Monday, September 28, 2015

Balancing Facts and Fantasy - Guest post by Katharina Gerlach

I am very happy today to welcome Katharina Gerlach to Heroines of Fantasy. I met Katharina through the Magic Appreciation Tour.

Katharina is a bilingual author from Germany with a heavy Scottish accent. She's interested in everything and will write stories to her deathbed, as long as there are people to read them. When she's earning a little money with her words, it makes her proud – but if she manages to touch the heart of a reader, that's way more important to her. She's a middle aged mother of three, a wife, and a dog-food-can-opener in her second, non-writing related life.

Katharina is a prolific writer, and you can view the full collection of her stories by visiting her web site. 

Balancing Facts and Fantasy

I'm a huge fan of history. If someone had told me so when I was still in school, I would have laughed. But the more I learn about the way we humans evolved, the mistakes we made, and the potential we hold, the more fascinated I became.

However, writing two historical novels (Ann Angel's Freedom and Victor's Rage) based on a true family story, I learned that I can't build a career on this genre unless I oversimplify historical realities. For the first novel my friend and I researched 7 years. The second one went faster. It only took 3 years. :D

Since I also love Fantasy, I turned to writing those, and my readers think I do it well (although as with most authors, I don't dare to believe them). But my love for history wouldn't let me go. Recently, I find myself adding aspects of true history to my novels.

I wrote a YA Fantasy Adventure mostly aimed at boys that mixes medieval times in Europe with a tiny pinch of magic (Urchin King). At the end of the month, I will release a Fantasy Romance set in Stone Age Africa (Juma's Rain). For both novels, I spent a fair amount of time on research.

Now, how to I balance these aspects? That's always the hardest bit. There are so many cool things I find out when I'm doing research. For the medieval story for example, I found a book about toilets throughout the ages. It was fascinating and disgusting at the same time. But did you know that people in a Stone Age village in Scotland already had water toilets? Well, I was fairly surprised by that, so I'm determined to put this kind of toilet (which looked a lot different from todays' water toilets) into one of my novels soon. When I researched the extinct Nok-culture in Northern Africa, I was surprised to find that they went directly from using stone tools and weapons to making iron tools and weapons. They did not use copper and bronze first, like all other humans. Naturally, that found its way into my newest novel.

The problem with adding real life information into fictions stories is that it's way too easy to overdo it. Readers, ans especially young readers, my target audience, want to be entertained, not educated. As an author, it is my duty to provide what they want. Therefore, I have to be extremely careful with which facts I add to my stories. From all the cool things I find out, only the tip of the iceberg makes it into my stories. It itches me to put in more, but so far I haven't given in to this urge.

Obviously, my readers like the mixture, and I remember that, as a kid, I loved to look for the facts in the mix of an author who did just that (Tonny Vos Dahmen, an author from the Netherlands that's probably quite unknown in the rest of the world). It felt like a big discovery when I was able to spot something. The funny thing is that I still remember the facts I learned that way … much better than a lot of the facts teachers tried to drill into me when I was in school.

So, how about you. Do you enjoy discovering real life facts in Fantasy? And how much is too much for you? Tell me and we can discuss this in the comments.

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