Here’s a good post at Writer UnBoxed: Historical Novels—Your Research To-Do List.
I believe this post caught my eye because a commenter here recently mentioned how annoyed she gets when characters in historical novels have anachronistic names.
This post is about a lot more than that, though it *is* a bit amusing to think of a Regency with a protagonist named, say, Brittney.
I particularly like this suggestion:
Read historical fiction…carefully. An obvious instinct is, “How did other authors do this?” But remember, novelists don’t always get things right. Excellently researched novels are a complement to your research, not a substitution. They are fiction, after all. Unless…
Read novels that were once contemporary. My setting was 1918. So I read and reread Fitzgerald, Hemingway and others who lived then and wrote novels that were contemporary at the time.
This strikes me as perfect advice. I like nonfiction, but I read a lot more fiction and I definitely draw on, say Gillian Bradshaw, for descriptions of architecture. Not for historical settings, of course, but Bradshaw is a great resource for fantasy settings as well. I’d be inclined toward historical novels if I were writing one — and the suggestion to let some of those be contemporary-at-the-time novels is definitely one I would follow.
Right at the moment, a WIP that I’m making some actual progress on is sort of historical. It’s a (very) alternate Regency-ish setting. So I am indeed drawing on Regency novels for setting details, but at the same time I don’t have to get everything right because as I say, (very) alternate. Strongly Regency flavored, shall we say, rather than an actual Regency setting as such.
Still, these suggestions remain good ones. Also, I trust I will avoid naming anybody anything too modern! Not too much a concern because most characters have somewhat odd names anyway, even by the standards of their own society.