Research Round Robin


This month Rhobin has asked us to say a little about what research we need to do to write our novels and what, if anything, annoys us about inaccuracies in fictional work.

Research is a necessity no matter how light and fluffy or serious and thought-provoking your work. As soon as you make any statement that can be viewed in another light, you need to know what you based your statement on.

I write in the early nineteenth century when the main mode of transport was one’s own feet, but for the slightly better off, the horse. I need to know how many horses pulled a carriage, mail-coach and curricle. I need to know how long it took to get from London to Richmond or Edinburgh or Bath. I need to know…

You get the point.

A lot is written about the period I’ve chosen and it is easily accessible in on-line and print sources. But there are other ways to do research.

I love being a life member of Historic Scotland and of the National Trust for Scotland. I adore wandering around their properties and studying the portraits of the ‘family’ aligned along the walls of the Gallery. Was there really a nose that distinctive and, oh, why didn’t the Fifth Earl have it, then? The ladies are particularly interesting because they are brought in to marry the heirs and one wonders what life was like for them.

At the same time, our wealthy heroes and heroines didn’t exist in a vacuum and some of my most precious inspiration has come from the outbuildings and below stairs premises. The wip began life as a result of visiting these laundries.

The Laundry

The Laundry

What takes me out of a story? Disregard for the social mores of the time written about. Writing historical fiction is not about dressing flip young things in long frocks or tail coats. Historical fiction needs to imbue the way of life the characters lived. If a girl could not leave home without her maid or other chaperon, then she lived a very different existence to her 21st century counterpart. The biographies of those who dared to defy their ‘friends’, as relatives were sometimes known, can be heart-breaking. Take the plot of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, for example. Personal relationships needed great and enduring care. Rights were often clouded by law rather than protected.

I’m followed in this cycle by Helena Fairfax who can be found here: Helena Fairfax but the others blogging on research are all listed below. You may want to find out a little about how they tackle the issues involved in not getting egg on our faces.



Margaret Fieland
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor
Rachael Kosnski

Heidi M. Thomas

Marci Baun
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Connie Vines
Kay Sisk
Fiona McGier
A.J. Maguire
Judith Copek
Lynn Crain
Rhobin Courtright