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There are times reader when I really have to wonder what on earth was I thinking? Historical Fiction, should be fun. Or not. I love historical fiction for so many reasons. I love learning about how people lived, their hardships and triumphs; difficulties and the simplicity. If you can call it that. But let’s face it, the lines were clearly drawn and though we may not like some of the things that happened, given the times, would we behave any differently?

Recently I purchased a book, and paid much more than I could ever have imagined I would. The foreword really resonated with me; expressing my sentiments about the past exactly.

Dawn in the Valley

“The history of the Hunter River Valley is the history of human effort, of lives spent in making clear the path through a continent; for this valley was the road of settlement to the North. Men cleared it and spent their lives and sweat and labour, sometimes from greed, in desperation and sorrow, but with all their strength. And it is these lonely and forgotten and savage lives we think of as we read of their day of toiling behind bullock teams, the long day riding, felling, fencing and building their homes. 

We are now in those easy circumstances where we can reproach them for waste and folly, for killing the native dark people, for destroying the forests, for eroding the hills and causing flood by ignorance, destruction of wild animals that ate their crops. Would we have done as well? At least let us who have our ease from their early labour learn how they went about their sturdy land-getting and reflect that ours must always be a less endeavour. For if we do not honour their toil and hopes we have no right to our bread which comes from the paddocks they cleared.”  Foreword by Kylie Tennant. DAWN IN THE VALLEY by W. Allan Wood. 

I’ve chosen to write an historical novel and include real people with histories. This is a decision I’ve often lamented. Because by including real people and real events, I have to try to make sure my story fits and to know when to juggle the history to suit the story.

George Wyndham

This choice has slowed my writing down considerably. Instead of forging ahead with the first draft {although this WIP is not really a first draft, more like a fifth or sixth} and writing 2,000 -3,000 words each day for a month or so, I find myself stopping constantly to research and read about characters and events. I love this kind of research. I could do it all day. I frequently manage to read all day and instead of clocking up 1,000 words, I’m lucky to add 83!

Will this research be worth it? I hope so. I want to write a story about the people who laboured, dug, cleared and built; who fought, killed and bled. I want to write a great story with the right degree of historical accuracy. Because that’s the kind of story I love the read.

How about you? Does historical accuracy matter? Do you like to understand why the people who went before us did what they did? Tell me, do you even like historical fiction?