There is a gigantic canvas for a historical novelist to select from. I chose England in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart, 1702-1714 and the Regency, and (for an as yet unpublished novel) the reign of Edward II when it is said that ‘the flower of English chivalry was lost at the Battle of Bannockburn.’
I chose these periods to set my novels in because each one affected the course of history. If the Duke of Marlborough had not won The War of Spanish Succession and The Duke of Wellington had not defeated Napoleon at The Battle of Waterloo the history of Britain and that of Europe would have been very different, and would also have had far-reaching consequences for other countries. If Edward II had won the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce would have probably been killed. It is feasible that the king would most likely have conquered Scotland as he would not have lost his throne and his life.
The more I read about my chosen eras, the more aware I become of the gulf between past times and my own. Although our ancestors shared the same emotions, attitudes – particularly those concerning women – were very different.
Although my female characters are not women dressed in costume who behave like 21st century ones, it is almost impossible to completely understand our ancestors’ mind-sets and way of life. However, through extensive research I do my best to ensure my characters are of their times.
Research sparks my imagination and sows seeds of plots and themes, from which sprout the characters and events that shape their lives.
Before writing the first paragraph of a novel, I must get to know my main characters. To do this, I create profiles in which I describe their great-grandparents and other relatives. Although few of these personalities will appear in the novel, their details begin my process of creating believable protagonists, whose details such as their appearances, education, favourite music and perfume and their personal dislikes and eccentricities, etc., I add to their outlines.
Before I wrote novels set in Queen Anne’s reign, the religious controversies and prejudices in her reign interested me. So did the question of who would succeed to the throne after her death – a subject of grave concern to her subjects. The rightful heir was ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie, exiled James II’s son, but he was a Roman Catholic barred from the throne by the Test Act. Driven from England because people disliked him, his politics and his religion he fled to France. Subsequently, some peers of the realm refused to swear oaths of allegiance to his successors, first his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, and then his daughter Anne. When I wrote Tangled Love, which was short-listed at the 2012 Romance Festival of Great Britain for the best romance-e book of the year, I asked myself what effect it would have on two children whose fathers followed James II to France.
In Far Beyond Rubies set in India there is a strong link with Hindu beliefs and culture which challenge the beliefs in Anglican England, and The Captain and The Countess deals with important issues in the early 18th century.
The characters in False Pretenses and Sunday’s Child and the sequel Monday’s Child, which I am writing, are affected by major events such as The French Revolution, the Peninsula Wars and the Battle of Waterloo.
About Rosemary Morris
I was born in 1940 in Sidcup Kent. As a child, when I was not making up stories, my head was ‘always in a book.’
While working in a travel agency, I met my Indian husband. He encouraged me to continue my education at Westminster College. In 1961 my husband and I moved to his birthplace, Kenya, where I lived from 1961 until 1982. After an attempted coup d’état, I and four of my children lived in an ashram in France.
Back in England, I wrote historical fiction. I am now a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Historical Novel Society and Watford Writers. Apart from writing, I enjoy classical Indian literature, reading, visiting places of historical interest, vegetarian cooking, growing organic fruit, herbs and vegetables and creative crafts.
My bookshelves are so crammed with historical non-fiction which I use to research my novels that if I buy a new book I have to consider getting rid of one. Time spent with my five children and their families, most of who live near me is precious.
Rosemary is published by MuseItUp Publishing.
Tangled Love, False Pretences, Sunday’s Child and The Captain and the Countess are available as e-books and Far Beyond Rubies is available as an e-book and print book.