Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Language of Regencies

I love the language of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and other fine traditional Regency writers. I love the odd twists to our familiar English. I love the archaic words, the unusual constructions, and the long sentences of the best Regency writing.

What really bothers me about Regency historicals, and inexperienced Regency writers, is their lack of that authentic-sounding Regency voice. Recently a reviewer from LASR( said of my book The Education of Portia, "I love classic literature especially that of Jane Austen and this book is definitely akin to that brand of story from the characters, plot and language. This is a historical novel that will not throw you out of the time period. You might just believe you are actually reading a period piece." That is the finest compliment I have ever received. That is what I try to do--I want the reader to believe they are in the Regency period.

Names are a pet peeve of mine--authors have to do their research and use names of the period. Heroines named Cindy or Heather make me crazy, as do heroes called Tyler or Cash. Don't laugh--it's been done. And writers really need to be aware of the change of gender in names--Courtney, Evelyn and Lindsay used to be male names. So if they are used in a Regency romance story, they should be male characters.

Out and out anachronisms are inexcusable in my opinion. Words like 'cuppa', 'monocle', 'guv', and 'sassy' have no place in a Regency. Why can't authors do their homework? Words like that jerk the reader right out of the period, and sometimes they don't even know why. And some of the biggest names in Regency historical writing are at fault in this.

It's the subtleties of the Regency language that I enjoy using. Authentic language creates authentic voice. It is essential to creating a believable Regency world. Reading Jane Austen is always a good primer for the way Regency folk used English. I have found two other very interesting books as well.

"Nineteenth Century English" by Richard W. Bailey I have had for some time. It's from the University of Michigan Press, 1996, ISBN 0-472-08540-9. It's a fascinating book with which I haven't spent enough time. With chapters like 'Sounds', 'Words' and 'Slang' he covers the full range of language.

The other book "Jane Austen's English" I just recently came across in my local library. It's an older book, part of a series called 'The Language Library' from Andre Deutsch Ltd, 1970, ISBN 0-233-96228-x It is terrific, and utterly fascinating. The author is K. C. Phillipps and he/she does a great job of presenting information under the headings of 'Vocabulary', 'Sentence Structure' and 'Modes of Address'. Plentiful quotes from J.A.'s books are compared with modern English and explained; it's a bit scholarly in places, but generally very readable.

I will keep throwing books with pathetic Regency voice against the wall. And I will keep striving to use the most authentic Regency language I can. You can probably tell I feel deeply about it.

Until next time,


Monday, February 16, 2009

Regency meets Technology Age

I am a person who has always been fascinated by history; I've always wanted to live in other periods, experience other eras, understand historical societies. I read historical fiction as a child and young adult, drew pictures of historical costumes, wanted to visit every museum I ever encountered.

As a person devoted to history, I have a shameful little secret . I love technology. Which is, I suppose, a good thing, as I am an electronically published author. But I am a technofreak--there, I am now out of the closet.

I'd love to have a Blackberry, and a personal DVD player, and an iPod, and a laptop, and a Mac, and a Kindle (only they are not available in Canada) ...and...and...and

But until Christmas I only had a desktop PC -- not even an LCD monitor! Now I have a Sony E-book Reader, a gift from my husband. And it's wonderful (so is he!).

My family and friends, not being technologically inclined, were never quite sure I really was an author, writing real books. They couldn't go and buy one of my books from a shelf, therefore it wasn't quite true. Now I can show them my books--show them how people read my books, and how people buy my books. That, for me, is great.

Needless to say, I have all my own books loaded on my Sony Reader. I have some of my friends' books loaded up--Jana Richards and Judith Glad right now. I have some classics: Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope. There are genre fiction books--Jennifer Crusie, Merline Lovelace, and Ken Follett. And I have two or three reference books about the Regency that I am reading--Real Life in London, Hints of Etiquette and the Usages of Society, and The Autobiography of Miss Cornelia Knight. These last I downloaded from Google Books--what a great resource, but that is another post entirely.

Anyway, I have nineteen books on my Sony Reader right now, and it is 5" x 7" and 1/2" thick. It's a little miracle. It has three font sizes, holds pictures and music, can be oriented from portrait to landscape positioning, shows slideshows, and the memory cards can be swopped out for more space.

You can buy items from the Sony E-book Store, or load PDF and Rich-text documents from your own computer. This last is a great thing for me, because what I want to read often does not come from currently available literature.

I'll continue on with my love of history--and the Regency era was a time of great innovation much like our own age. But there will always be a piece of me playing with own version of a split personality!

Til next time,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Regency Houses

There was such a vast array of house types in the Regency World. In an ancient country like England, many of the homes are aged treasures of past generations. But the Georgian era--early, late and Regency--was a golden age of neo-classicism and left England dotted with architectural gems.

I've always been a bit of an architecture freak. I like buildings; particularly, I like houses. So I have all Mark Girouard's country house books, and many more on interiors and their care and keeping. I have books on cottages, on castles, great houses, farmhouses, and towns and villages and cities. I even have a rare little monograph from 1941 by Vita Sackville-West titled 'English Country Houses'.

And I have a few essentials for researching Regency houses. "London's Georgian Houses" by Andrew Byrne, published by The Georgian Press in 1986 is amazing. With chapter titles like 'The London Terrace', 'The Building Acts' and 'Structure and Fabric' you can see that he covers it all. With lots of photos, he explains everything one needs to know about London homes from the Regency and the previous Georgian eras. He does not have a lot of floor plans however.

For those I turn to "Architectural Drawings of the Regency Period 1790-1837" by Giles Worsley, published by The American Institute of Architects Press, 1991. This wonderful book has drawings of many of the great buildings of Regency England, and floor plans of every last one of them. This includes country houses, large and small, and town houses. If you want to see where your favourite characters live, or understand how the characters you are creating move around their homes, this book is essential.

Lastly, but certainly not least, there is a little (expensive) book I received for Christmas this year. Titled "Georgian and Regency Houses Explained", it is part of the 'England's Living History' series from Countryside Books. It was written by Trevor Yorke and published in 2007.
First I must say what a great draftsman Mr. Yorke is--his drawings are clear, concise and most informative, as well as charming. This book, despite its small size, really does explain houses. From mouldings and balusters to roofs and bricks, this book covers it all. And includes some great floor plans of even the meanest back to back terraces.

Ah, of the great joys of being an historical fiction writer.

Til next time,