Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mucking Around in the Middle Ages

By Starla Kaye (Guest Blogger)

I'd like to welcome Starla Kaye to Beyond Romance. Starla is currently doing a blog tour to promote her new release, Their Lady Gloriana, a historical erotic romance set in the Middle Ages. Since I love a well-written historical, but find them terribly difficult to write, I asked her to share some of her secrets!

By the way, Starla is giving away a lovely piece of medieval jewelry to one lucky commenter during her tour. For all her tour dates, visit the GoddessFish blog.

How do you do research for a medieval period novel?

I used to practically live in libraries and did all of my research there. With the days of so much research now available online, I do almost all of my research via Internet. I also have a fairly good research library at home of books I have bought over the years.

Researching for the medieval period isn’t all that different from researching for another period in time. The author needs to learn as much as possible about the life led in the particular time period. You need to know how the basic society functioned, the attitudes toward men and women, etiquette rules, clothing, how the hair was worn, the political environment and leaders, common jobs, basic lingo, and everything else you can think of to create a believable and fairly accurate presentation of the period.

There are a number of wonderful websites that have an amazing amount of facts, descriptions, and pictures of the medieval period. I gather as much information on a particular subject as I can, and then I compare it all and determine what is probably the most accurate.

I also like to do as much hands-on experiencing as possible for whatever time period I’m writing. I have been to Scotland, England, and part of Ireland and visited many of the ruined castles around the countries. It can add a lot to your writing when an author actually has a sense of what standing in a great hall was like, or seeing what a typical bedchamber looked like, or what the overall “feel” of the castle might have been like before it was ruined.

Occasionally I attend a Renaissance Fair and watch some of the re-enactments from the time period. I like studying the clothing worn at the fairs. While the fabrics might be far from what really would have been worn in the past, the general style and look is similar.

Accuracy versus accessibility in historical fiction – is there a conflict?

Yes, there can be a conflict in historical fiction as to accuracy versus accessibility in details of the time period. I think a good writer tries to do a good job researching and then tries to weave in as accurate of details as possible. Still, this is fiction writing and sometimes to get a particular story line to work the way an author wants it to they might have to re-work history or an historical element just a bit. If the author does so, she needs to let the reader somehow know that fact. Sometimes authors will put a statement in the back of the book about what has been changed and why.

The rights of women in medieval times: could a king really command whom a woman should marry?

The view of women in medieval times was sometimes contradictory, in my opinion. A woman was seen as inferior to men and taught to be meek and obedient to their fathers and husbands. And yet in day-to-day terms, they had a lot of responsibility in and out of the home. A woman often ran her husband’s large estate when he went off to battle for his king, including being responsible for defending her castle or manor from invaders if necessary. If her husband died, she was entitled to inherit a third of his land. But if she remarried, her lands and rights were forfeited to her new husband.

In this period, marriages were arranged and women (girls of as young as 12 even) were not allowed to choose whom they wanted to marry. In contrast sometimes men were able to choose their bride. Marriages were carefully planned for economic and social gain. And if a woman’s husband died, her family would usually force her to marry again. A woman who had first married very young might have married four or more times in her life.

The king was very important in the time period and constantly struggled to maintain his power and position. He had enemies and he had vassals who were loyal to him. The king would often reward his most trusted vassals by giving them wealth and fiefdoms. He would try to keep as much goodwill with his loyal vassals as possible and try to have power over as many fiefdoms as he could.

In Their Lady Gloriana, I tried to be as historically accurate about societal details as I could. I did expand on the idea of the king ordering Gloriana and Thomas to marry, although it wasn’t that much of a stretch from reality. She would have lost much of her ownership of the castle when her first husband died, and she would have been pressured into remarrying at some point.


Think medieval times when honorable men must do what is required of them. Thomas Lancaster, a widower with bad memories of marriage and a young son he barely knows, is a hardened knight loyal to his king. In reward for his efforts fighting in the Crusades, King Edward gives him Middlemound Castle to hold for the crown. But he must marry the beautiful young widow of the castle’s previous lord.

Lady Gloriana Stewart suffered brutally in her first marriage and has no desire to marry again. She has no choice and must protect her people and obey her king. All she wants is for her new husband to give her a baby. Thomas refuses to even consider it.

Complicating the situation is Sir Rowan Montgomery, Thomas’s first knight, friend, and lover. Complicating the problem even more, Gloriana has feelings for both her new husband and for Rowan.

Bio: Starla Kaye has worn many hats professionally and as a writer. She works part-time with her husband (who believes he is the model example for each of her heroes, “yes, honey, of course you are”) in an accounting firm. A gerontologist by degree, she volunteers in the community with a very active group of senior adults, who provide her with story ideas for senior adult romances she occasionally likes to write for fun. She is a multi-published author on-line in e-book and Print-On-Demand book form, writing as both Starla Kaye and S. K. Fero for Black Velvet Seductions, Blushing Books, Decadent Publishing, and Red Rose Publishing.

Starla Kaye’s website:

Black Velvet Seductions:


Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Starla! Welcome to Beyond Romance, and congratulations on your new book. As I said in my intro, I love a good historical, and I suspect that many readers share my tastes.

Thanks for being my guest!


Starla Kaye said...

Thanks so much for having me here today. I'm enjoying this blog tour and all of the different questions I'm asked. Talking about how to research a medieval period novel let me think back to what I actually do.

I look forward to responding to comments today.
Starla Kaye

Mary Preston said...

I imagine the research to be laborious at times but I can also see how much you enjoy it. I know I would. It's fascinating & as a reader I appreciate the effort.

Starla Kaye said...

Yes, the research can be laborious, which is another reason why I try to write a number of books in the time period I researched.

Thanks for commenting, Marybelle.

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts! (And if you're having trouble commenting, try enabling third-party cookies in your browser...)