The Cross and the Dragon was rereleased in August. You can pick it up on Amazon and from other vendors. There's time to get it read before you check out Kim's upcoming release, at right.
We have a guest on Home Row! Welcome, Kim Rendfeld, of Muncie, Indiana. Kim knows her way around a newsroom, and she knows the hard work of researching and writing historical fiction. Welcome, Kim!
By Kim Rendfeld
At first, it would seem historical novelists and journalists don’t have much in common except that they both use the written word and the nuances of language.
Novelists write about the past, speculate on what people are thinking, take one point of view and exclude others, and make stuff up. Journalists write about current events, strive to remain fair and objective, tell all sides of a story (or give all sides an opportunity to tell their version of events), and above all will not fabricate anything.
But both must be accurate. It sounds odd to say a work of fiction—by definition a believable lie—must be accurate, but that is the case. When I write about the past, I need to depict my characters’ daily lives, everything from the food to the landscape, and I must get those details right. Although I left newsrooms 10 years ago and moved on to higher ed, I still live in dread of the phone call from the crank who points out where I messed up.
Yet the reason to sweat detail is the same for both writers. Readers won’t believe them if they get it wrong. For journalist, the audience might think if you’re sloppy with names and numbers, what else are you careless about? For novelists, anachronisms jar the readers from their dream. That’s why my eighth-century European characters don’t wear eyeglasses (not yet invented) or eat tomatoes or potatoes (New World foods).
And novelists and journalists must do research. The sources of knowledge take different forms. Journalists will talk to people—often many people—and comb through public records. Novelists will do a lot of reading, everything from letters and annals (in translation) to academic papers and books to searching Google maps and Google Earth to breaking out the calculator to figure out how long it takes to get from point A to point B.
Journalists have an advantage here. Most of their sources are still living. They might be evasive or downright refuse to answer the question but at least they can be asked. Or shamed for their lack of cooperation. Historical novelists are reading works by people dead for decades or centuries. No matter how nicely we plead, they’re not talking. Part of the fun is filling is the gaps, but sometimes, it’s hard to find those facts to play with.
Whether we’re interviewing people or reading their annals, we must ask: Whom do I believe? Why are they telling me this?
Everyone has an agenda, whether they are managing someone’s 21st century political campaign or writing the king’s official record. The guy writing the royal annals has a mission to make the boss look good. If the boss doesn’t want something in—like the disastrous ambush at Roncevaux in the Pyrenees or his son’s attempt to overthrow him—it doesn’t get written. At least while he’s still alive.
Regardless of era, leaders will try to suppress an unpleasant truth. A modern audience would be appalled. But medieval people would shrug. They had no expectation of fairness or objectivity. Nor was there such a thing as journalism.
The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar will be rereleased in Nov. 2, 2016. The novels, including preorders for ebooks, are available at Amazon (http://author.to/KimRendfeld) and other vendors.
BELOW: A 14th century manuscript includes an image of Einhard, who knew Charlemagne and wrote a posthumous biography of the emperor. That biography is a great source, but it's far from objective (public domain via Wikimedia Commons). Author Kim Rendfeld.
Kim Rendfeld is the author of two novels set in early medieval Francia and is working on a third. In The Cross and the Dragon, Alda, a young Frankish noblewoman, must contend with a vengeful jilted suitor and the fear of losing her husband in battle. In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Saxon peasant Leova will go to great lengths to protect her children after she's lost everything else.
The Cross and the Dragon was rereleased Aug. 3, 2016, and The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar will be rereleased in Nov. 2, 2016. The novels, including preorders for ebooks, are available at Amazon (http://author.to/KimRendfeld) and other vendors.
Connect with Kim on her website (kimrendfeld.com), her blog (kimrendfeld.wordpress.com), Facebook (facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld) and Twitter (@kimrendfeld).
"Whether we’re interviewing people or reading their annals, we must ask: Whom do I believe? Why are they telling me this?" - Author Kim Rendfeld