History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

03 June 2010

Welcome, Kris Kennedy!

Kris Kennedy
The Irish Warrior

Inhibited, accountant-minded Senna de Valery comes to Ireland to finalize a deal that will save her faltering wool business. What she gets instead is a cunning English lord with dangerous ulterior motives.

Forced to rely on her wits, not her ledgers, Senna frees an Irish warrior chained in the prisons, and together they flee across the war-torn land of medieval Ireland. But Finian O’Melaghlin is much more than a charming, roguish warrior. He is councilor to his king, on a grave mission to recover military secrets, and has a dangerous agenda of his own.

Neither is prepared for the powerful forces arrayed against them …

Neither can resist the fiery passion igniting between them …

Neither can imagine the sacrifices they will face, nor the choices they will be forced to make …

King and outlaws, weapons and war: Can love indeed triumph over all?

The Irish Warrior was the 2008 Golden Heart® winner for Best Historical Romance, and is set in 1295 Ireland. Is there a particular reason you chose that year?

Originally, no. But as the story morphed, so did the date. There is a Scottish tie-in now, and that that point, the date became relevant to events transpiring in England and Scotland.

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

Ireland. What’s not to love? ;-)

I’m like most of you, I’m sure, and read those dry academic history texts that are so specialized they have print runs and price tags with the same number of zeroes. I got interested as I read these on Irish history, where a single paragraph detailing historical fact might run for three pages, and every sentence spoke of drama: intrigue and battles, princes and petty kings, military triumphs and dying sons, alliances and betrayals and double-crosses, king-making and crowning ceremonies on the ancient hill of Tara.

To me, these books of academia, telling stories about what really happened, were filled with more drama than any fiction I read. Not that I’d want to live in those times. I just wan to dream in them. :-)

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

In My Author’s Note, I mentioned that I fictionalized an Irish tuatha (kingdom), because as I zeroed in on plot, I became increasingly constrained by the history, so that that I needed to fictionalize. I couldn’t find the kind of Irish king in the place and time I needed him to be for my hero to have the relationship he needed to have , so it was just as well.

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

Umm...maybe? :-)

As I said above, I did create a fictional kingdom modeled on the Ulster kings the O’Neill.

But to me, here’s the deal: I did literally thousands of hours of research over the course of writing this story. That timeline spans years, as I wrote, then moved to other manuscripts, then came back, wrote again. I studied and read and fact-checked everything I could think to. I emailed people. I bought books. I read those books. I did my best to get it right. And I still got stuff wrong. I’m sure if it.

I’m certain someone will write and tell me not being a full-blood relative of the reigning king would eliminate someone from being considered for kingship. Someone will email me and tell me curaighs, Irish canoe-like boats, were skin-boats, and therefore the bottom couldn’t have been wood like I made it in one scene.

I researched Latin and talked with a Latin scholar to find out how a person knowledgeable in accounting might refer to the word and concept of ‘computations,’ but could someone argue with the word I finally chose? Maybe. I’m not an expert. One character mentions that a book contains ‘Arabic’ numerals (as opposed to Roman numerals.) I had the hero call them Arabic, although at the time, it’s more likely they thought of such numerals as Indian.

Someone’s probably going to write and say they didn’t like that I had a heroine say “a lot” instead of “a great deal” or things like that. Some of those are things I didn’t catch. Others, I left as a conscious decision.

Once, in a pre-published contest, a judge said she couldn’t enjoy the story at all because she couldn’t get past my use of “O’Melaghlin”as the hero’s name, as it wasn’t a real name at the time. But I stuck with it, as I’d found it in A History of Medieval Ireland, A.J. Otway-Ruthven (2nd ed) and I figured it may be somewhat dated, but I trusted Otway-Ruthven more than this person. :-) And in my mind, this complicated collection of sounds was his name. It was possible to change it, of course, but without compelling reason, I chose not to.

To me, as a reader, if the world-building demonstrates research was done, and the story itself is compelling and engaging, I’m in for the ride. I know there are different sources and interpretations of historical sources. I know an author can research hard and still get something wrong. If the storytelling is strong, I will read. As a writer, I will write. Story comes first.

I write in this time period because it’s a joy, and I research because it’s a joy. I work hard to get it right, and if it’s wrong, ah well. We’ll still have a good time. :-)

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

LOL. See above. :-)

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.

