Tuesday, March 2, 2021

RHYS on Getting it Right

 RHYS BOWEN:  I have just finished teaching an online class on writing historical mysteries to the Sisters in Crime Guppy group. One of the things I've stressed is the need to GET IT RIGHT. Gone are the days when your train could arrive at London Station and your characters could claim to be British by saying "Pip pip, cheerio" to each other. Everybody is savvy these days. The internet is there to check everything and if you get one small thing wrong you will know it.

Sometimes the writer feels like shouting "IT'S FICTION, DAMMIT!" but the point is that if you choose a real place and time for your story, the everything has to be right about that place or you have jerked some readers out of the story.  I read a book by a well-known author (who shall remain nameless) in which she got several things howlingly wrong...incorrect procedure and form of address at the English court, the wrong island, and I was so angry I couldn't finish the book.

I was asked to blurb another book in which a train from Yorkshire came into Victoria Station in London. That one got thrown across the room.  How can authors get such basic things wrong?

It should be easy to do the big research--when I wrote the Molly Murphy book, For the Love of Mike, I read the senate depositions after the Triangle Fire so that every abuse that happened to a girl in my book had happened to a real girl. Not necessary but really satisfying for the author and a way of making the reader feel that everything you are telling her is real and valid.

It's not always easy to avoid anachronisms, however. (Isn't that a lovely word. Anachronism. Say it out loud. Most satisfying). When I was writing my first Molly book my copy editor queried the use of Streetlight. And she was right. Not in use at that time. They were still lamps--lit by lamp lighters in many places, and even when electricity had been introduced they were still referred to as street lamps.

A very small thing and one that wouldn't upset anybody but it's satisfying to get it right.  I remember researching once with a friendly librarian when elastic came into use in women's undergarments. I wanted t know how easily my hero could rip them off? Such are the small things that obsess a historical writer.

Also in the Molly books I found that the word Car park was not in usage before 1920. Also Freud was just in the process of formulating his theories so none of the characters could be stressed, need to relax, be obsessed... such concepts didn't exist.

I am very conscious of anachronisms recently because I have watched Bridgerton and The Crown.


Bridgerton--OMG, anachronism laden, and I don't mean the choice of actors of various ethnicity. I was unable to recognize one thing about what is supposed to be London. It's the Georgian period. When I lived on Queen Anne Street when I worked for the BBC my house was Georgian. Plenty of Georgian buildings to use, but I had no idea where we were in any of the scenes. Was this perhaps because it was meant to be a fantasy world? Maybe.

But small things annoyed me too: court etiquette. Three daughters are presented at once to Queen Charlotte. The mother remarks she can try again next year. I'm sorry but unless things have changed significantly you are presented once, at eighteen. I rather think that court etiquette is written in stone.


And then there is the Crown: You should see the buzz it created in UK with all the little things they got wrong: the scenes at Balmoral when they go out stalking the stag. Those who know about these things say you'd never shoot at an animal without a backdrop (ie, a hillside behind it) so that there is no risk of the bullet going through the animal and striking someone beyond.  You'd never shoot without wearing ear muffs to deaden the sound.  I can't believe they didn't offer Mrs. Thatcher a pair of boots, not let her tramp through the heather in high heels. Nor can I believe she was clueless enough not to find out in advance what the dress code might be with her hosts! If I were going to spend some time in the wilds of Scotland I'd definitely take warm trousers and a rain jacket and stout shoes, wouldn't you?  It's easy enough to find pictures of the royals and see what they wear--of course, they wear kilts and she couldn't...

When Prince Charles is fly fishing apparently he's using the wrong type of rod for the stream. Again something that wouldn't matter to you or me but would matter to a fisherman.

I also find when I am writing that sometimes my problem is the opposite. I know something is true for the period but I can't include it because my readers would never accept it. It might be a form of slang that just sounds wrong or it might be a photo that I have of Macy's food counter in 1900. The center of the display is a stack of cans of chili con carne.  If I wrote that Molly went home and opened a can of chili I would be besieged with letters telling me how stupid I was.

