Monday, November 10, 2008

You CAN keep a good story down!

One of the problems for writers of historical romances — or should I say challenges? — is keeping the right balance between the history and the love story. Researching the history is endlessly fascinating; there are so many wonderful incidents just crying out to be included.

I usually have lists of such incidents. Some of them make it into my stories, some don’t. Some are in early drafts but end up being cut at the editing stage. “Murder your darlings”, as writers have been advised to do. Well, yes, I do, though with lingering regret.

One of the stories I wanted to use in The Aikenhead Honours trilogy relates to Napoleon’s advance on Paris after his escape from Elba. I thought I might be able to include it in Jack’s story. It’s widely known that Napoleon marched from the south coast to Paris without a single shot being fired. King Louis XVIII sent soldiers against Napoleon, but in every case they defected and joined their Emperor. The first of those amazing encounters, just south of Grenoble, does actually figure in His Forbidden Liaison.

The second story I had been hoping to include is about Napoleon’s arrival in Paris. Elizabeth Longford, in Wellington — The Years of the Sword, recounts this:

Napoleon entered Paris on 20 March without a shot being fired in anger.
Indeed the only blow struck on Louis XVIII’s behalf was said to have been by an old woman selling chestnuts. When she shouted ‘Vive le Roi’ a man
roared back 'Vive l’Empereur’ — and she hit him on the head with her ladle.
I thought it would have been a vivid incident for my tale, but in the end I found it didn’t fit and so I had to discard it.

But now that His Forbidden Liaison has gone to the printers, I find myself wondering what my readers would have said if I had included it. Elizabeth Longford’s biographies provide splendid research resources. But selling chestnuts? At the end of March? I leave you to make up your own minds.



Jan Jones said...

For me, it's that sort of incident that brings the book even more alive than it is already. I shall just have to subconsciously include it when I'm reading!

Linda Banche said...

Amazing. Only an old woman selling chestnuts opposed Napoleon? Whether you love him or hate him, he must have been amazing.