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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 November 2006

The End

First, I have to apologize for having gone missing. I didn’t mean to ignore all these great hoyden posts, but I was finishing up my work in progress, A Rake’s Guide to Ruin. All you writers out there know what it’s like; every day seems like the very last day. . . and then it’s not. The next day you wake up and realize you forgot to add that all-important paragraph of internal thought that is just going to MAKE the book. Whew!

Well, I finally got to The End. And then there was research to do. Lots of it. A few items from my list: leaded crystal in 1844? Check. Persian rugs? Yes! Cheroots? No. You are thinking of New Orleans. Change it to cigarillo.

The list was about fifty items long. Maybe more. Most things, like those listed above, were easy to cross off. Some proved slightly more difficult. At one point, my hero says, "He belonged to the old Hellfire Club, if that gives you an idea." But was the Hellfire Club in existence around in 1820 when my heroine’s father would have, um, enjoyed it? Darn it, no. The real, genuine Hellfire Club, famous for its orgies and alleged Satanic rituals, fizzled out in the eighteenth century. There were plenty of later clubs to go around, but none that might evoke that immediate connection with the reader. (Phoenix Club, anyone?)

But further research showed that there were plenty of other Hellfire clubs, copycats that were in existence in 1820 and later, so I was saved! The hero now says, "He belonged to one of the old hellfire clubs." Ha! Perfect.

My last sticking point--the little bit of semantics that took up a good two hours of my LAST day of writing--proved more difficult than it should have been. In fact, I still haven’t resolved it. My heroine, Emma, is a rather shady character. She’s in London impersonating someone else. She’s hiding from anyone who knows who she really is. Also she has a little gambling problem. *cough* So, needless to say, there are a few scenes that take place in alleys. But are they really "alleys" or are they something else?

EtymOnline says that the word "alley" was first used in 1530, but I think it originally meant the narrow walkways BETWEEN houses. When did it evolve to mean the lanes BEHIND houses? Or did it? Do they use it this way in England?

I thought that the correct word could be "mews", but this sounds too old to me. Mews are, specifically, the areas behind city houses that were used as stables and yards. There are alleys and streets that are still called mews because of their original function, but my heroine lives in a new part of town. The border area of Belgravia and Chelsea wasn’t developed until the early nineteenth century; there were no old mews.

What I need here are original sources, but I just couldn’t bear to drag this out anymore. I wanted to write The End! So I chose alley. It’s good enough for my agent and my editor. I have a while until copy edits (like, a year?) so I’ll need to read some Dickens in the mean time or hope that the OED at the library offers up an example. Or maybe some kind British soul will take pity on me? *Victoria flutters her lashes*

For now, I am DONE! I’m back in the world! I’m ready to interact with others! Oh. After I slog through all the laundry and dishes and toilets and carpets that I’ve neglected for the past month. And considering that I have two little boys, that is a LOT of neglect. *sigh* Give me one week and then I’ll really be back.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Congrats on getting it done, Honey!!! I got my copy edits for book one and they're pretty light (and the CE didn't catch a single historical error, LOL!).

10:19 AM  
Blogger jennifer echols said...

HOORAY FOR A RAKE'S GUIDE TO RUIN! I'm Vicki's critique partner, I and I can tell you this is a FANTASTIC book. And the little bootblack boy is named after me! I am so proud.

Mews? Alleys? Research? This is why I write YA.

*waving to Kalen*

11:01 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hah! Oh, the pain as I read your post Vicki. I can soooo relate. I still wake up at night and come with that last paragraph of internal thought that HAS to go into the book (this is the one I am still waiting on revisions).

And I keep finding historical error, too...like the difference between a grate and a brazier. I settled on a grate as the thing I think one would use in a 13the century sleeping chamber.

I love the title of your next book! Did you pick? And get to keep?

4:21 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thank you Kalen and Jennifer! I had a drink in your honor. Each of you. Separately.

Kathrynn, I'm glad I'm not alone in my suffering! And yes, I picked the title, but it's not official yet. My editor seemed to like it and said he would "mull it over". Hmm. I'll let you know. It's really grown on me, so keep your fingers crossed!

11:08 PM  

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