So I'm interested to know how much it bothers you if you find a mistake in a book you are reading?

Do you continue to read or do you, like me, throw it across the room? And writers--have you ever made an error you came to regret? (confession time--I put Claridges Hotel on the wrong street in a Royal Spyness book. Unforgivable as our next door neighbor was the night manager of Claridges!)

82 comments:

  1. Well, I can’t say that a writer's mistake will cause me to toss the book, but mistakes are annoying [especially if they’re huge enough that I’ve noticed them in the first place]. And, although I generally finish reading a book, a second error makes it more likely that I'd set the book aside without finishing it . . . .

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    1. Joan, I think the biggest problem with errors is that you start to feel you can't trust the author. And if you can't trust the author, you can't relax into the "fictional dream," and be carried along by the story.

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  2. If I'm into the book and find a huge mistake that I know is a mistake, I'll continue reading the book and if I know the author, I'll contact them, because perhaps it can be fixed before the next re-print.

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  3. For me, it depends on the mistake, but give me something in a field where I have some expertise and make it egregious enough, and I will definitely do some metaphorical book-tossing (I read electronically these days). My personal pet peeve, as a long-time martial artist, is unrealistic fight scenes in which, for example, Our Intrepid Heroine kicks a gun or knife out of the bad guy's hand, or - my personal least favorite -uses the "strike to the nose that kills instantly by driving the bone into the brain," which is pretty much anatomically impossible. I'm also a biologist, so that opens up a whole other field of possibilities. The flip side of all of that is that I am super appreciative of authors who do their research, because they keep me in the story and let me learn so much in the process. (So when did the elastic in undergarments show up???)

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  4. My knowledge of historical customs and geographical places is not as finely honed as yours is, Rhys. If I do notice things that are just not correct in a book, and it is enough to annoy me, then I will stop reading. I am more likely to bristle at language that sounds like 1970's in a story set in the 1940's. I definitely notice that.

    In fiction, how much liberty is given then author to move real restaurants and streets and to invent places? Some is surely okay.

    Your historical novels always feel genuine. Although the characters may have unusual traits for their time, like Molly, they really do take the reader on a journey to another place and time. Your research pays off in the authenticity of each story.

    Now, I too would like to know the story behind the elastic research, but more. Who was the intended ripper? Rippee?

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    1. Judy, it's not history and customs, though. I cornered a book where, in the first chapter, the single mother of a three-year-old doesn't know what to do when her child had a fever and contacted her sister-in-law, who was pregnant with her first. No, her sister wasn't a pediatrician, just someone how was constantly reading about babies.

      It was set (or written, I can't recall) pre-internet, but my two kids were both toddlers pre-internet, and even if you could't Google the answer to a question, I know a middle class white woman (which the heroine was) would have had at least three baby books in the house and a pediatrician (or well-baby clinic)on call. After three years of parenthood, the only thing you do with your pregnant sister-in-law's advice is smile quietly and look forward to her finding out what it's really like.

      The author was a man, btw...

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    2. JULIA,

      It sounds like the author did not do his homework. Or the editor dropped the ball? Is it the editor's responsibility to point out the inaccuracies?

      Diana

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  5. When I am reading and find a mistake, I mentally note it and keep reading. It's rare that the mistake is so bad that it takes me out of reading the scene.

    Like Dru, I sometimes contact the author about errors (e.g. character name mix-up, plot error, typo) and they are able to fix the mistake in the re-prints. And some publisher asks us to send in those types errors while reviewing ARCs, even though these are uncorrected proofs.

    Unlike others, I don't read or watch a lot of historicals, so I would not usually catch the anachronisms. I have never watched Bridgeton, the Crown or Downton Abbey.

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    1. HA HA...errors such as "types of errors" above!

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    2. I have contacted the author if I read an advanced copy before publication and let the author know when I find a mistake.

