Step one in writing that wretched beast known as a historical fantasy is, of course, research. Ergo, I’m alternating between Elizabethan history books and English fairy lore, on the theory that will produce the correct state of mind necessary for the novel. So far, it’s mostly melting my brain. Whether this is suitable remains to be seen.
But I figure I can at least share the progress of my research with you, the reader, by making brief posts on the books I read as I go along. If you have recommendations of other books I might find useful, or caveats about the ones I’ve read, please share with the class.
First up is Elizabeth’s London, from Liza Picard. For readability, you can’t beat her. Let me quote from the section on period gardening: “Hill suggests olive oil or soot for snails (Oxford snails would come miles for a nice extra-virgin oil) and for that other pest, moles, put a live mole in a pot — first catch your mole — and after a while ‘he will cry and [all the other moles in the neighborhood] will hastily draw near unto him and minding to help him forth will fall into the pot’. But what do you do with a potful of crying moles?” Or there’s the plate caption for a woodcut where, after having carefully identified all the other figures in the image, she concludes by saying “I have no explanation for the man in bondage gear.”
I want to say I spotted something in the book that contradicted what I’d read elsewhere, but a) the other thing I read might have been wrong, and b) I don’t remember what it was anyway. In general, the book is chock-full of concrete facts, including things like different types of cloth and their uses, prices for vast numbers of things, and a very good map with all the halls of the major livery companies marked. In other words, the kind of information most books I read take for granted.
The biggest drawback is not Picard’s fault: this book focuses on the lives of common-to-wealthy Londoners, not nobles, and as such it doesn’t tell me much about life at court. I need another book for that one. Anybody have a recommendation?