A Bit o’ Story Luck

24232296.thbSusan here … 
building on Mary Jo’s Monday blog, “Building Books Around Real Events”  — to bring you a tale of adventures in researching. Many of my stories–historical romance and mainstream historical fiction—are based on actual historical events, real people and real places interwoven with fiction. Some research and noodling through facts, some luck and synchronicity, all help to bring various elements together to strengthen a story. And I'm grateful to have had some great research luck sometimes!

LairdofthewindWhen I was writing Laird of the Wind—in print several years ago and now available in e-book—I knew the basics of the story when my husband and I visited Scotland. It was to be a historical romance set in medieval Scotland during the time of Bruce and Wallace and the Scottish War of Independence — the story of a sexy forest outlaw and comrade of Wallace who meets a Scottish prophetess hunted by the English. LW pring

James Lindsay was wrongly accused of betraying his friend, the rebel Wallace; the heroine, beautiful Lady Isobel, had prophesied something dire about the hero before she met him, and he wasn't wild about her prediction. James Lindsay, I also knew, had a secret to protect. But I didn’t know what the secret was, and so far my research hadn't uncovered anything intriguing enough to qualify. I definitely needed some luck!

We visited Dunfermline in Fife during that trip to Scotland. Dunfermline Abbey was once the center of the Scottish Church, and King Malcolm Canmore and his Saxon queen, Margaret, built a tower residence there; both are entombed in the abbey. Robert the Bruce is buried there too–and Dunfermline Steps_to_Malcolm's_Tower,_Dunfermlinewas a hub of royal and religious activity during the time of Bruce and Wallace. Tradition also holds that Wallace hid from the English in the dense forested tracts of Pittencrieff Park below the Abbey.

That rainy afternoon, my husband and I were the only visitors at the Abbey, and I was able to have a long chat with the curator and historian—who also ran the gift shop. As we toured the abbey ruins, they took us around, discussing the history, my research and story ideas and the fictional characters I was blithely inserting into the historical record.

Common_hawthorn_flowersThey showed us a small graveyard beside the Abbey, where a hawthorn tree was just budding that spring. An old tradition claims that William Wallace's mother is secretly buried under the tree, the historian explained. That I already knew, and thought it might be a good secret for the hero to protect. But then he explained a little-known local legend that claimed Wallace himself was buried beside his mother. Friends of Wallace, tradition claimed, collected the “bits o’ Wallace,” as he described them, the rebel leader’s remains after his death, and placed them in a secret grave—possibly beneath the very thorn tree where we stood.

DunfermlineWhether or not the legend is true, it was the research nugget that could make the story unique and give it historical and character-driven purpose. And I think James Lindsay is a far better hero for it, together with the Lady Isobel. A little gift from the research angels made a true difference to this story.  

Goshawks fuentesLaird of the Wind brought me another piece of research luck, a true adventure in the form of a beautiful goshawk. I had intended the forest outlaw hero to be a falconer—not just any falconer, not the sort flinging hawks nobly from the wrist, but an expert with a challenge, pitting hawk against man. I researched falconry and hawking techniques, including medieval treatises on hawking, but again, basic research wasn’t producing quite what I needed. Then a friend introduced me to a hawk expert he knew, who lived just a few miles from me. What a delight to visit this gentleman and meet his remarkable tiercel goshawk. The high-strung, misbehaving little goshawk I met that day inspired the feisty, temperamental goshawk that challenges all James Lindsay ever knew about hawks, and tests his patience mightily too.

Lairdofthewind - CopyThe hero and heroine and the story of Laird of the Wind were created within the stream of historical truth, shaped and defined by what happened, as well as by what could have happened, long ago. That’s part of the fun of writing a historical novel—and part of the adventure of researching, writing, and enjoying historical fiction.

Here’s a bit of luck – Laird of the Wind is currently priced at .99 on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble! “A complex, mesmerizing story of betrayal, retribution, and healing . . . a lyrical, compelling love story.” – Library Journal

What do you love most about historical fiction — the history or the fiction? Does it make a difference in the story, for you, if the author goes out on a limb to research and comes up with something different — or do you think the extra history bits just get in the way, or is it all part of a good juicy fictional experience?

Susan 

 

30 thoughts on “A Bit o’ Story Luck”

  1. Susan, I love hearing how you came up with these possible truths to weave into the known record! Finding such gems is one of the great pleasures of writing historials–and you have some of the best research angels I know. *G*

    Reply
  2. Susan, I love hearing how you came up with these possible truths to weave into the known record! Finding such gems is one of the great pleasures of writing historials–and you have some of the best research angels I know. *G*

    Reply
  3. Susan, I love hearing how you came up with these possible truths to weave into the known record! Finding such gems is one of the great pleasures of writing historials–and you have some of the best research angels I know. *G*

    Reply
  4. Susan, I love hearing how you came up with these possible truths to weave into the known record! Finding such gems is one of the great pleasures of writing historials–and you have some of the best research angels I know. *G*

    Reply
  5. Susan, I love hearing how you came up with these possible truths to weave into the known record! Finding such gems is one of the great pleasures of writing historials–and you have some of the best research angels I know. *G*

    Reply
  6. I loved the goshawk. I still remember that book and how the heroine as well as the hero tried to tame that bird. If I say more, I’ll spoil the story.
    I think I like history, facts woven in. But what I like most is the little things of history–a goshawk, a pipe in London blocked by a fish or an eel, or how witch-finders tried to identify their victims.

    Reply
  7. I loved the goshawk. I still remember that book and how the heroine as well as the hero tried to tame that bird. If I say more, I’ll spoil the story.
    I think I like history, facts woven in. But what I like most is the little things of history–a goshawk, a pipe in London blocked by a fish or an eel, or how witch-finders tried to identify their victims.