      Diana

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  6. I know of several mistakes I've made and, no, I'm not going to confess to any of them in public. Ha! I just tell myself when I know better, I'll do better.

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    1. Annette, I always say it's easy to catch mistakes you know are wrong. It's almost impossible to catch mistakes you think are right.

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  7. Rhys, those scenes with Thatcher on the moors really bothered us, too. Annoying on both sides. In Sanditon (which had other issues), I kept saying, "No, she would not be going around outside without a hat on!"

    I try very hard to get details right in my historicals. I've heard that the train aficionados get very upset with errors. In my new book (next month!) I dug out the exact route and exactly how long it took to get from Amesbury over through Salisbury and across the wide Merrimack River to Newburyport in 1890.

    I will definitely stop reading if a book has too many anachronisms, especially in dialog.

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    1. Oh trains! Yes. Train buffs will let you know if you get anything wrong. I got a letter telling me that the train Molly took to San Francisco would not have stopped in Reno. It would have taken the Winnemuka cut. Did it matter? Not to the story, but to that man

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    2. Train buffs, otherwise known as rail fans or foamers, will definitely let you know if you get it wrong. I am very careful when I do the research for my California Zephyr books. Timetables and route maps are my friends.

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    3. RHYS,

      Speaking of trains, when I was barely two years old, my family could take a train from Berkeley to Los Angeles.

      NOW it is no longer possible. Train travel still exists on the East Coast, It has declined in California.

      Diana

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  8. I was annoyed when a female character in a historical novel was described as having graduated from Yale University. Yale didn’t have female undergrads until the late sixties. Women were admitted to their graduate programs beginning in the 1890s, but the book said nothing about her having an advanced degree. That’s the one and only book I read by that author.

    DebRo

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    1. Yikes! I have heard of the Seven Sisters colleges like Sarah Lawrence, Wellesley and Smith. Harvard had Radcliffe College for women. I am trying to recall if there was a women's college connected to Yale?

      Very important to do research.

      Diana

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  9. For me, it depends on the size of the mistake. Little things, I can overlook. But the big things, like you mention are easy to find out, make me roll my eyes. I watched both "Bridgerton" and "The Crown" - I didn't expect either to be completely accurate. "The Crown" took a lot of liberties to amp up the conflict between Thatcher and Elizabeth. It's TV.

    Nobody has pointed out any mistakes to me, but I'm sure they are out there, waiting.

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    1. Liz, I decided to treat Bridgerton as Regency-themed fantasy, and enjoyed it as such. The one thing that absolutely drove me bonkers, though? Women eating and drinking with their gloves on. That's not some ancient custom - if you're wearing them, you take off gloves for food or drink today!

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    2. Julia, same re: Bridgerton. It was just so over the top and ridiculous. I saw it was based on books, but we all know that means almost nothing.

      Yeah, and who eats with gloves on?

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    3. Liz, I can overlook little mistakes. Sometimes I see a big mistake and it bothers me, though.

      Diana

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  10. Curious timing. Just this morning, while taking my breakfast, I began a new historical novel. In the few first pages, a man sitting outside smells apple’s flowers in the air. It stopped me because it is suppose to be the end of June and at this time, apple’s flowers are gone.
    It was not an historical error but it bothered me anyway. I will continue to read it , hoping it was the only error.

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  11. Back when I was roaming the halls of academia, I loved discovering new libraries on campus--where you could literally research almost any topic that caught your fancy. And interlibrary loan existed in those prehistoric days, too. So a careful author could research anything they might need to know to create a realistic setting, details of character and plot. Nowadays, the internet puts the world at your fingertips in the convenience of your own home/office and at whatever day/time you desire. When I read, I'm caught up in the story and if a mistake is obvious enough to pull me out of it, I'm not happy. Whether or not I finish the book depends on the writing to that point.

