Writing historical fiction

posted Jul 14, 2016, 7:51 AM by Lindsey Scholl
Born of Stone (working title) is the first time I've tried my hand at writing historical fiction. It feels like getting another degree. I thought I knew about the Later Roman Empire, but most of my knowledge is almost useless for the actual writing. I may know about Augustine's City of God, but do I know who read it? Did they read it in excerpts? Were those excerpts available in the 430s AD in Rome, and which order would they have been made available? Here are other areas of knowledge that I was surprised I didn't know. In fact, for much of them, I had to get my initial grasp from a picture history book.

Food, Clothing, what buildings existed where, regional accents, how long it takes to travel from Rome to Ravenna, did Romans have an equivalent of 'sir,' what did they call Christian priests, how were Christian priests in Rome different from those in Britain, what was the career path for a priest, houses or apartments, what idioms were common in the 400s...and so on. 

I've had success in tracking down a few of these and have come to a conclusion: if you have a graduate degree in history or historical literature, and you want to really know your subject, write a novel about it. That will make your thesis defense seem like a cakewalk. But more fun.