Monday, January 15, 2018

Travels with Cerise, Part I: How I get great tidbits in my historical romances!

Cerise at Ham House, outside London
 (All pictures are property of Cerise DeLand, 2016. 2017, 2018.) 
The biggest challenge to writing historical romances is getting all the facts right! The romance usually comes to you in a flash. The hero appears, the heroine startles or the conflict between them lives for you. But getting the details about their relationship correct and the setting is a huge challenge. Research, not just those facts found in the pages of a thick nonfiction tome, but those discovered on holiday abroad make my job as a writer a delight!

My latest book based on research trips to Paris and Montmartre!
Traveling to “imbibe” the setting and atmosphere of the period is a great way to spend a vacation. I think so. I know many authors do.  Some go alone. Others take their friends or spouses. Mine, thank goodness, is tickled to go. And because he speaks French (and I speak German), we complement each other and get so much done!

Pump Room, Bath, England
Door from library
to Duke's bedroom
Ham House
Luckily, he likes my choices of places to visit and things to do. All of them, we research on-line and in printed references at home months before we catch the plane. This May is our next vacation when we do the Loire Valley for 3 weeks (and 12 castles, a vineyard and a monastery!) and then back to Paris to eat well, walk and visit old haunts.

What can you learn by doing this kind of research on the hoof?

Briska de Voyage at Vaux le Vicomte, south of Paris
made by Fuller in Bath, England
For one thing, you learn how far a house was from the center of royal court! In this first photo, I stand before Ham House in what is now suburban London. But in the early 17th century, this grand estate was far enough from the capital to be serene and close enough to allow the owners (earls of Dysart and Lauderdale) to respond to any summons from the monarch.

What you also learn from such a trip is a sense of terrain and social intercourse. Ham House is on the river. Very close to two other notable country homes, Ham sits so close, you can look across the river and imagine how members of the families visited—or argued—or fell in love with those nearby. You can also stroll through the kitchens (like the one where I’m standing in Kenwood House) and marvel at the huge roasting pit. You can examine the kitchen garden where the lady of the house painstakingly grew her vegetables. You can enjoy the stillroom where cooks dried herbs or the dairy room where maids separated cream and churned butter. You can admire the dolls that were Queen Victoria’s when she was a child. Or note the splendor of her bedroom when she visited Syon House. Even more intriguing is to stand next to the figure of Prince Albert her husband in all his court regalia (as he is in Kensington Palace) and note that he was rather short!

Queen Victoria's
doll collection,
Kensington Palace, London
Regency Town House,
Brunswick Square,
You get to admire the true colors of a Regency library as at Kenwood House. Or the splendor of the dining rooms in their formal table service as in those at Syon House (owned by the dukes of Northumberland) and in the Imperial Palais de Compiegne (Bourbon kings and Bonaparte emperors) in suburban Paris. You go to Bath, as Jane Austen did, and have high tea in the Pump Room, drinking ‘the waters’. Tasting it, you discover it’s rather metallic and very unpleasantly warm! You go to Montmartre up on the windy hill in Paris and note that the Moulin Rouge beckons. So does the Moulin de la Galette where Parisians went to dance each night to escape their small rooms. Today, a restaurant stands there, but you can imagine yourself waltzing…and you can dream that your characters do too.

Farther up the Butte in Montmartre, you can enter the house that Auguste Renior once rented. Now a museum, the house displays the atelier of many an artist who gladly lived up in the suburb of Paris. Here the breezes cooled them and wealthier citizens came to buy their paintings and their sculptures.

Walking along the streets of Paris, you can imagine what hardship it must have been to walk the cobbles for miles in wooden shoes. Or how comforting to climb into a smart Briska Voyage carriage (made in Bath, England and now on display at Vaux-le-Vicomte, south of Paris). You imagine sitting in the library at Spencer House looking out on Green Park, so close that people would walk up and wave at the earls inside!

Atelier of artist,
Musee de Montmartre, Paris
You can see the effects of candles and smoke on the bright Regency colors of the walls, turning them dingy. You can smell the old, fine leather of the chairs and marvel at the original volumes of Ivanhoe and Pride and Prejudice on the library shelves.

You can imagine your hero and heroine waltzing in the ballroom at Syon House. Or see them strolling along South Moulton Street in London to go to the dressmakers or the tailors. Or climb into the high tester bed swathed in yards of stiff brocade as they retire for the night.

Painting with words without such rich sensations would be creating from whole cloth, poor representations and bland.

Travel abroad adds color, enrichment and accuracy to our novels. And aren’t you glad, authors take such time and care to show you what life was like for those characters who ‘existences’ we choose to enrich by having them fall in love?

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Who is Cerise?
Cerise DeLand loves to cook, hates to dust, lives to travel, read and write!
She pens #1 Bestselling Regencies and spicy romances starring SEALs! Yep. She loves a dashing, hunky man paired with a sassy woman.

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