    My biggest pet peeve is the caricature archaeologist--the old 'insensitive to Native culture/holding up progress' trope. Ten minutes of research should provide anyone looking with an idea of what archaeology is all about. And my second peeve is this: if you are going to bring in details of a prehistoric culture, GET IT RIGHT! Please don't slap together some twaddle you vaguely remember from some 'aliens were responsible' TV show. End of rant.

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    1. Oh, Flora, don't get me started on "It's a complete mystery how ancient humans managed to build this temple/move these statues/carve these rocks." People have been engineers since the beginning of humanity. Solving problems is what we do.

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  12. Rhys, does your story rise from the details or do you have the main character and plot line in place before you research everything from hairpins to elastic?

    I set a WW2 homefront story on Cape Cod. I knew the setting, the seabirds, the vegetation. I researched how much a pay phone cost (a nickel) and what agency picks up a body. The local undertaker, who delivers it to the morgue. Food stamps, rationing, headlights taped, blackout curtains. Lots and lots of details.

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    1. Margaret, is that book out? I would read it!

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    2. "Black Market Baby" in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories 2020

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    3. I would definitely read that one, too!

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    4. Good question! Usually I have my main character in place as well as the time and setting. Then the details of the story arise from those

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    5. Oo-oo, Margaret, me too!

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  13. Those hunting scenes drove me crazy, too! I have an elastic limit as to how far I am willing to suspend belief in the name of fiction. I will forgive some things, but one thing I will not forgive is zippers. They simply did not exist at all before 1893 and were not "toothed" until 1914. They weren't in popular use until the 1920/30 era. So when I read a period western and someone is zipped into their dress. Bang.

    My books are set in the Florida Keys and Miami. I am careful to note that I have taken liberty with both places for the purposes of fiction.

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    1. I've spotted some of the wrong era zippers, too, Kait. Bridgerton is full of them!

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    2. Karen, there are some great take-downs of Bridgerton costuming online. I think you might enjoy them.

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  14. Anachronisms don't bother me that much; it would have to be pretty glaring for me to catch it. I am primarily bothered by grammatical errors, especially 'I' when it should be 'me' or 'he' instead of 'him'. I also hate right word, wrong spelling errors, one really egregious one - flower sack dresses. Things like that can take me right out of the book and it diminishes my enjoyment.

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    1. Those are called "eggcorns," Maureen. As a linguist they amuse me - the flour sack dresses often had flowers on them - but they're still wrong!

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    2. I notice those mistakes, too. One author had so many of them, I never read another of her works. And Maureen, it always makes me wonder if she had an editor. One or two slip-ups are forgivable, but it reminded me of high school English class. Three misspellings were a instant F.

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    3. The recovering perfectionist here notices those types of mistakes. These errors used to really bug me but I usually let them go now. But I do wonder how the copy editor/other sets of eyes missed them!

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    4. "Eggcorns" - I love learning something new. Thanks, Edith!

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    5. There's an entire database of them! https://eggcorns.lascribe.net/

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  15. Flora wrote, " When I read, I'm caught up in the story and if a mistake is obvious enough to pull me out of it, I'm not happy. Whether or not I finish the book depends on the writing to that point."

    I can not put it better than Flora did. I can deal with typos. They happen. Repetition of a particular word, usually a descriptor, annoys the hell out of me. I get the urge to keep count, ignoring what may be a perfectly good, otherwise well written story. If I, usually fairly forgiving, notice it and become annoyed, WTH didn't the editor et al? Or even the software?

    In my present mobility limited mode, I'm reading voraciously, even more than usual. I just devoured THE CHILDREN'S BIBLE, by Lydia Millet, short listed for the NBA. Don't miss this one my friends. Suspend disbelief. It is an allegory.

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    1. That reminds me of a particular book I read by an author who has written tons of books. Her character "lurched upright" which I thought was very interesting. And then she used it again. And again. Then I started looking for it! Took me completely out of the story and all I could think was how proud she must have been to come up with such a descriptive phrase.