Oh, Finian is something wonderful. :-) I think of him as the ‘good alpha.’ He’s an extremely dangerous man, capable of great harm, who does great good instead. And he’s utterly charming, partly because he wants to be, partly because he simply is.

Let’s see . . . In the book, I made reference to how Finian used to go cliff-diving when he was young. So, that would be something about him: he used to go cliff-diving. Very bad idea. Very . . . exciting.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

The very first scene I ever wrote, many years ago, was an early scene in the book. It’s a feast scene in the great hall when the heroine arrives at the villain’s keep.

She comes for business, gets propositioned for a whole lot more, and, when things go from bad to worse, and then really worse, she sort-of, well, snaps. She’s too repressed to do much (yet!) but, needing to bandage a bleeding hand, she rips the entire tablecloth off the dais table to wrap it around her hand. Everything goes flying off the table—plates, food, drinks. The hall goes silent as she she bandages her hand with the table linen, then she walks to a far window, dragging the yards of linen behind her like a train. She knew it was ridiculous, but it heralds the start of her breaking free of her inner constraints. And I see unfold like a movie in my mind, and it looks pretty cool. :-)

So, yes, that scene stuck in my head. LOL

Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I did major research, and I’d say I didn’t know . . . almost everything. LOL I had to study tons of things I’d never had more than glancing knowledge of, from river-boats in Ireland, to fall-blooming flowers, to the wars of Scottish Independence, to dye-making and Tyrian purple, the royal purple, --Murex-- to lichen and mollusks, to military explosives.

Many scenes and passages ended up being cut and or revised so the research wasn’t actually necessary (at least not for words on the page), but the research was a blast!

What/Who do you like to read?

I read everything! Well, I don’t mean I have read everything, I mean I will read anything. :-) I find I appreciate a good pace more of late, but I absolutely require fabulous characters. I’ll lose almost everything if the characters are engaging and compelling. And I admit to a weakness: I love pretty things. Like . . . sentences. :-) I cut them out of my own work rather rigorously (am getting more rigorous with each book) but I love seeing them.

Right now I’m re-reading E.M. Forest Passage to India. But last month I was re-reading a Ludlum novel, and I have a Roxanne St. Claire romantic suspense and a Victoria Dahl contemporary as the top 2 books in my TBR stack. I just got Even by Andrew Grant from the library, and I recently pulled out some Anne Of Green Gables to re-read because, well, it’s been too long. The Little House on the Prairie books are next on the To Be Re-read Pile. :-)

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

That’s a scary question. I have a young child, so I write whenever I can I can just write. And I write best when I just let things flow, and I can almost always find a ‘hot’ spot. Then I like to go back and revise ’cold’.

But I am trying to impose some order on this mad process, because when I’m writing on deadline, editors like to actually have a readable story in their hands by that date, and don’t much care for a chipper response along the lines of, “Oh, gee, I was all ‘hot’ for the past three months. Sorry it’s so sprawling . . . !” :-)

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m at work on another medieval for Pocket, set on the eve of Magna Carta, about an audacious knight who comes up against a woman on a mission. She upends his world and steals his heart, but unfortunately, their goals not only collide, but threaten the tottering kingdom one of them is trying to save.

Thanks for having me by today!! I’d love to have a conversation about anything historical romance related, from the research end to the joys of writing and reading in this amazing genre we all love so much.

Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Kensington and Pocket Books. At the website, you can sign-up for the newsletter ( http://www.kriskennedy.net/subscribe-to-newsletter ) and drop Kris a line saying Hi! THE IRISH WARRIOR, winner of the 2008 Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical Romance, released June 1. Read a sexy excerpt!


Anonymous Aislinn said...

I can't wait to read this, but I'm still being good. For how much longer, I'm not sure.

I'm curious about two things. How long did it take you to write THE IRISH WARRIOR? I mean from the time you sat down and wrote that scene with the heroine and the table linen.

How much did it change from the GH version to the final version we see in stores (i.e. how much did your editor make you throw out and rewrite)?

