Research is for Writers

One of the most fun aspects of writing Historical Romances is the research. I’m such a goober when it comes to digging up dusty, interesting facts and trying to find a tie-in for a book. Right now I’m working on a series set during medieval times, twelfth century to be precise.

While mapping out the timeline, I used a Regnal calendar for Henry the Second. Since religion dominated everyone, from the lad to Lord, it was important to know when holidays occurred because during holy days, especially Lent, milk and meat were forbidden. This may not sound like a big deal, but milk and cream was used as thickening agents in porridges and sauces to stretch already scarce food for the lower classes. Eating daily was a luxury for some peasants. However, some inventive person, probably a woman, came up with almond milk as a substitute for cow’s milk.

The book, Pleyn Delit, gives step-by-step instructions for making almond milk using the same method used in the Middle Ages. Now I’m crazy for almond milk, but I think I’ll stick to buying it at the supermarket.

Even though a book is fiction, most historical writers try to make the world real. Believe it or not, many authors love a day in the library or in a courthouse or interviewing an expert. Whether it’s elaborate clothes, distinctive foods, traditional weapons, castles, folk medicines, no matter what the research, some author is gleefully finding a way to insert some cool new fact into a manuscript.

I’d like to blog once a month about some new piece of information I’ve discovered while writing. Today I was researching types of calendars used during the middle ages and found that September was the start of wine making season in the Northern Hemisphere going back to, at least, 1480. In Bruge, researchers found a calendar dating to the fifteenth century, inside was a beautiful drawing depicting a woman harvesting grapes and pouring them into a vat. Must have been a fun month.