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    2. That's a lot of lurching, lol.

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    3. Judi, in my first book, characters "levered" themselves out of chairs at least five times, which is four times too many. I never even realized it until I heard the audio book. Now I have a list of crutch phrases I tend to use, and when I'm in edits, I hunt them down and kill them. ;-)

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    4. JULIA: That's great that the audiobook helped you find your crutch praises (love that term)!

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  16. Oh, Rhys, I am so glad you are talking about this. One author who has a couple of different mystery series and I have read them all. Then she started branching out into historical stories that were entwined with the present-day mysteries. Although I enjpyed them very much and it was rather apparent that a lot of research had been done she lost me when she had people sitting on hay bales. The story takes place in the 1780s and since the hay baler wasn't invented until the last century that made me crazy. At the same time I am sure that probably most people wouldn't have given it another thought. She did the same thing in the next book of the series and also had a little boy playing on the floor with his toy truck. I'd really like to see what that toy truck might have looked like. But what do I know - maybe farm wagons were called trucks back then.
    So I didn't throw the books across the room, but I stopped buying them. I still read them from the library however, always hoping I'll see people sitting on a bench or something else instead of a bale of hay.

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  17. I have to agree with you on repetition. In a book I read last year, the characters were constantly arching eyebrows, not both eyebrows, just one. And the brows were arched in consternation, confusion, disappointment, irritation, etc. I hadn't noticed it in previous books, but this time it completely ruined the book. And don't get me started on quirking smiles.

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    1. I am afraid all authors are guilty of repetition. That’s why we need beta readers to weed them out. I tend to have characters grin and turn

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  18. When a character on "Downton Abbey" said he'd "been on a bit of a learning curve," I winced.

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  19. Thanks, Ann! For the reading recommendation, too. For the past year, I've been reading much more than usual on my e-reader. I'm finding many errors that must be due to the process of making an e-book from an existing book. I have to stop and 'translate' the error. "Somy," she said. Uh, 'somy'?? Ah, "Sorry," she said. Those are clearly not the fault of the writer or the author's editors, so I figure it out and keep going.

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  20. I’m exhausted even thinking about doing this much research. Bravo to you, Rhys, for your passion for accuracy and your diligence in getting it right. One of my strengths is my ability to suspend disbelief so I am a very forgiving reader. That being said, if there is an unforgivable error made by the author I am very difficult to win back once my trust is broken.

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    1. I enjoyed your Paris and Tuscany, both of which I know well!

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  21. I'm afraid I don't know enough historical detail to get annoyed. If it sounds plausible, I go with it. If it doesn't, I throw the book away. I think audiences can be very forgiving if the characters ring true and the situations are intriguing. and YES I'm with the folks who choke on repeated expressions. Too much giggling and I'm out of there.

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  22. Well said all around, Rhys. Bridgerton? It was absurd ( but fun in its way). I didn't look at it as "historical" but as "fantasy", so they could do it any way they wanted. But there was a mistake, repeated, in a recent supposedly historical fiction that was so dumb,it threw me right off. World War 1 setting. Two scenes of heroine pulling her skirt down, struggling to keep her knees covered in important meetings. excuse me?
    When even a (readily available) crowd scene photo of 1915 would tell you all the women were wearing ankle length dresses! Petty? Maybe. But it made me doubt her care in all the rest. You writers of historical fiction? Can't you close your eyes and see the general scene of your time? 1915-long dresses, everyone wore hats, a few early autos, horse drawn vehicles, trolleys.

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    1. Wow, that's a giant bomb of an error, Triss. I mean...even if the author was confusing WWI with the Jazz Age (which is also a ridiculous error) women's day dresses in the 20s were still below their knees.

      Really, the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. It feels as if the first time a woman might have to worry about showing her knees would be in a 1950s pencil skirt. Not to be sexist, but was this written by a man? Or just a woman who was completely checked out?

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  24. Anything that takes the reader out of the story is at the very least distracting. It cannot be easy to eliminate them all.