5:17 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Pixie Sister !! Finian has definitely been on a long, strange journey and I am SO glad it is over and he can get out there into the hands of romance readers everywhere. I had to laugh at your research addiction because I am the same way. I can sit down to look something up in a research book and before I know it I'm 40 pages in and I've forgotten what I wanted to look up in the first place!

Oh and Even by Andrew Grant is a fabulous read! I was fortunate enough to meet him at a reader's luncheon and he is a fascinating fellow, very British, very humble but with a wicked wit.

Have you ever had resources contradict each other when it comes to your historical research/ And what do you do if that occurs. How much research do you do into the language of the time period and places about which you write? Do you think that sort of thing is something the average historical romance reader is concerned with when they read?

6:35 AM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

LOL--you can do it. DON'T read The Irish Warrior!!! Soon, soon, soon... :-)

As far as how long it took to write...really? You sure you want to ask that question?

I'm a funny writer. Or rather, an enthusiastic writer. Before contracts, I would write whatever moved me. I could stick with a story for a year--and did--but eventually, I'd write The End and move on. I'd start and finish another story.

Then I'd write maybe 50-100 pages of a new exciting idea, get interrupted to polish up an older story for a contest I wanted to enter. I'd go back to revise, see lots of revisions in addition to the opening pages, and I'd be back on that story for a few months or half a year.

So, it's truly hard for me to answer "How long did it take to write?"

I'll tell you this: after the Golden Heart win, in Aug '08, my editor and I decided to use it as the 2nd book in our contract. From that moment on, it took me about 10.5 months to get it 'done.' And it already had 'The End' written on it.

But you grow so much as a writer, don't you? Over time, applying yourself, learning the craft, you just naturally get better. So in ways, REwriting The Irish Warrior in'08-'09 took more time than starting from a blank first page would have.

So how's that for an incredibly long answer? :-)

8:23 AM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

Hey girl! Yes, I too am glad Finian is out of my hands into the hands of millions of women everywhere. ;-)

Oh, how wonderful that you met Andrew Grant! I'm reading him for the story, but also to watch and learn how he does pacing.

Yes, I do find research sources that contradict, as I'm sure you do, although there's often more contradictions/ discrepancies/ mysteries the further back in time your research goes. Often, something has been gleaned from the sources in more recent times that contradicts or adds to what we *thought* we knew.

For me, the 'language' piece comes somewhat naturally, or at least it feels that way as I'm writing.

IN IRISH, there are times when the dialogue is less 'dense' according to our reckoning of the cadence and vocabulary of medieval times. (But really, if I wrote as they likely spoke, it'd be Chaucer-like and I'd lose my target audience entirely. :-) ) But this is style of dialogue that came naturally, so I let it be.

I suspect there a a couple 'average' historical readers. :-) I think some are punctilious in their appreciation of history, and to add to the reading experience, it must be exactly 'right.' But there's a whole part of the reading population that knows less, and cares less, about such adherence to 'the way it really was.'

For me, if the storytelling is strong, and it's clear that research was done (i.e. the world-building is strong) I let it slide. I know there are different sources. I know sometimes people forget something, or mis-understand, or simply muck it up. :-)

It's when there's obviously no research done. Or cared for, that I toss the book. The world-building of historicals is part of the joy, so I want it to be shared by the author, and strong, for me to really sink into the Story world.

Wow, another rather long reply...

Thanks for coming by, and your well-wished for FInian!!

8:48 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Welcome to the blog!

I'm always amused by the language question when it comes to books whose characters wouldn't have been speaking English anyway, LOL! Or the form they would have been speaking is so removed from modern English that it might as well be another language.

What does it matter if you heroine says “a lot” or “a great deal” when in “reality” she’d not have used any of those actual words. As long the dialogue doesn’t come off like Paris Hilton and Brody Jenner flirting at the Chateau Marmont, do we really care?

It’s different for those of us writing characters who essentially spoke modern English. You have a get-out-of-jail-free card though.

10:22 AM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

Hey Kalen~
Thanks for your support on the dialogue bit. For just the reasons you say, it doesn't matter that much to me, as a reader.

What I want is a strong feel for the times, but I don't (personally) like dialogue or exposition to be terribly 'dense', with cumbersome sentence construction and word choices that feel stilted to me as the reader.

