I thought I'd invite you "down the rabbit hole" with me to see how authors of historical fiction uncover the details that make historical fiction, well, historical!
We do lots of digging around, researching for those details that make the setting and characters we place in them accurately come alive.
So, it's down-down-down that research rabbit hole for hours (who am I kidding - days! and more days!) at a time.
For example, when writing "An Emboldened Kiss," I needed to paint Christmas as it was during antebellum times.
What were Christmas trees like then? (
I discovered bringing trees inside and lighting them with candles was a new-fangled idea.
What about Christmas carols - which ones had been written at that time that the characters would sing? (
Jingle Bells had been penned in 1857, and quickly became a favorite!).
Digging around a little more brought me to the interesting insight into how the idea of our cheerful, portly, bearded Santa we know today was created by Thomas Nast's sketch for Harper's Weekly for Christmas 1862. I didn't use this information, but it was fun to find out!
see illustration below
The most poignant bit that I uncovered was from the Civil War-era diary of
Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut
, who penned a verse spun from her worry over soldiers in battle:
"Darkest of all Decembers
Ever my life has known
Sitting here by the embers
Stunned – helpless – alone."
see Thomas Nast illustration, below, of a praying wife and her soldier husband, separated at Christmas
Uncovering emotional nuggets like that makes falling into the rabbit research hole well-worth it!