    Reply
  8. I loved the goshawk. I still remember that book and how the heroine as well as the hero tried to tame that bird. If I say more, I’ll spoil the story.
    I think I like history, facts woven in. But what I like most is the little things of history–a goshawk, a pipe in London blocked by a fish or an eel, or how witch-finders tried to identify their victims.

    Reply
  9. I loved the goshawk. I still remember that book and how the heroine as well as the hero tried to tame that bird. If I say more, I’ll spoil the story.
    I think I like history, facts woven in. But what I like most is the little things of history–a goshawk, a pipe in London blocked by a fish or an eel, or how witch-finders tried to identify their victims.

    Reply
  10. I loved the goshawk. I still remember that book and how the heroine as well as the hero tried to tame that bird. If I say more, I’ll spoil the story.
    I think I like history, facts woven in. But what I like most is the little things of history–a goshawk, a pipe in London blocked by a fish or an eel, or how witch-finders tried to identify their victims.

    Reply
  11. I have just one thing to say:
    Attention, everyone! READ THIS BOOK.
    It’s one of my top ten all-time favorites, and among the most poignant and sensually (in both its broad and narrow meanings) stories I’ve ever read.
    Been meaning to thank you for this one for more than a decade, Susan. So…wait for it!
    THANK YOU! Think I’ll re-read it this week, in fact.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  12. I have just one thing to say:
    Attention, everyone! READ THIS BOOK.
    It’s one of my top ten all-time favorites, and among the most poignant and sensually (in both its broad and narrow meanings) stories I’ve ever read.
    Been meaning to thank you for this one for more than a decade, Susan. So…wait for it!
    THANK YOU! Think I’ll re-read it this week, in fact.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  13. I have just one thing to say:
    Attention, everyone! READ THIS BOOK.
    It’s one of my top ten all-time favorites, and among the most poignant and sensually (in both its broad and narrow meanings) stories I’ve ever read.
    Been meaning to thank you for this one for more than a decade, Susan. So…wait for it!
    THANK YOU! Think I’ll re-read it this week, in fact.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  14. I have just one thing to say:
    Attention, everyone! READ THIS BOOK.
    It’s one of my top ten all-time favorites, and among the most poignant and sensually (in both its broad and narrow meanings) stories I’ve ever read.
    Been meaning to thank you for this one for more than a decade, Susan. So…wait for it!
    THANK YOU! Think I’ll re-read it this week, in fact.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  15. I have just one thing to say:
    Attention, everyone! READ THIS BOOK.
    It’s one of my top ten all-time favorites, and among the most poignant and sensually (in both its broad and narrow meanings) stories I’ve ever read.
    Been meaning to thank you for this one for more than a decade, Susan. So…wait for it!
    THANK YOU! Think I’ll re-read it this week, in fact.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  16. Hi Shannon, thanks, I’m so glad you loved that spoiled little goshawk! It was such fun to write about him and find ways to bring the hero and heroine together while the bird was misbehaving. 😉
    I so agree about history facts – weaving little tidbits into the larger fabric can give historical fiction just right amount of authenticity and immersion for the reader, without overwhelming.

    Reply
  17. Hi Shannon, thanks, I’m so glad you loved that spoiled little goshawk! It was such fun to write about him and find ways to bring the hero and heroine together while the bird was misbehaving. 😉
    I so agree about history facts – weaving little tidbits into the larger fabric can give historical fiction just right amount of authenticity and immersion for the reader, without overwhelming.

    Reply
  18. Hi Shannon, thanks, I’m so glad you loved that spoiled little goshawk! It was such fun to write about him and find ways to bring the hero and heroine together while the bird was misbehaving. 😉
    I so agree about history facts – weaving little tidbits into the larger fabric can give historical fiction just right amount of authenticity and immersion for the reader, without overwhelming.

    Reply
  19. Hi Shannon, thanks, I’m so glad you loved that spoiled little goshawk! It was such fun to write about him and find ways to bring the hero and heroine together while the bird was misbehaving. 😉
    I so agree about history facts – weaving little tidbits into the larger fabric can give historical fiction just right amount of authenticity and immersion for the reader, without overwhelming.

    Reply
  20. Hi Shannon, thanks, I’m so glad you loved that spoiled little goshawk! It was such fun to write about him and find ways to bring the hero and heroine together while the bird was misbehaving. 😉
    I so agree about history facts – weaving little tidbits into the larger fabric can give historical fiction just right amount of authenticity and immersion for the reader, without overwhelming.

    Reply
  21. Faith, thank YOU!!! What a great thing to read with my morning tea! I’m so delighted to know that you love that book. I confess it’s one of my particular faves among my books too — I truly loved writing (and researching!) LOTW.
    Enjoy the re-read! 🙂

    Reply
  22. Faith, thank YOU!!! What a great thing to read with my morning tea! I’m so delighted to know that you love that book. I confess it’s one of my particular faves among my books too — I truly loved writing (and researching!) LOTW.
    Enjoy the re-read! 🙂

    Reply
  23. Faith, thank YOU!!! What a great thing to read with my morning tea! I’m so delighted to know that you love that book. I confess it’s one of my particular faves among my books too — I truly loved writing (and researching!) LOTW.
    Enjoy the re-read! 🙂

    Reply
  24. Faith, thank YOU!!! What a great thing to read with my morning tea! I’m so delighted to know that you love that book. I confess it’s one of my particular faves among my books too — I truly loved writing (and researching!) LOTW.
    Enjoy the re-read! 🙂

    Reply
  25. Faith, thank YOU!!! What a great thing to read with my morning tea! I’m so delighted to know that you love that book. I confess it’s one of my particular faves among my books too — I truly loved writing (and researching!) LOTW.
    Enjoy the re-read! 🙂

    Reply

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