One reason I find historicals interesting is because half the time they aren’t always accurate, and the other half it’s hard to tell if they are, indeed, accurate. And I’m not talking about basic inaccuracies about facts, like once when I read a historical about the mid-nineteenth century and the main character drove a ford (this really did happen…it was a Model T Ford…but still).
I’m talking about the kind of inaccuracy that I read the other day that made me laugh. And it’s not even in fiction. There’s this old house near where I live that has been renovated many, many times in the past three decades. It’s actually a great place, and there is a lot of historical significance. And I read a facebook post over the weekend where brand new owners, who are once again about to renovate, wanted to know a little bit about the history and decided to ask locals on facebook. And the comments I read made me laugh. They talked about it being haunted, which is nonsense. They talked about it being on a bogus ghost tour, which is more nonsense. In fact, the only thing haunted about this place is that no one wants to really tell the truth about the history, which is something I find quite often when it comes to all historical, so-called facts.
I know for a fact that this old place was used to make all male porn films during the l990’s. I’m talking about the most graphic, sexual kind of porn that can be made, too. They made them there for about ten years. I even knew the owner of the place at the time. I wasn’t good friends with him. But I knew him well enough to nod hello and say a few words in passing at the post office or grocery store. But more than that, this is a small town…EVERYONE knew they made porn there.
And yet no one’s speaking up and telling the truth. It’s as if this porn fact never even existed. There are a few more sordid stories about the people who lived there before the porn people. And none of this was mentioned in facebook either. There were all kinds of things mentioned that never really happened, including the ghost stories. But the one thing of significance…at least I would think it’s significant if they made well known porn films in a home I’d just purchased…was not even mentioned in jest.
And this only proves my basic belief that a good deal of history is rewritten and interpreted in order to suit other peoples needs. In A YOUNG WIDOW’S PROMISE, which will be released on Oct. 28th, there were a few scenes where I was tempted to write that the main character served cold iced tea on a hot day. But when I researched iced tea, I found that it wasn’t actually popular until later. It was only by a small margin; we’re talking a few years. But I wanted to be accurate, so I left the iced tea out and she served cold well water instead…playing it safe.
I know this is a small detail. Most people probably wouldn’t even care. But who really knows for sure? She could have been serving cool tea. It could have been an old secret family recipe. Maybe not iced tea in the heat of summer. But she could have kept strong tea at room temperature and added cold well water. However, it’s not a chance I wanted to take, not even by a small margin. But if I had, I’d like to see someone argue the point with me. I did take a few liberties in some places and I’m curious to see how they are received/interpreted.
Yes, there are certain facts when it comes to writing historicals that must be adhered to. If not, the reader winds up laughing (or insulted) instead of being educated (and entertained). And one of the most difficult things about writing historical erotic romance is that no one can prove or disprove something did or didn’t exist with regard to sex, especially homosexual sex. At least I don’t think they can, unless they have some kind of private inside knowledge as to what actually happened inside someone’s bedroom. I found a few flaws in Brokeback Mountain. As I gay man, I knew there were certains scenes that would not have happened during that time period. But it worked; most people didn’t care. And the author garnered a lot of praise for the book.
I’ve learned to read these things with an open mind. I know the historical types would disagree with me. They seem to believe that all history was reported with absolute accuracy and there are no gray areas. In some cases they might be correct. But in many cases I doubt it; I don’t trust it. I honestly believe that it’s part of human nature to cover up and change things as we go along, which makes it virtually impossible to really know what happened in the past.