BE MY GUEST: How to write Historical Fiction: Karen V. Wasylowski

Dear folks! Let’s greet Karen who is an amazing author of “Darcy and Fitzwilliam” (read my review here). This book is getting rave reviews from the literary world. Not only is her book good, she is also a sweet and down-to-earth person with an open mind for constructive feedback. Today, she is here to give us some valuable writing tips on how to use “history” as a background for writing a novel. If you are planning to write literary fiction or an adaptation of some great classic, this article will definitely help you in your creative pursuit.

How to write Historical Fiction 

By Author: Karen V. Wasylowski 

First of all I want to make it clear that I do not in any way, shape, or form, consider myself a professional writer, even though by some bizarre quirk of fate I did have a novel published, and when I say published I mean by a real publisher who has a Chicago office and a Connecticut office and there are lots of desks in Chicago with eager, skinny, twenty-two year old, recent Northwestern graduates, who look a lot younger, say barely fifteen, and they all want to find the next great giant in the literary world. I believe that is a fine example of a run-on sentence. Anyway, my point is I wrote a historical novel - Darcy and Fitzwilliam - and I did it without formal training. I had no idea going in what complexities would be involved. And, evidently, I was not that next great literary find. But I digress…

I suppose the best place to start is with a time frame in history that interests you. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with the Regency Period, those nine years between 1811 - when King George III (Mad King George) was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, became his proxy as Prince Regent - and 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV upon the death of his father. Very dry and clinical when you read the facts, but that is what is so wonderful about Historical Fiction. Research!

When you find that era or period of time you are interested in you will really want to do a great deal of research. (I dislike ‘historicals’ that fit history to their story, instead of fitting their story to history) The drama of the past can always be used, and often gives you inspiration, actually becoming another character to your tale.

I found that Regency England was really pretty wild. The more I researched about George III and the Prince of Wales, the more fascinated I became. The Prince Regent held court at Carlton House, his followers being a pretty randy group that engaged in all of the vices - gaming, drinking, carousing, cavorting, etc. When the Prince of Wales married a Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert, he tried to keep the marriage secret, but his father found out and insisted it be dissolved. The marriage was deemed illegal and the Prince agreed to go along as long as his gambling losses were covered (romantic fellow). He then went on to marry Caroline of Brunswick whom he detested so viscerally that he refused her admittance to his coronation. His true love was still Maria Fitzherbert and she remained his true love (between his mistresses of course) for his whole life.

Still, while he was King his behavior, and that of his court, continued to deteriorate. His dear friends, Fox and Sheridan, were debauchers and gamblers, his friend the Earl of Barrymore (a distant relation to the famous acting family) reinstated the Hellfire Club, a group dedicated to sins of the flesh, and the nonsense went on and on as they all descended deeper and deeper into a hedonistic lifestyle. It was not until years later that the tide turned, when Queen Victoria’s new husband, the very moral Prince Albert, arrived at court and observed its long accepted and appalling behavior. He began to enforce more rigid codes of conduct, ushering in the now famous Victorian Age.

You see then how the times of the era form the characters about whom you write, those beloved people, those men and women of your story, are products of the era. You can’t really write about those people until you understand them thoroughly and the times in which they lived. The more research you do, the more details and information you obtain, the more interesting and realistic a story you can create.

While I researched Darcy and Fitzwilliam I learned not only about the Regency era with regards to the grand level of society to which Fitzwilliam Darcy probably belonged, I also had to learn about the Peninsular Wars. Colonel Fitzwilliam (the other half of my dynamic duo) would more than likely have been involved in those wars and that provided me with material to flesh out his character. Actually his character is mentioned only in two or three pages of “Pride and Prejudice”, described as Darcy’s cousin, a co-guardian of Georgiana, a second son who needed to marry money since he had none of his own, a flirt, a charming and delightful companion to Lizzy; but, he not as good looking a fellow as Darcy. That was all the information provided by Jane Austen for the character of Colonel Fitzwilliam. The true history of Great Britain provided the rest.

About the Author:

Karen V. Wasylowski is a retired accountant living in Bradenton, Florida, with her husband, Richard, and their many pets. Karen and Richard spend much of their free time volunteering with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and Stillpoint House of Prayer, both charitable organizations that assist the poor living in the Bradenton community. They are also actively involved with Project Light of Manatee, an all-volunteer organization that provides literacy instruction to poor immigrants and to members of the community who cannot read.

Visit her website to know more about her and her writing: http://www.karenwasylowski.com/

To buy her book, “Darcy and Fitzwilliam”, click here.

To read my detailed review of this book, click here.


  1. Great post. I shared it on My Life.'s face book page. Donna

  2. Great interview - and this book is now waiting, with the other ladies and gentlemen, on my wish list.

    I too prefer when writers bend their fiction to meet history, instead of the other way around. I truly think whether history comes out dry and boring depends on the skill of the writer, and Karen sounds excellent.

  3. I always love the research aspect of writing -- all the more reason to appreciate the immersion in another time period that historical fiction takes us. Yes, imagined characters, authentically drawn, make history come alive.

  4. Such an awesome post. I love history.

    This is an amazing line:
    "The drama of the past can always be used, and often gives you inspiration, actually becoming another character to your tale."

  5. It helps the book too! But you have to interested in the time period and love your characters. I tell this story a lot - I was so involved in the men of my story - Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam - I told my husband, "It's like I am in their heads." He looked at me strangely and said, "You are their heads." I forgot for a moment they weren't real. It's the funny farm next for me.

  6. Thanks everyone for such a warm feedback..so glad you enjoyed Karen's guest post. She is definitely an amazing author.

    Thanks Karen for following up on comments from my readers and replying to them. You ROCK!:)


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