A past addiction: writing + history

I have author, Grace Elliot on my blog today to chat about researching history in creative writing. Researching history for “creative writing” purposes has to be one of the funnest methods of “working”. Grace Elliot shares her joy below. And it’s a laugh and a half. Go on …

Author photo: Grace Elliot


Guest post by Grace Elliot, author of Eulogy’s Secret

Do you have an addiction?

Chocolate? Red wine, or tobacco?

Well my addiction is a little more unusual — history!

I love history. It excites me. Not the dull-as-ditch-water-dates-and-treatises history that I was taught many (too many) years ago at school, but real, living history about how people lived, what they wore, how they got around and what mattered to them day-to-day.

To feed this addiction I have an extensive library (well, OK, a hoard) of non-fiction books. I try to limit myself to buying books about the Georgians, but I’m also quite partial to the Tudors, and the medieval period, and the Victorians…you get the idea.

I love recreating a credible picture of the past and that means finding out about smells and sounds, all part of bringing history to life

So when it comes to doing research for a novel, what better excuse for buying a new book — well that’s what I tell my husband anyway.

I enjoy delving back in the minutiae of what undergarments might or might not have been worn in the 18th century (back then it was consider ‘fast’ for a lady to wear draws!) and love investigating who were the eminent furniture makers of the day. But in my case it’s a matter of learning to leave information out of the finished book, rather than include it just because I can.

I love recreating a credible picture of the past and that means finding out about smells and sounds, all part of bringing history to life. So how do I avoid an information dump on the unwary reader?

My technique is to use an A4 notebook. I jot down facts as I discover them and sketch pictures of costumes and annotate with the fabric, texture et.c. In this notebook I also draw maps of the city as it would have been in Georgian times, glue in pictures of, say, the theatres of the day and note down what plays would have been popular. By recording things this way I know no information is lost, it’s all safe within those covers, and so only the information relevant to the plot of my latest book needs to find its way into the manuscript.

I am especially fond of the Georgian period because of the rules and restrictions within society. They are a gift to the romance writer, and I love working out how people with the same needs and urges as we have today, would have coped with those social restrictions. My latest book, Eulogy’s Secret, is a story of greed, prejudice and a stolen identity — so if you fancy escaping the modern world and finding out why I love history so, try my historical romance!


Eulogy’s Secret — a story of greed, prejudice and stolen identity.

In the four weeks since her guardians’ death, Eulogy Foster has lost everything. Penniless and alone she seeks the help of her estranged brother, Lord Lucien Devlin. But Devlin throws Eulogy onto the streets and the mercy of a passing stranger, Jack Huntley. As Eulogy seeks the truth behind her birth, she is drawn into the world of art and artists, where her morals are challenged and all is deception.

Jack Huntley: bitter, cynical and betrayed in love. He believes women are devious, scheming, untrustworthy creatures — and when he rescues a naïve Miss from being raped, his life is about to change forever. As his attraction to Eulogy grows, caught in a deadlock with both denying their true feelings, events take a sinister turn as someone seeks to silence Eulogy…forever.

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9 thoughts on “A past addiction: writing + history

  1. I have so many notebooks and journals on the go that I never know where I am – you sound so much more organised and I like the idea of having just one with all those details in. Thanks for this – its nice to know there are others addicted to history out there!

  2. Your journal sounds fantastic. I would love to see such a thing. The details that you put into it, it reminds me of those Indiana Jones type of journals that hold all the clues. I can just envision it with it’s sketches and little fabric swatches. What a great way to immerse yourself in the sensory aspects of a time period and details specific to your story. I, too, maintain a journal with ideas, notes and plans, but not to the extent that you do. And I have also used the very same excuse for buying more books to my dear husband!
    Lovely post.

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