Sunday, 1 June 2014

A is for Authenticity

This post is part of the Spanking A-Z Blog Challenge. What's that I hear you ask? Check out my page here for more information.

I write historical fiction. So far everything I have written or am in the process of writing has been set during the reign of Queen Victoria. It’s a period of history that has always fascinated me. I think because I consider it the most recent point of history that was still properly ‘Olden Times’. The clothes, the technology are all so far removed from our own and yet they were just teetering on the brink of it. Mere decades away from flappers showing off their knees with total abandon.

Of course, writing historical fiction requires a fair bit of research. You might feel inspired writing about your ruff-wearing Victorian computer programmer and his love of hunting woolly mammoths but you are going to feel pretty silly once the reviews come in.

This totally did happen though.
How much historical authenticity is required when writing fiction? One of the reasons I prefer historical settings in the spanking fiction that I both read and write, is the opportunities for women to be spanked without their consent without the implications that this would raise in a modern day setting.  There’s something delightful in reading a spanking scene which is played entirely for disciplinary purposes even if the ultimate motivation is to turn the readers on.

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how much spanking went on at the end of the nineteenth century. Clearly, it wasn’t something that most people would have talked about or mentioned in letters.  The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine (edited by the husband of household management guru, Mrs Beeton ) famously had an ongoing correspondence in its letters page regarding the advisability and methods of correcting adult women. How much of this reflects the disciplinary protocols of the time and how much were the imaginative fantasies of Victorian spankos, it’s hard to tell. Though there was definitely quite of a lot of the latter.

But that’s fine. If I’m reading spanking fiction, I want everybody to get spanked and everybody to consider it normal. That’s what I’m there for. In April Hill’s brilliant book “A Glitch in Time”,  the time travelling heroine gets spanked by King Arthur,  Wild Bill Hickock, a seventeenth century pirate and a Roman gladiator. And if that isn’t the way things would have panned out, then I don’t want to hear about it.

One of the aspects of authenticity in historical fiction to consider is that of language. There needs to be a balance struck here. I am not going to write my books as though they would have been written at the time. I am writing for modern audiences. Admittedly it would be fairly easy to understand something written in the style in a late 19th century novel. The job’s harder for people setting their stories further back in history.  Anyone writing a book set in the 14th century would need to write like Chaucer.  “He priketh harde and depe” might be more authentic but would probably be harder to masturbate to.

On the other hand, if you make your characters sound too modern, you’ll going to kill the mood entirely. Lady Poshington can’t very well sweep into the drawing room exclaiming “OMG! The Fotherington ball was, like, well awesome, y’know?”

My plan is usually to write down however the characters speak in my head and hope that there aren’t too many glaring errors. I think my only hard and fast rule is “Don’t use the word ‘OK’”

As you may have guessed, I’m not going to make too many claims for the authenticity of my books. I hope they sound reasonable authentic for the time in which they are set but I am not doing the levels of research that Hilary Mantel put into Wolf Hall.

 There’s a  TV series called ‘The Tudors’ about the reign of Henry VIII. I think the writers have cheerfully decided that, short of allowing their characters to carry around iPhones, anything goes. Historians complained about Henry VIII wearing costumes from the later Elizabethan era and travelling around in Victorian carriages.
There were also complaints that Jonathan Rhys Meyers wasn’t “bloated” enough.
Interestingly leading historian Dr Tracy Borden’s had this to say about it: "I was determined to loathe the series, with its unfeasibly beautiful actors, dodgy costumes and improbable storylines, but found myself becoming strangely addicted. The scriptwriters may have taken liberties with the facts, but they have also succeeded in re-creating the drama and atmosphere of Henry VIII's court, with its intrigues, scandals and betrayals."

Which demonstrates that maybe it’s OK to overlook a few historical details, if your story’s good enough.

Want more? Check out the other spanking bloggers participating in the blogging challenge. The Linky List is here.


  1. I appreciate you working on authenticity, it's not the end all be all when I read something. Often I wouldn't know if you were wrong. But when something is glaring it can catch your attention. I have a friend who is a police officer and gun expert that answers questions for me in some of my books, but I surely wish I had a lawyer on speed dial. I often have questions for them.

  2. This is great, Etta! I love to read historicals but I am loathe to write them because of all the details and research involved!

  3. Historical authenticity is a balancing act. Some detail is needed to be believable, but too much and it quickly bores. I assume that historical fanatics probably won't be reading my novels, but there again I could be wrong :)

  4. OK, being a historical fanatic I don't mind if the writer takes liberties with the truth. The truth in itself is unknown and an interpretation of facts. So you do that in a way that makes it to the reader believable, and no historic nut will ever blame you! I love your choice of A, by the way.

  5. I loved this post. “He priketh harde and depe” might be more authentic but would probably be harder to masturbate to. That had me laughing out loud!

    1. Thanks! “He priketh harde and depe” is a genuine Chaucer quote, by the way. That stuff's filthy.

  6. Now I loved the Tudors. Yes, if the story line is good enough I will over look some things but they carried off well enough to make me want to keep watching and I did.

  7. Like Mega, he priketh harde and depe had me laughing out loud too!
    I can imagine that a monster amount of research goes into historicals, from clothing, language, to home conveniences and social mores. As an author you need to know it so you don't commit a foul, and yet the book won't necessarily use the information in an obvious way. Bravo to your researching skills.

  8. I don't watch any TV and only know of programs from hearing other's talk about them. But you did make me actually laugh out loud with your comments. I hate when people want to get so darn technical in their "reviews" that they completely overlook the beauty of the story written. Since I was born in the 50s, I really don't know for sure what was said over hundreds of years ago, and I don't get technical trying to second guess the story, I would rather just enjoy it and try to visualize the scene.

  9. It's tricky to find that balance. If we were being super authentic would we have to include the icky hygiene? That would kill the romance for sure. I think "just don't use ok" is a good rule!

  10. Hilarious! "Like, for sure." would not fit very well in a regency, LOL.
    Great post, Etta.
    I agree about the fine line between authenticity and modernized entertainment.

  11. Funny and smart. I loved this post! I'm currently working a bit on a time travel/historical romance and hitting a brick wall. The time frame is post civil-war, which I love, but damn it's a lot of research. I commend you on your ability.

  12. I know, I felt rather liberated in writing early medieval, because, well, it would've been Beowulf style english, and I knew I wasn't writing that, so then anything goes! ha ha!

  13. Etta, I like your blog. I like the way your mind works, for it tells me that its a thinking mind. I am sure you would have found places to put spanking scenes into TV programs such as "Upstairs, Downstairs", "Downton Abbey", or "Mr, Selfridge".