    I considered Bridgerton sheer fantasy fun, so none of the oh-so obvious anachronisms bothered me. However, I have several friends and acquaintances who are avid and active members of SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism. They create and/or are part of alternate universes that have little or no relationship to reality. In fact, some of the goal is to recreate a time period, but with one's own fantasy details that make it more interesting (and fun).

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    1. There was an event that bothered me in Bridgerton, because it broke its own rules. Fantasies work because there are rules and laws within the fantastical universe. Like, you can fly in Game of Thrones if you can sit on a dragon, but you can't start swooping through the air yourself.

      In Bridgerton, they established they were using the real purity conventions of Regency England - being alone with a man in a secluded place could "ruin" a girl, and having a family member with an illegitimate pregnancy could wreck the marriage aspirations of the rest of other daughters. But there's a scene where the second Bridgerton brother lets his younger sister (one of the ones who isn't out yet) ride in a closed carriage alongside his mistress. I squawked so loudly at the TV set when I saw that!

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    2. There were rules?

      Yeah, total inconsistency!

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  25. I do get thrown out of the work when it seems the writer (won't use author here) didn't do much research. Like you said Rys, that is what librarians are for. It annoys me when people fly from New York to Melbourne, Victoria 10 hours and arrive on the same day. I become anxious when everyone is anxious, poor dears. I can become very picky, down to the weather in a location. I know it is fiction, but going through a winter in Seattle without a rainy day? That would be fantasy as well as fiction.

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    1. May I quote Neil Gaiman here? "Google will bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian will bring you back the right one.”

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  26. Oh, I am so with you on this, Rhys! The scenes with Thatcher in The Crown were ridiculous and made me think that the show's producers didn't think much of my intelligence. And don't get me going on Victoria.
    Your attention to historical detail is much appreciated, because those small details can do so much to set the mood and pull us into the story. Just reading the words "street light" and "street lamp" - "lamp" feels old fashioned and I can see it glowing, while street light is harsh. Thank you for caring to give us these marvelous details.

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  27. If I know, it bothers me. But most of the time, I don't know, so it really isn't an issue for me.

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  28. I think I've already whined about authors who just can't get their English titles right. It's always been lookupable, and with the internet, it's easier than ever.

    Meanwhile, I've noticed a disturbing recent trend (all right, maybe 3 times) in historical novels written by women born after 1970. The use of "Ms." in, say, the 1920s. Um, no.

    Yeah, anachronisms get to me, all the time. My approach is to correct them in library books (in pencil) as a service to other readers.

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  29. Bridgertons was a wonderful fantasy world. Not looking for reality there. The Crown is enjoyable but a bit disturbing in their slant on history. I understand wanting to make things more dramatic but inventing things goes a bit too far for me. I'm thinking of a season or two back where the show totally trashed a prime minister. Ah, politics!
    I got turned off on a book by a prolific writer years back. He either was sloppy or didn't bother to do any research. He set his story in New Orleans. He had a gated mansion on a hill and it had an extensive cellar. No hills in N.O. except artificial ones like Monkey Hill at the zoo. No basements either; those would become indoor swimming pools. Even sillier, he had his hero person get bitten by an evil person. Wound broke the skin. Hero was too dumb to worry about it.

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  30. I decided early on that Bridgerton was a fantasy, not history, and that helped me get into that world and enjoy it. If I'm watching or reading fiction about a real event, I often pursue non-fiction writing about it afterwards."Hmm, what really happened at Dunkirk?" partly because the fiction has reminded me of the event or place and partly because it has aroused my curiosity.

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  31. Zippers in Bridgerton! Yikes. I haven't finished the series yet but have treated it as fantasy. Nothing bears any relation to Regency London. I did wonder if some of the exterior scenes were filmed in Bath. And I also wondered if people were really as mealy-mouthed about sex, or if a young woman would really have absolutely no idea what would happen on her wedding night!

