I’m lucky. Not only do I get to write historical romances for a living but I grew up in Great Britain within a family of avid readers and a mother who was a history buff. By the time I was a teenager, I’d visited Brighton, Bath, Westminster Abby, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral-you name it, my mother had walked me round it.
When I’m setting a scene for my latest work in progress, I tend to place it in a location I’ve been to. I find it much easier to write about the Brighton Pavilion, for instance, because I’ve been there at least three times and loved it. Bath is another favorite place of mine. Due to the diligence of the town council and county, most new buildings have to conform to exacting design standards which prevent the use of materials which wouldn’t blend with the traditional Bath stone. If you ever get to visit there, you’ll see that the elegance of the Regency town has been retained. It’s easy to imagine Jane Austen popping out for a visit to the Roman baths or to get a sticky Bath bun!
I was even lucky enough to get to stay in the extremely posh hotel on the Royal Crescent as a goodbye present from my husband as we left to live in California. It was an experience I won’t forget! Of course, I also do proper research for my books and often rely on the amazing talents of the RWA Beau Monde chapter, whom I swear know everything about the Regency period and put me to shame.
I don’t always write about London society. My family has roots in Wales and I’ve been able to set some scenes involving smuggling on the south coast of Wales around Worm’s Head near Swansea. Having struggled to walk across to Worm’s Head on the low tide and get back in a limited amount of time before the strong tides returned and closed off the Causeway, I was able to translate that sense of urgency into a dramatic conclusion to one of my books. For me, these first-hand experiences help make my writing visually stronger.
One of the best things about doing research is when one question leads to the discovery of another link to my own personal history or locations I’ve lived. When I was researching smuggling, my mother, still a keen historian showed me documents about her family stretching back to 1801. Several of my ancestors were the often reviled customs officers and my grandfather was actually born in the custom house in Cardiff docks.
Another simple question about the stage coach time from Dover to London led to the discovery of a site with timetables for coaches to London from Epping and Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire and Essex-both places I have lived. Many of the posting houses listed still stand today and haven’t changed very much at all!
Of course the danger is that having lived somewhere, it’s easy to get lazy and skate over some of the details. I’m always totally impressed by the American writers, such as the ladies on this list, who have taken the time and trouble to build up such an immense depth of knowledge about the Regency time period. It’s truly admirable.