A Few Thoughts On Writing Historical Romance


            Without the past, neither the present nor future would have a foundation.  I grew up in a rambling Victorian house in one of Missouri’s oldest cities, a place where history is around almost every corner.  My grandparents were my hands on caregivers while my parents worked so their stories fired my imagination long before I came across Dr. Suess.  They discussed the past, often inspired by the local newspaper’s daily remember when column, over biscuits and coffee each morning.  And I listened as what would become my lifelong passion for history became reality.

            With such a background it’s not so surprising I had a dual major, Communication Arts, emphasis creative writing and history in college.  Or that once my writing career made the leap from freelancer to author I soon began writing some historical fiction.  Those who knew me at any stage of my education or life aren’t surprised at all.  My former history professors are delighted.  Most of those who earn a bachelor’s degree in history either teach or fail to utilize their knowledge.  I found another way to use mine.

            I’ve been complimented by both readers and reviewers at evoking a historical period.  It’s tall praise for me because I strive to bring the past to live in my stories until it almost lives, breathes, and walks off the page.  I want readers to feel they’ve experienced another decade or imagine what everyday life might’ve been like in the past.


            To do this, research is required.  When I begin to write any of my historical novels, I start with research.  I may begin with some of the wonderful reference books designed for writers which offer a thumb nail sketch into a period of time.  For both Guy’s Angel and In The Shadow of War, I utilized The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life From Prohibition to World War II (Marc McCutcheon, Writer’s Digest Books.)  But the book, useful and intriguing as it may be was just the beginning.  Since Guy’s Angel is set in my hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri in 1925, I relied a great deal on my memories of my late grandparents’ stories.  For my paternal grandparents, the 1920’s were “their era” as young adults.  The neighborhood in the novel was once the cradle to several generations of my family and through their tales, it was almost as familiar to me in my imagined past as in my own reality.

            I also used back issues of the local newspaper, read accounts of the time to make sure my information about vintage aircraft and flying would be correct, researched World War I flyers because Guy Richter in the story was one, leafed through ads and catalogs of the time and more.  I made sure what my characters wear is true to the period and verified what they eat and drink would have been available.  Old photographs from my own family files, from various St. Joseph locations and the Library of Congress “American Memory” collection all provided vital facts and detail for the story.  I watched 1920’s silent movies and listened to music from the decade.  I read books popular at the time and cooked recipes from vintage cookbooks.  I go deep in creating the past because it matters to me.

            I did the same for the 1940’s in In The Shadow of War, set in the small town where I now live, once home to Camp Crowder better known to millions around the world as “Camp Swampy” thanks to Mort Walker and his cartoon strip, Beetle Bailey.  I did in my sweet historical family sagas, The Marriage Cure and What Fills The Heart from Astraea Press.  Those two, first two of more to come, focus on the earliest pioneers to the Ozarks. Even my novella,  Long Live The King evokes both an early Elvis and the 1950’s. I have another historical upcoming in September, Dust Bowl Dreams, set in 1930’s western Oklahoma.

Available September 17
Rebel Ink Press

Life’s never easy for a good-hearted man who decides crime is the answer to his troubles.

No rain in the summer of 1933 is bad news for Oklahoma farmer Henry Mink. The local banker wants the mortgage on the farm paid and unless Henry comes up with the dough, his widowed mother and four young siblings won’t have a home.  Jobs are scarce so he decides to rob a bank.   His sweetheart, school teacher Mamie Logan, doesn’t like the idea and neither does Henry’s kid brother Eddie but Henry’s out of options.

He leaves home and robs a bank at nearby Ponca City. When he returns home, he pays off the mortgage but new troubles show up. Mamie is his greatest joy and they become engaged but by fall, Henry has no options left but to rob another bank.  If he can pull off one another big job, he figures he’ll be set until the hard times are over but few things in life go as planned.  His desperate efforts will either secure his future or destroy it forever.

If Henry’s family survives and Mamie’s love endures, he’ll need a miracle.
            One reason I spend so much time and am so meticulous about historical detail is nothing can jolt me from a story faster than reading something incorrect or out of period.  I may write from sweet to heat, from contemporary to historical, but readers who opt for one of my novels set in the past can be sure the facts are as correct as I can make them!

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