As historical fiction novelists, we try extremely hard to portray the past as it was, if we can’t, then certainly we represent history the way we believed it to be. Frequently avid readers will contact us and point out with some glee, a glaring inaccuracy in our latest published masterpiece.
I was contacted by a reader who insisted it wasn’t possible for crickets to have existed in the location and time frame that I had detailed. As he considered himself an expert, I was immediately struck by his insistence and persuasiveness. (btw, I had researched this.) I quickly double-checked and found I was correct, the so-called expert was wrong. Had me breathing hard for a moment.
In another story, I wrote of a ship entering a bay at a particular time and place. When I was proofreading and tweaking the near completed novel, it occurred to me I was making a rather large assumption. After some quick research I discovered it wasn’t physically possible for this ship to have entered the bay at the time I stated and would have likely have run aground. As I knew the draft of the ship, I quickly checked tides and made a considerable alteration to the time of the story. It required considerable work on my part. Another valuable lesson learned.
Occasionally errors are introduced to the story, sometimes to advance the plot – it suits us and we do it deliberately. I always try to fess-up to these in the author’s notes at the end of the book. Then again, sometimes we get it wrong and aren’t aware of our error. Even our trusted editor missed it. When a book is well researched, and the author is deemed credible, then simple mistakes are often overlooked.
I’m sure many historical fiction authors have similar tales of mistakes.
But then again, we are writing fiction.