I once contacted a source at a history museum, introducing myself as a writer of historical fiction. The gentleman replied, “Isn’t ‘historical fiction’ a contradiction in terms?”
That acid comment stopped me cold. He was right—so why not go full out?
That was the day I decided that I write “historical fantasy.” Fantasy, in the broadest sense of the word. The world I write in—the American romance novelists’ version of the British Regency period—never existed. There were never hundreds of young, handsome dukes populating the London ballrooms. The maximum number at one time was in the teens, and their usual age was pot-bellied and silver-haired. Regency men, or dandies, were often effeminate, fashion-conscious inbred young men with no ambition other than to spend their eventual inheritance.
So if I’m going to toy with the pages of history far enough to populate upper-class 1800’s society with tall, handsome, titled, rich, single, emotionally available men just panting to fall in love with governesses and vicars’ daughters—well, then, why quibble at twisting a few other facts my way if doing so amps up the drama and intrigue of my fairy tale?
Don’t mistake me, I do the research. It’s just that sometimes I throw it out. Does anyone notice? Sometimes. There will always be a few people with too much time on their hands. There will also always be many more readers willing to simply take a ride. When those few feel the need to publicize my “errors,” I have to shrug, laugh, and go back to work. No excuses, no apologies. I do what I do for good reason.
I don’t include magic or werewolves or vampires, but that’s about the only place I draw the line. Facts are where my imagination starts, not where it ends. I’m not here to educate, I’m here to entertain. I am not a teacher, I’m a writer. I’m not responsible for the correct dispersal of historical fact—a laughable concept when even academic historians rarely agree about anything—but I am responsible for providing the very best fantasy I can squeeze into a ream of manuscript paper.
All I ask in return is that the general reader let go. Release her analytical mind, ride the tide of the story, and go along with me to a place where handsome, titled, wealthy men are panting to marry their governesses—who happen to look a lot like you and me!
Pure unadulterated historical fantasy.