Historical Matters ~ Maressa Mortimer


Monday evening presented me with the perfect reason for buying more notebooks. As homeschooling my children kept me away from shops, I am still looking for some wonderful ones, although I might have to check my shelf to see if any of my ten spare notebooks will do. They’re spare for a reason, of course, so they might be too nice to be actually used...

I have been part of a wonderful group of History Writers for a while, even though my one slightly historical book is a time travelling Viking novella. As soon as I wrote it, just for fun, I realised how interesting the Viking Era was and how interesting research is. Viking Ferry isn’t particularly historically accurate, but as soon as I was done, I started thinking of a Viking series.

We live in an interesting house, in a wonderful village. The house was built in 1817, and looking around the village, I wondered what kind of things could have gone wrong in the past. I always wanted to write a murder mystery, so I started looking into the past a little. I soon realised how research works.

My time period would be 1799-1801, but I ended up looking at a local murder committed in 1830. That brought me to Gloucester prison, where most of the hangings took place. Or where people were sent to Australia. One woman, Mary Steward, was sentenced to seven years in Australia, broke through the wall of Gloucester prison. Was eventually recaptured, put on the Australia boat, and sent off for life.

That made me wonder about people coming back from Australia, if they even made it that far. Six hours later, I was done a rabbit hole so deep, there was no sign of 1799 anymore! There were, however, loads of interesting facts, names and travel options.

Last Monday, it was my turn to share a historical presentation with the group. I hadn’t done one yet, mainly because I don’t know anything historical that could be interesting to share. The others have shared so many interesting talks, about houses, people and areas. This week, it was my turn, and I decided to share my rabbit trail, as I had more questions than answers, having drowned in information.

The group was fabulous, giving advice, more information and places to look at. It’s helped a lot to know the way forward, but as I said at the start, I will need a lot more notebooks, as this village might need a series. It also showed me again, as it does every time we meet , how important spending time with other writers is. So if you’re not in a group yet, I do encourage you to find like-minded people!


Griselda Heppel said…
Well you're on to a good idea there. Murder mysteries crowd the best sellers charts at the moment (probably always did), and a series set in a village ticks a lot of boxes. Best of all if your sleuth is the local vicar.

Your research sounds fascinating. I heard recently that very, very few people transported to Australia came back by their own efforts (as opposed to a political campaign, like the Tolpuddle martyrs). Which makes Dickens's use of this idea more than once in his books highly unlikely... but that's fiction for you!

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