For Authenticity’s Sake.

“If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake, you are no longer authentic.” – Jean Paul Sartre

When I am putting pen to paper I am very rarely thinking of the historical context in which my characters are living.  This can be seen in a shining example of my last blog post!  I had been pounding away on the keyboard for an hour or so when I took a break to throw together my thoughts.  I included an excerpt that I had just written about how plainly terrible the gnats and mosquito can be in hot summer.  Mary was, as my Nana would have said, “Eat up from the feet up.”

In my minds eye she had dabbed whiskey on each bite to “kill” the sting and then added a bit of aloe to sooth the itch.

Sounds like a thing that could happen, right? Wrong.  While Mary’s Scottish husband certainly had a cask of whiskey somewhere, the Aloe is just a big fat blooper.  I do not have a degree in plant sciences, nor do I have one in colonial history.  So it takes some googling to figure out that the name Aloe Vera was not assigned to the plant or well known til the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s.  Aside from that the plant was often found in Spanish territories during the colonial era but more than likely hadn’t made its way over to North Carolina for household use.  Basically, for Mary to use Aloe Vera in my book, first we would have to call it something else.  Second, I’d have to add some elaborate backstory on how Mrs. Quinn got her hands on such a plant in the first place.

Sounds a bit tedious, I know.  So I did some research and upon reading parts of a Revolution-Era Army field doctor’s journal I found that he kept peppermint oil in his case.  Which is another remedy for itching!  So perhaps Mary will apply peppermint oil to her annoying bites.

What this all boils down to is that in order to create an authentic setting for my characters there are hours of research required.  There will be bloopers, no doubt, but it is necessary to keep them to a minimum if at all possible.  Someone who IS a history major could be reading my book and stop thinking “PSSSHHHT.. there was no Aloe in North Carolina in 1792!”  My (non-existent) credibility, at that point is lost.  And believe me, there are people who know these things!  And actually, if you have trudged through this post, you are now one of those people.  Your welcome.

Published by ALNovelist

A mom, wife, educator, and fledgling author all rolled into one.

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