I’d like to welcome Rosanne E. Lortz (“Rose”) to talk with me today about what Historical Fiction means to her and the importance of the genre. Rosanne is a history lover, a book addict, a mom to four boys, and a native of Portland, Oregon. When she’s not writing, she teaches Latin and English composition and works as an editor at Madison Street Publishing. Her latest book, To Wed an Heiress, is a Regency romance/murder mystery loosely based on the characters and events of the Norman Conquest.
What are the periods of history focused on for your writing?
I write historical novels set during the Middle Ages or the Regency Era in England…and sometimes novels based on medieval events with Regency characters.
Why Historical Fiction?
I love the distance created by the past that brings heroic actions and important events into focus.
When did you know you wanted be a HF writer?
Historical fiction was my favorite genre throughout childhood and my teen years. I always knew I wanted to write, and when I fell in love with historical research during college, it became apparent that becoming a historical novelist was inescapable.
How much time do you spend on research? What sources do you use?
For my medieval adventures, I typically am following the life of a real historical figure, so that requires more research than my Regencies (which are romance/murder mysteries). I start with secondary sources to orient myself and from there move on to the important primary sources which give the color to the novel. I usually do reading on the topic for a couple months ahead of time and then continue doing research as I’m writing.
What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?
Historical fiction is the best way to excite interest in the past. It’s the gateway drug to history.
Who are your influences?
Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Renault, Edith Pargeter, Howard Pyle.
How much fiction (in your opinion) is best to blend with historical facts?
It depends on the story. I would never change a known historical fact to something incorrect, but anything plausible to fill in the gaps is fair game!
How do you feel the genre has progressed in the last ten years?
I enjoy the diversity of storytelling with first and third person narration, and it’s wonderful how historical fiction is now available about so many parts of the world and ages of history. I don’t appreciate that soft porn has become the norm for historical fiction and that it’s unusual to find a historical novel without explicit sexual situations.
What are the important steps in writing HF?
It’s important to orient yourself to the world you’re writing in before you begin writing so that you don’t make an important plot point hinge on something anachronistic. Other than that, I would say write it as you write best. If you’re a plotter, then write a detailed plot. If you’re a pantser, just go for it!
What must you not do when writing in this genre?
Never say never! All of the rules I’ve heard about writing can be broken effectively by someone skilled in the craft. But I suppose one thing I would caution against is judging historical characters by the culture that we ourselves live in instead of on their own terms.
When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration? Such as historical pictures of people, castles, towns and such? What about historical objects?
Yes, maps are very important for my medieval novels. I need to know where things are to be able to describe them accurately. I also look at pictures of places and people—whatever is available can be of great help.
Historical fiction is a very tough genre, requiring hours and hours of research and fact checking (I know, because my wife is in the throes of just such an undertaking). Kudos to anyone who pursues it, especially to those who have done more than once! Nice interview, Stephanie.
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