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    1. I think the latter was true. Proper young women had no idea about sex!

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  32. Rhys,

    Great topic this morning! Sorry I am late to the party. I have a literary hangover this morning because I was up late reading FATAL LIE by Charles Todd.

    Love that you mentioned Claridge's Hotel because my grandmother's older sister and her young family lived at Claridge's Hotel in the mid 1930a for several months. Although they were based in America, giving my grandparents' address as their home address.

    Yes, I had similar experiences as you have while reading a historical fiction/ historical mystery. I am not enamoured of BRIDGERTONS as many people are. And I was disappointed in THE CROWN. First, Princess Alice of Battenberg was DEAF. In the first season, they used a real DEAF actress to play the princess and all they talked about was her mental health. No mention of her deafness. When I bought the companion book to THE CROWN, they did mention her deafness, though I wonder if the scenes about her deafness ended up on the cutting floor? And the next actress to play the princess was NOT Deaf. In brief, whenever a DEAF role goes to a Hearing actor/ Hearing actress, there is a big outcry in the Deaf world that the role did not go to a DEAF actress/ DEAF actor.

    Regarding Thatcher at Balmoral in THE CROWN, I laughed and laughed. Was it the filmmaker's intention to poke fun at Thatcher or did they make a mistake?

    Question: How do you research the background history for the Royal Spyness novels? I am currently writing a historical mystery set in 1920s England /Scotland with a connection to Queen Alexandra who was the widow of King Edward VII by that time.

    Reading many historical mysteries, I have seen some mistakes and I get confused. Was it the author's intent to give the wrong information or was it an honest mistake?

    Diana

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  33. It's not historical exactly, but as a long-time Washington, DC resident, it would really bug me when authors would put subway stops in the wrong places. One wildly successful thriller stuck a subway stop in Georgetown. Residents know that Georgetown fought tooth and nail against a subway stop for fear that "the wrong element" would descend in hoards. A very touchy matter and one that brought me completely out of the story. P.S. I was in your recent class, Rhys, and enjoyed it very much.

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    1. REGINA,

      that reminds me of when I lived in Washington DC and I recall walking to Georgetown from the Metro stop near the White House.

      Wonder if the author of that book was creating an alternative reality novel?

      Diana

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  34. When authors put an afterward explaining how and why they changed things, that helps me accept the changes. Elizabeth Linington AKA Dell Shannon wrote many books and almost all of them, even a historical book, had a character say "hostages to fortune" referring to their families. It used to drive me nuts! One character having a catch phrase is OK but everyone saying it was crazy! I still read the books but might not now. I don't waste my time on books that I don't enjoy any more. Life is too short. Stay safe and well.

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  35. I just finished a crime novel that shall go unnamed set in the 1910s, with a first person narrator who might as well be living next door today. She and everyone who had dialogue sounded the same and sounded like 21st century people. I say “finished” but I skipped to the end to find out who did it...

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    1. Susan,

      Yes, I have skipped to the end of the book to find out who did it, especially if it is a novel that I cannot get into.

      Diana

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  36. Anachronisms are my bugaboo, including linguistic anachronisms. I write historical mysteries set in the U.S. in the 1910s and 1920s, and it takes a lot of research to make sure the language is right not just for the time but for the place. But sometimes what looks like an anachronism isn't one. In my latest MS, set in Hollywood in 1927 ,I had one character say about another character "What a maroon!" which was a common slang epithet throughout the late 20s all the way to the '40s. My editor insisted there was no way readers wouldn't think it was a misspelling. So I changed it ... regretfully.

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    1. Hahaha. I still say “What a maroon!” but I’m quoting from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and had no idea it was a real phrase.

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    2. That's where I first learned the phrase, as well, Wendy! From Bugs.

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  37. I believe it is so important for editors (I, myself, have included mention of anachronisms in the editorial notes I provided when working on a manuscript) to not overlook things like this, as it throws the reader out of the story.

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