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So that got me thinking about the liberties I take with history. I expect most of you know my I am crap story by now, but yes, history lessons and me? Not a good mix. My report for History, aged 14 said;
'Catherine's written work is completely inadequate and disorganised...'
I did so poorly in what is now Year 9, I was barred from taking the O level. In fact, my mark for the end of year exam was the worst in the year. I am not a historian. So I can be excused if I don't get everything absolutely spot on, can't I?
Well, let me say loud and clear I'm not talking about the big stuff, it's a matter of pride that mostly, nearly, almost, everything is as it should be, is as near to how it was as I can possibly make it. It irks when reviewers argue you got your facts wrong when you didn't.
But I cannot lie. There are times when I have bent historical facts to my will.
In The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo, out in July (I am sorry but you'll get a lot of this from me over the next few months) I took a real story and sort of riffed on it. Mary Willcox was real, but the story I've told has meant messing about with her age, shifting the time line around, in order to reference Frankenstein since you ask, and making up people who did not exist. I wanted so to tell her story as a novel but I ended up reshaping (crafting?) and embroidering and downright inventing so much that it is almost complete fiction. There is a disclaimer in the book, so that's OK, isn't it?
And the script I'm working on at the moment set in the latter half of the eighteenth century. I've stuck to the truth of the background facts. My characters are all inventions, but it could have happened. I'm worried about boats and sailings and desperately making sure it really could have actually worked.
I think that's all I aim for. Could have been. I wouldn't stick Queen Victoria on the mobile phone in the background or put someone in a regency frock with platform heels. I like to do the right thing.
But I have to admit in Sawbones there was one anachronism I couldn't get round. It wasn't revolvers rather than pistols, it wasn't any of the medical science. It was that most unremarkable piece of door furniture the letter box. Paris had them in 1790 but they weren't commonplace (note common place it could be argued that a modern man like William McAdam - my hero's master would have had one fitted) in London until the start of the nineteenth century. I tried to get around the letter box but couldn't. I needed one. So I kept it in.
Are there any things in your books that shouldn't be there? Have you noticed anything in your reading that's bought you up short?
Go on, tell all....