive and massaging historical fact to fit the story can be tricky. But how deep should a writer go?

I’ve focused my research on the cultural, social, and especially, the political climate of Scotland during the early fifteenth century. Along the way I’ve met two challenges. The first relates to social customs, manners, and dress. Most medieval history books I’ve found focus on England or Europe and, while there are certain parallels, I’m forced to make a bit of a leap. The second challenge centers around the politics. The challenge? Once I start reading, I can’t stop. Hours pass and I remember I was only looking up something small. 🙂

Who can blame me? James Stewart I of Scotland led a fascinating life. Captured and imprisoned in England for 18 years, he returned to Scotland and claimed the throne in 1424. But it was not the country he left. And he was not the same person. Full of English ideals and married to a very English Joan Beaufort, he set about to unify the country by imposing new laws on authoritative reform. In a nutshell, he assumed a great deal of the power previously enjoyed by the nobles.

Talk about conflict, so he invites about 40 Highland chiefs to parliament at Inverness to pass the new laws. Can you imagine the outrage? But wait. It gets better. Three chiefs are subsequently hanged and many others imprisoned from the upheaval that ensued.

The Great Hall at Linlithgow Palace

The Great Hall at Linlithgow Palace

Then there’s Linlithgow Palace. In order for him to return to Scotland, England demanded 40,000 merks (marks – this spelling taken from Scotland The Story of a Nation) and 20 nobles who must live in England at their expense. James Stewart agrees, but the money he collects for his ransom goes where? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Linlithgow Palace was a far cry from the fortified castles in Scotland at the time. James Stewart wanted to portray a ‘look how amazing I am’ image to his nobles and to all of Europe. His palace was extravagant, but his people suffered the cost. James Stewart was assassinated in 1437.

In Bound to the Highlander, my hero is a baron, chief of his clan, and Stewart supporter who believes the best way he can serve his people is to earn an Earl’s title and offer a positive influence over the king. My heroine is the daughter of one of the 20 hostages sent to England as part of the king’s ransom. Her father’s death leaves a dark mark on her heart against the king and anyone who would support him.

What were we talking about again? Oh right, getting lost in the actual history. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m addicted to the writing or the research.

4 Responses to Lost in Time

  1. melaniemmartin

    Great post, Kate! A a writer of historical fiction I often find myself embroiled in the same dilemma. The historian in me will always be fascinated by the history, while the creator in me has become equally fascinated with how to use the history wisely to enhance the overall story and make it really believable. With that kind of historical turmoil and political backdrop, laced with a healthy dose of romance, Bound to the Highlander surely has a little something to satisfy everyone!

    • katerobbins

      Thanks for your kind comments Melanie! Finding that historical/fiction balance is hard but it sure is fun. Now, to get my nose out of the books and my fingers on the keyboard.:)

  2. Nancy

    I think you are both amazeballs. (To use an over-used word, but it fits. You got balls and you’re amazing.)

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