As a teenager in high school, one of my least favorite classes was History. All that memorization of dates, battles, and which president was known for what, bored me to tears. It was dry. It was boring. It was the best insomnia meds I’ve ever had.
The summer between my junior and senior year, I picked up a copy of Gone With the Wind. Now here was history worth reading. At first I skimmed over the battles, but then as I continued on with the book, I read more and more of the actual history contained in the story.
This book was about people. Those who lost loved ones, those who waited at home for a letter, for some indication that their husband, brother, father or son was still alive.
Fiction? Yes. Gone With the Wind is a work of fiction, but what happened to Scarlett O’Hara, et al, was based on real life events. Babies were born during the height of battle. Plantations were burned to the ground, and thousands, both black and white, were left homeless, adrift in a world turned completely upside down.
I closed that book with a sigh of pleasure, and then followed up with the story of Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr. That led me to read the stories of the other five wives. I was fascinated. History was not just battles and dates, it was the story of people. Real people who lived and died, with hopes and dreams, sorrows and pain.
I had been converted. I was a history addict, which eventually led me to a degree in History.
As an historical romance author, authenticity is important. Keeping true to my era is important. I try very hard to make sure I don’t use language and references inappropriate for the time. And when I make a mistake, my editor slaps my hand. Or if it slips by her, I can be sure a reader will call me on it.
One thing I learned from my love of history. People haven’t changed much since the beginning of time. We think our time period is violent and nasty. Read some books about the medieval period, or ancient Rome, or the Spanish Inquisition. It has been suggested that young children are never safe unless they are within view of their parents because times are dangerous. Dangerous times for children? Read some books about the orphan train in the United States between 1854 and 1929, or the abduction and forced labor of children in Victorian England.
Are things worse now? No, we just know more now. Human nature is human nature throughout history, and in every country on earth. It helps to keep this in mind when reading today’s news on social media.
Maybe things were just as violent in times past, but unless it was right on your doorstep, you didn’t know about it.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
That brings me to why I write historical romance. Like all readers and writers of romance novels, I love a happy ending. In Seducing the Marquess, Eugenia and Devon are already married, but neither is happy with the marriage. They were both raised under the strictures of the ton, which had rules for just about everything, including how sex was conducted between a lord and his wife.
Eugenia revolts after running across a very naughty book. The shenanigans that follow keep her husband twisted in knots, and arriving at a shocking conclusion about his very proper wife’s behavior. I had a lot of fun writing Eugenia and Devon’s love story, and I maneuvered them into a whole lot of trouble in the process.
Reading fiction that contains a happy ending is a good antidote to the craziness of today’s world, and keeps everything in perspective. So—enjoy life, read a good book!
Callie Hutton, USA Today bestselling author, writes both Western Historical and Regency romance with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews).
Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs, two adult children, a daughter-in-law, twin grandsons and her top cheerleader husband (although thankfully not all in the same home!). Living in the Midwest provides plenty of opportunities for Callie do pursue her interests: researching history, meeting readers, spending time with her adorable two year old twin grandsons, and discovering new adventures.
Callie loves to hear from readers and welcomes the opportunity to become friends, both in person or virtually.