I am still working on The Jigonsaseh, a novel set in 17th century New York and New France. What I’m finding is that I can’t take anything for granted.
For example, I have a scene in which Governor Denonville of New France meets with Louis XIV in the king’s dressing chamber. This was apparently where the king preferred to meet all his guests; he was surrounded by courtiers who stood around, posing fashionably, while he conducted his business. They would run over en masse to take off his boots or adjust his cuffs whenever he decided to change his clothes (which happened frequently. The man had three rooms filled with exquisite clothes.).
In this scene, I had the king admiring himself in a mirror, preening while he talks to Denonville about the Iroquois. Yesterday, I found a painting of his dressing chamber. It was filled with dozens of courtiers and candelabras and paintings and opulent furniture. The one thing I didn’t see? Any mirrors.
So I began to research when mirrors were invented and discovered that the silver-backed mirrors we take for granted didn’t come into being until the 1800s. Sigh.
I have a doctorate in Aboriginal law (which any Aboriginal lawyer knows is really about history: Aboriginal law, unlike any other legal discipline, requires that those handling negotiations and litigation know the history of their clients going back to pre-contact).
So it’s not like I don’t know how to do research. I’ve written a non-fiction history of Aboriginal-European relations called Lament for a First Nation.
What I’m finding, though, is that for fiction, I not only have to find the historical information I need, I have to engage in world-building. And that’s turning out be a whole lot harder and more challenging than anything I’ve done before.