I like "Get of Jail Free" cards. :-) We have a Philadelphia-opoly version, and it's not jail you get sent to. It's a traffic jam. LOL

11:36 AM  
Blogger Susanna Fraser said...

Kris, your book sounds fascinating. I always love getting hold of well-researched fiction on a place/time I don't know a lot about--it's like opening a door to a whole new world.

I'm due for a Little House re-read myself. I trace my love for history in general and historical fiction in general directly to those books.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Welcome to the blog, Kris! Thanks so much for visiting us! Your book sounds fascinating. Did you do most of your research (which sounds wonderfully extensive) online or in libraries? Or by ordering books? Or all three?

Following up on the language bit, I'm just finishing a book where the majority of the time the characters, even the British ones, aren't speaking English. I have to remind myself every so often that the dialogue I'm writing is actually a translation of what they'd really be saying. As Kalen says, it does in a way give one a bit more latitude.

12:35 PM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

I do as well! The Little House books and the Anne of Green Gables series started the love in me. And also made it incredibly *accessible.* I felt I could 'do' history, if you know what I mean. History didn't feel like a collection of facts, but as if it were stories about real people in real life, a long line stretching all the way to me.

I know just what you mean about picking up a book that is set in a world &/or a period you know nothing about, and feeling as thought a door was opened. :-)

Thank-you for saying Hi!

1:46 PM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

Hi! I am, unfortunately, an unrepentant research book-buyer. I have over a dozen books on medieval Ireland alone, covering sweeping overviews to specifics like boats to merchants & mariners and the Annals of Innisfallen and Ulster, which, really, how often am I going to use them? LOL They're like the newspaper headlines of the day, documented by the monks. But I *love* them.

I say 'unfortunately' because...well, you know why. :-) Because they're expensive, and when they sit on your chest at night as you read, they press in hard, because they're so heavy and hard-covered. LOL

Thanks for having me here, to all the Hoydens. I have such respect for your works, and am excited to be here.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I know exactly what you mean, Kris :-). I just last week placed an order with Alibris for a couple of books I had to have...

2:14 PM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

See??? We're addicted. Possessed.

I love it. ;-)

2:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a major book junkie . . . My Georgian books alone were in the 300+ range when I moved last year (on top of which I have all my stuff for my 16th century German re-enacting, which is currently banished to a closet as I have no room for it out amongst the books I actually need for my writing; and then there’s the fiction and cook books).

And I've got nothing on Candice Hern. *sigh* Her library makes me green with envy. It’s simply enormous!

2:47 PM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

Our poor spouses. And anyone who wants to walk down a hallway. :-)

Kalen, I can only imagine how difficult that move was. Books are *heavy.*

Speaking of books and shelves . . .

There are some cool, unusual bookshelves here: http://www.mademan.com/41-most-amazing-book-shelves

And I'm sure you all seen this one: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/02/bigger-storage-library-stair.php#ch01

But I dream . . . ;-)

2:57 PM  
Blogger Susanna Fraser said...

We're moving the weekend after next. I've already got most of my books boxed up, except for the dozen or so I might need to check right away for my current WIP, and I've lost count of how many boxes are labeled "research books."

I hated to box them up, but in terms of packing, books, DVDs, and the like are low-hanging fruit compared to things like toys and dishes that don't fit so tidily into boxes. Now I've moved onto the garage, which mostly houses things we haven't looked at since we moved in 3 years ago. Most of it goes straight to a donation bag, but I have to at least LOOK. Last night I found a hand-smocked dress my mother made for my daughter boxed up with the rest of her 9-months clothes, and I never would've forgiven myself for accidentally giving it away.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Moving was horrible. And I moved all my books myself because it seemed like to much to ask of my friends, LOL!

I love Shelfari for keeping track of my books:


5:05 PM  
Blogger http://kriskennedy.net said...

Oh, wow, Susanna, I wish you luck on the weeks to come. Moving is so tough. Fortunately,it offers unexpected rewards as well, such as finding the dress your mother made for your daughter when she was a baby. :-) Oh, and the new house at the end of it all. :-)

Hope it all goes smoothly, and you love your new home!

That is a good way to keep track. I have a Shelfari and a GoodReads account, but I never remember to update them. It's a goal for next year. I have enough for this. :-) But I'll find you over there on Shelfari.

6:20 PM  

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