Resources

So … You want to write medieval-flavored historical fiction …

I’m sometimes asked how I learned about such-and-such, or where I found out about so-and-so, or what website really is the best go-to source for this-and-that. Actually, no one has asked me these questions, but as a writer you can only hope …

When I finally had a solid story arc (that would be a beginning/middle/end) for VENDETTA, I began my research. Why not before, you wonder? Two reasons. 1) I thought I had a handle on it, and 2) I had the vaguest of notions as far as details were concerned.

I started with books and relied heavily on the excellent scholarship and writing of others. “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century,” by Barbara Tuchman; “John Hawkwood,” by William Caferro; “The Medieval World at War,” “The Decameron,” “Canterbury Tales,”; “A World Lit Only by Fire,” by William Manchester; “Sir John Hawkwood: Chivalry and the Art of War,” by Stephen Cooper; “Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders,” by Susanne Alleyne; “Life in a Medieval Castle,” “Life in a Medieval City,” and “Life in a Medieval Village,” all very well written and by Joseph & Frances Gies … There were many others; you get the idea.

Osprey Publishing has a wonderful selection, as well. Their illustrated books (my wife says they look like children’s pop-up books, which never fails to raise my hackles) helped me with clothing, tactics, history, and weapons … https://ospreypublishing.com

VENDETTA contains a healthy amount of combat which required its own specific research. I utilized http://www.thearma.org (The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts) and http://www.hemaalliance.com (Historical European Martial Arts) websites. Both contain videos and various big-brained papers on metallurgy and all sorts of other topics. I used to fence (foil and just a little bit of épée), but it’s nothing like medieval fencing, so I needed to see it in practice. To that end, I relied heavily on Scholagladiatoria and an Englishman named Matt Easton (website: http://www.fioredeiliberi.org and on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria ) to inform my combat scenes. What I discovered was, the medieval fencing community is a very contentious one, seemingly made moreso by the wide availability of treatises by Late Medieval and Renaissance fencing masters, and all the interpretations of the master’s fighting manuals. People that practice historical martial arts take their training very seriously. If you’re going to write about it and want people to take your interpretation seriously, do the research.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy and see the places I wrote about. There’s no substitute for being on the ground, seeing, smelling, touching and listening. But if you can’t make it to the place you’re writing about, Google Street View gets you pretty damn close.

Once you’ve done your homework, start writing. If you don’t start writing, you might as well go back to school and get a masters degree or pursue a doctorate in Medieval Studies, neither of which will get you any closer to breathing life into the people and places you wish to write about. Get your story out there …