D.E. Haggerty discusses researching historical romance, something she’s more than familiar with. In her novel, SEARCHING FOR GERTRUDE, while growing up in Germany in the 1930s, Rudolf falls in love with the girl next door, Gertrude. He doesn’t care what religion Gertrude practices but the Nazis do. When the first antisemitic laws are enacted by the Nazi government, Gertrude’s father loses his job at the local university. Unable to find employment in Germany, he accepts a position at Istanbul University and moves the family to Turkey. Rudolf, desperate to follow Gertrude, takes a position working at the consulate in Istanbul with the very government which caused her exile. With Rudolf finally living in the same city as Gertrude, their reunion should be inevitable, but he can’t find her…
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Researching Historical Romance
I love history. Seriously, I’m a total history nerd. I read 928-page biographies of Peter the Great for fun. Still, researching for a historical fiction novel is a daunting task. Of course, it’s tons of work simply finding research materials and wading through them trying to find relevant data, but there are also a bunch of unexpected and somewhat bizarre side effects related to writing historical fiction of which most readers are unaware. I’m sharing ten of those with you today.
- You will become obsessed with the proper slang for the period in which you’re writing. In addition to driving yourself crazy while editing by checking the same words over and over again, this obsession will manifest itself in embarrassing ways such as finding yourself using idioms such as ‘gosh, golly gee’. Expect strange looks; especially from strangers who are unaware you’re an author.
- You become that person at parties who everyone avoids. You learn a ton of interesting facts while researching. Unfortunately, you can’t put all of these into the novel itself because, duh, it’s fiction. But you have to tell the world about all this stuff or your brain will explode! The result? You’ll find yourself at parties explaining historical trivia in detail to anyone who will listen. Prepare to watch eyes glaze over.
- Depending on the era and location in which the novel is set, you may end up with a squeaky-clean romance even if that’s not what you want. Courting traditions vary greatly depending on when and where the courting actually happens. Even today, some countries adhere to practices where a bride and groom only meet a handful of times before they wed. Tradition can put a damper on the heat of the romance in your historical novel. Of course, you can always choose to ignore convention. It’s not against the law or anything.
- Names become super important. First names, last names, married names, maiden names – they all become obsessions. Was that name popular then? Does that name match the ethnicity and religious background of the character? Surprisingly, there are websites dedicated to these issues. Thank goodness for other history geeks!
- Things will not turn out the way you anticipated. You’ll start a project having certain assumptions about a historical period. The nitty gritty facts often happen to be different than you expected causing a tornado of re-writes and editing. I recommend adult beverages at this point. Mulled wine works well.
- You develop an unhealthy obsession with dates. Not only do you have to keep dates of historical events accurate, but you have to fit these events into the storyline without screwing up the overall timeline. Prepare to write outline after outline with specific dates while muttering to yourself that there must be an easier way!
- People will become confused about your ethnicity or religious background. I lost count of the number of people who asked me if I was Jewish as I was constantly visiting Jewish historical sites or sprouting trivia about the history of Jews in Turkey while researching my latest novel.
- You’ll become a crusader. Not in the literal sense of taking up arms and marching off to a faraway land to right wrongs, although you’ll sometimes wish you could indeed do just that, but in the sense that you want to somehow right wrongs no matter how long ago such wrongs were committed. This may lead you to championing causes at cocktail parties. Eyes that weren’t already glazing over will now do so.
- You become prone to ranting. How can the world still be in such a mess due to racism and prejudices? Haven’t we learned our lessons already? Do not try to explain this to someone who supports actions that, in your opinion, are obviously racist. Their answers will make your blood boil.
- And, lastly, you will become paranoid about whether or not there is anyone policing the internet because, if there is such an entity as the internet policy, surely they’re coming after you. How could they not? You’ve spent hours and hours researching weapons and battles and real-life villains. If anyone puts these aspects together, they’ll be thinking terrorist and not writer. Please, let there not be an internet police.
Now that I’ve finished this list, I’m wondering if I should have entitled this article “10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Write Historical Fiction”. Nah, I’m still a history geek proud to wave my history freak flag.
Book title: Searching for Gertude
Book Series: standalone
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
Published: January 22, 2018
Word count: 85,000
While growing up in Germany in the 1930s, Rudolf falls in love with the girl next door, Gertrude. He doesn’t care what religion Gertrude practices but the Nazis do. When the first antisemitic laws are enacted by the Nazi government, Gertrude’s father loses his job at the local university. Unable to find employment in Germany, he accepts a position at Istanbul University and moves the family to Turkey. Rudolf, desperate to follow Gertrude, takes a position working at the consulate in Istanbul with the very government which caused her exile. With Rudolf finally living in the same city as Gertrude, their reunion should be inevitable, but he can’t find her. During his search for Gertrude, he stumbles upon Rosalyn, an American Jew working as a nanny in the city. Upon hearing his heartbreaking story, she immediately agrees to help him search for his lost love. Willing to do anything in their search for Gertrude, they agree to work for a British intelligence officer who promises his assistance, but his demands endanger Rudolf and Rosalyn. As the danger increases and the search for Gertrude stretches on, Rudolf and Rosalyn grow close, but Rudolf gave his heart away long ago.
How far would you go to find the woman you love?
Gertrude continued to cry and hiccup in his arms. With his right hand, he smoothed her blonde curls while shushing her and murmuring nonsensical words into her ear. When her breaths became less erratic, he loosened his arms from around her before grabbing her hand and tugging her towards her parents. Avi and Rosa Liebster stood at the top of the stairs leading into their townhouse and watched them approach.
Rudolf didn’t bother greeting them. “What’s going on?”
Avi Liebster turned sad eyes on him. “Rudolf, my son, we can’t stay. You know this. Deep in your heart, you know this.”
Words escaped him. He couldn’t lie to the man who he had always known would be his father-in-law. There wasn’t a moment of his life in which he didn’t know Gertrude would be his wife. Until now. Now, she was leaving. Without him. No, not without him. “I’ll come with you.” He turned to rush down the stairs intent on packing up his life. A hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“You know that’s not possible.” The hand on his shoulder squeezed before dropping away. “Stay. Get an education. Become the man you are meant to become. You and Gertrude have time. When the time is right, you can join us.”
“Gertrude can stay with my family until …” His words petered out. Avi shook his head. He tried to implore Rosa with his eyes, but she turned away. “We can get married. She’ll be safe with me.” His desperate plea was met with silence.
“Rudolf!” The sound of his father’s voice startled him.
“Go,” Avi whispered.
He turned to Gertrude. “I…” Words failed him. What could he possibly say to make things better? His eyes stung, and he took a deep breath before trying again. “I’ll come for you.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers. “No matter what. I’ll find you, and we’ll be reunited.”
She flung herself at him, and he caught her in his arms. Sobs wracked her body with such force, he could barely hold on. He tightened his arms around her and leaned against the wrought iron handrail of the stairs to steady himself. He took a deep breath and brought her honeysuckle smell into his lungs.
“Rudolf.” His father’s voice came to him from one step below him. He turned to his father and watched as he nodded to the man standing behind him.
“It’s time,” Avi Liebster whispered the words before gently untangling his daughter from Rudolf’s arms. His arms felt empty as Gertrude was pulled from him. Would they ever feel anything but empty from this moment forward?
I grew-up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.
Searching for Gertrude is my twelfth book.
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