Fun Historical facts whilst researching
I love writing romances set in historical times. After all, I grew up on a staple diet of dukes and dashing spies, balls, baronets and courtesans. There’s just something about a historical romance that leads itself to a larger-than-life plot.
But… I’m a little tired of dukes (unless they’re evil, which is another story). There’s something about the self-made man, or a hero fighting against the system that really appeals to me, which is why a lot of my latest novel, Heart of Iron, is set in Whitechapel. Of course, I feel like I’ve read enough regencies to have an honorary voucher for Almack’s, but the grim, steamy world of the ‘Chapel and Seven Dials isn’t covered quite as much, which is why I hit the Google roughly three hundred times a day and shake out my dusty old copies of Dickens.
When I look at research, I’m not just looking at what happened when or who wore what. I want to know how a place smells, how it feels and tastes… Its flavour. Also, considering that I write steampunk, in a pseudo-Victorian era, I’m looking at what could have happened or been created.
Research helps. It’s actually amazing to consider how many of the modern machines we take for granted, actually had their antecedents way back when. Take da Vinci’s sketches of a Helical Air Screw – or a helicopter. That dude was way ahead of his time. Granted, he never actually built or tested it, but the idea was there.
Here’s a couple of random facts I discovered whilst researching for Heart of Iron:
1. If you’re reading this on your computer, did you know that the idea of a computer originated in the 1800’s? The term computer is based on a person who solves mathematical problems and that’s what the first ‘computers’ were designed to do. The most famous is Charles Babbage’s difference engine, though the first prototype would have weighed about 15 tons if it was finished. I’m thinking that might have been a little difficult to work on.
2. In Victorian times, a common form of entertainment was to be found in penny gaff houses. Dancing, singing, plays, and clowning could all be had for the entry price of a penny. Sometimes there was even flash dancing. Though, considering a set of female ankles were considered a thrill, it wasn’t quite what we have today. One of the other attractions at penny gaffs were ‘freaks’; the Elephant Man allowed himself to be exhibited in one.
3. Scandinavia plays a large part in my London Steampunk world, or Heart of Iron at least. Interesting fact – To ‘go berserk’ was to ‘hamask’, which translated means ‘to change form.’ Berserkers seemed able to perform feats that no normal man could strive for, and was often accompanied by a great fury. I’m guessing you can see where I’m going here and where the paranormal elements in Heart of Iron come from. Sometimes the history might not actually make it into the books, but it certainly inspires a whole lot of creative world-building.
So what does this all mean? Apart from the fact that Heart of Iron features a flash dancer, computer genius with anger issues (kidding)? Here’s the thing: Creating an alternate history is about taking little bits and pieces and fleshing them out. My hero is considered a brute (something about those berserker tendencies) and was once displayed in the penny gaffs in a cage.
I’m often inspired by completely random facts, so whilst reading Heart of Iron, you might not recognise certain periods of history, they’re definitely there, influencing the turn of events.
So fun question: what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever learned? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first in my sexy London Steampunk series.
HEART OF IRON BY BEC MCMASTER – IN STORES MAY 2013
In the mist-shrouded streets of London’s dreaded Whitechapel district, werewolves, vampires and a clockwork army are one step away from battle…
NO ONE TO TRUST
Will Carver, is more than man, he’s a verwulfen and he wants nothing to do with the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds Lena in possession of a coded letter, he realizes she’s in a world of trouble. To protect her, he’ll have to seduce the truth from her before it’s too late.
“Deftly blends elements of steampunk and vampire romance with brilliantly successful results…darkly atmospheric and delectably sexy.” –Booklist, starred review for KISS OF STEEL
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. The third book in the London Steampunk series, My Lady Quicksilver will be in stores in October 2013. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com or follow her on Twitter @BecMcMaster.
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