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I write fiction, not history.

I've said this very thing in some of my author's notes in my books. Don't get me wrong, I love history. I read historical texts and biographies for both research and enjoyment. I believe that an author should have their facts in order, and when they hit a wall, find someone who knows more than they do to help (there's always someone who knows more).

So why then do I feel the need to point this out?

Elmore Leonard said, “My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” When it comes to writing my own books, I leave out the parts I would skip. This may not be the best approach, but it works for me.

When I'm reading a book, I don't care about every detail of the characters' clothing. I don't want to know about every stick of furniture in a room. I don't need these details to believe I'm in the past because my imagination has already transported me there. I care about the ambience, the sights, the smells, and how the character feels in that room. I care about the dialogue and how the characters interact with each other. The rest can be filled in by my imagination.

Again, I'm also a reader, so I write what I want to read.

What about the facts? I believe these are important, but what readers have to remember is that what we think we know about history isn't necessarily how it happened. Dig up half a dozen history books and chances are you'll find half of them don't agree with the other half. Put a history book side by side with actual memoirs or journals and you might be surprised that many people didn't behave the way we think they should have.

History is fascinating, but it's also mind-boggling. A fellow author (with two degrees in history) pointed out not long ago, ". . . there is a huge chasm between what people *think* is historically accurate behavior and the way people *actually* behaved in any given era."

So, when I say I write fiction and not history, what I mean is that I employ artistic license. Perhaps I drop nobility titles when characters are among friends because I find it tedious to do otherwise (from a reader's standpoint). If a character has a wild spirit and stepped outside what was considered normal behavior, it's because I find those characters far more fascinating. Without adventurous people who lived beyond the norm, history never would have progressed to the world we have now.

I don't ignore the history—I respect the history—and yet I find that as a reader, the most enjoyable books are the ones that find a balance between what we believe, what was, and what we can relate to in our modern day.

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MK McClintock
Award-winning author MK McClintock writes historical romantic fiction about chivalrous men and strong women who appreciate chivalry, like those in her Montana Gallagher, British Agent, and Crooked Creek series. She enjoys a quiet life in the northern Rocky Mountains. 
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