It's All in the Details
Okay, ladies, here’s a quick pop quiz. What do you call a tool for cutting peat? When is the luckiest time to get married in Ireland? And just what was the traditional color for an Irish bridal gown anyway? (Hint: It’s not white.)
It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I needed that information – and lots more – in order to write my first novel, IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW, which is set in post-Famine Ireland. It all came down to discovering details, details, and more details.
But that was okay. As a former journalist, I was used to fact-checking. I love researching, digging to find elusive facts. But I discovered the most important thing in writing historical romance is not only finding the information, but weaving it in so it doesn’t detract from the story.
For instance, in Sunshine, my hero, Rory O’Brien, is haunted by ghosts and secrets of his past. In one particular scene with Siobhán Desmond, my heroine, I originally had pain slash through him “like a knife”. A good line, but one that’s been used dozens, if not hundreds of times. How could I change the wording so it would be unique to Rory as a character? By using an Irish reference, of course. Since I had no idea what a peat-cutting tool was called, I Googled it and came up with a site that explained not only the traditional method of collecting turf in Ireland, but a description and pictures of the tools that were used.
In another scene, Rory and Siobhán are alone together and he’s explaining the fine art of shooting craps. It’s a scene filled with sexual tension, but it’s also a good description of the game, and it explains a good bit about Rory’s youth growing up on the streets of New York. Again, I had to weave in details, but they had to be accurate. Back to Google, but this time I supplemented my research with a trip to the casino.
The origin of the Irish Hunter was another spot that required detailed research. A cross between the Irish Draught Horse and the English Thoroughbred, the Irish Hunter is stronger, faster, and easier to ride. There are several good books on the subject, as well as several Internet sites, but thankfully, I have a horse expert in the family to whom I can pose all sorts of “horse questions.” Thus was born Rory’s dream of breeding the finest strain of Irish Hunters in Ireland.
Everything you want to know about cutting the turf.
All sorts of information from Irish weddings, superstitions, recipes, and more!
Planning a visit to the casino? Stop by the craps table.
A short overview on the origins of the Irish Hunter.
Answers to quiz:
- All Hallow’s Eve