Blending Fact and Fiction by Tea Cooper
Blending Fact and Fiction
by Tea Cooper
I sometimes think that I walk a dangerous line with my books set in Wollombi. Both the town and the surrounding area have a rich history, and I am lucky to have a wonderful resource in the Wollombi Museum and the Historical Association, in particular the local historian Carl Hoipo. My characters, however, are entirely fictitious, or so I think until I indulge in some local people-watching and realize that one of the local’s smiles is actually my hero’s, or worse, my villain’s smile!
I like to ensure that everything in my stories is feasible. The fact that I live in the town and that very little has changed in the last two hundred years makes it very easy. Two pictures of the local shop prove that!
Descriptions of the landscape, the flora and fauna and the weather require nothing more than a walk down the road. I know exactly how cold it is in winter, how the mist hangs over the hills and how indescribably hot it can be in February and noisy with the cicadas filling the trees (Australian seasons are reversed – Winter is June, July and August; Summer December, January and February).
The Great North Road, or The Convict Trail as it is known, still exists and in places today’s road runs over or past many of the culverts built by the convicts – there’s even convict graffiti! Ramsey’s Leap is a particularly nasty bend and is incredibly steep. It was named after a man called Ramsey who escaped from the constabulary by leaping over the wall and running into the bush – easy to see where my title came from!
I like to research at the big picture before I start writing and weave fact and fiction together. In Lily’s Leap, Dungarven horse stud falls on hard times, as a result of the 1840s Australia-wide depression. To recoup their losses the stud breed remounts (horses) for the Indian Army and it is while Lily is taking them to Sydney for shipping she is held up on the Great North Road by bushrangers. Only the characters are fictitious —all the other events are fact, even the route they took.
So there is as much fact as fiction in my stories and I delight in the structure the research gives my plot. I believe it is really important to make sure that my fiction stays true to the facts and I also hope and pray no one in Wollombi ever recognises their smile!
How important do you think accuracy is in historical romance?
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Tea returns tomorrow to share excerpts from Lily’s Leap.
Until then, here’s another little snippiet to whet your appetite.