Wednesday, October 1, 2014

History comes Alive!

by Barbara Phinney 

I continually get compliments from readers of my historicals on the research and history used. And I have to beam with satisfaction.

You see, I love research. There are some writers who hate it, and that's okay. They write wonderful contemporaries. Their research is in everyday life. 
For my Love Inspired Historicals, I bent to my love of the middle ages. Namely, the Norman period. 

It started in high school, but really took off when I traveled to Colchester, England, to visit my sister. Colchester is a town steeped in history. Rome made it their capital on the island, and William the Conqueror ordered a castle to be built there from the ruins of several previous castles. Queen Boadicea fought the Romans there, Old King Cole was said to have his castle there, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was written there. 

History grabbed me and I knew I wanted to write a story set in Colchester. 
It look many years, but Bound to the Warrior and Protected by the Warrior blossomed from my visit. (Sheltered by the Warrior is due out in February. You should see the cover! It's gorgeous!))

Bound to the Warrior
Protected by the Warrior

And when my husband gave me the The Doomsday Book (a reprint, of course!) I was swept even further out on the sea of history. And the other books I have acquired kept me on that sea. (There is one I cannot find anymore. It was entitled The Short History of the English People. All 1100 pages of it!)

My readers say that they've learned so much from my books. One said she learned what peat was used for. Another said she'd learned so much about daily life and midwifery and another said she now loves the Norman period of history because she's read my books. 

I am so grateful to God for this gift. In retrospect, I enjoyed geography more in school, although my history teacher was the kind of man who got fully involved in retelling history for us. He made it come alive. I still remember this little, bespectacled man, arms flying as he described what the Norman soldiers encountered as they tried to fight the Welsh, those tall, white-robbed men coming down the Welsh hills, singing to prepare themselves for battle. The pious, stodgy Normans must have thought they were angels! Now that's a tactic not taught in the army's basic training!

But me, third row back, near the window, hand holding my head up for most of my school day, well, I was captivated.

And I am blessed to be able to captivate readers with snippets of history. Life in a castle is more than a noblewoman strolling the parapet or bathing in rose scented water. It was hard, and the noblewoman's life was dedicated to keeping her castle safe from everything from enemy soldiers to the dreaded fever that could kill everyone. The lady of the keep was known to have ordered extra battlements built, preparing for a siege until her baron husband returned to free them. One Scottish queen took it upon herself to ensure each child in her castle, no matter what position the parents, was fed a decent meal each day. She would feed them herself with her own spoon, if necessary. 

That's the history I want to incorporate into my historicals. 

What is your favourite period of history? Is there any historical story that has caught your interest? Were you even interested in history in school?

Tell us in the comments section. I'd love to read them. 

Barbara Phinney


  1. I loved history :) I even taught it a year in middle school. My favorite day was when I had Denise Domning, an author, come as a guest speaker. Now, she captivated my students. She talked about England's history. She had one boy in a corner. He inherits. She put a boy in a different corner. He doesn't inherit and goes off to war. And in a final corner, another boy, and he becomes a priest. She was talking about what happens to sons in the family.

    Me, when I was teaching, favored Mesopotamia.

    If I taught today I'd favor either Egyptian pharaohs (reading a book about Narmer right now) and Henry the 8th.

  2. While growing up, I loved the stories of the kings and queens of England. Early writing attempts were set in 1100 England, so I can relate to your historical interest in the Normans, who were still ruling at that time. Life was indeed difficult, and I'm afraid I wouldn't fare well under the hardships. I much prefer modern-day conveniences like heat that doesn't involve collecting wood or coal and plumbing.

  3. How fun, Barbara! It sounds like writing historical is perfect for you!

    I love all time periods. Even though I don't write historicals, I love to read them.

  4. I love history, all time periods and settings from Viking Scotland to the U.S. colonial period and the U.S. Civil War period. I fell in love with Mary Queen of Scots when I read a children's book about her in elementary school. I've probably read every biography written about her.

  5. Thank you all for dropping by! I"m sorry I'm late chiming in, but I loved reading all your comments.


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