"They are places on Earth where the ancient Celts believed the boundaries between the natural world and the supernatural worlds are thin. This is one of those places."—Darcy McBride speaking to Jean Michel Lupe, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry
When we read historical novels, or well written historical romances, most of us don’t realize how labor intensive it is to write this genre of fiction. Writing a scene properly can take an historical novelist several hours or even several days to research. That is why Amanda Hughes chose 18th Century Ireland for her setting of Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry.
“I have to be passionate about the setting and time period because there is so much research involved when I write. I adore all things Irish so this was a perfect fit for me.”
The novel, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry opens in post famine Ireland, but this is not the Potato Famine of the 1840’s. Hughes found out early in her research that Ireland has experienced several famines.
Documentation was scanty about life in 18th Century Ireland. Although there was a glut of information about day to day life in England, the social history of Ireland was limited. She did find that most 18th Century Irish were tenant farmers and lived in abject poverty. During the famine of the 1740’s, many families were evicted from their lodgings and lived in caves or in scalps, which were merely holes in the ground.
Since her characters survived the famine, Hughes had to research the long term effects this ordeal had on the Irish. Rickets and anemia are just two of the results of malnutrition that she discovered as well as an abundance of emotional dysfunctions.
Since Hughes’ main character ends up in Colonial America, she had to research the Irish experience in the New World as well. Irish Catholic immigration to the American Colonies was not as widespread in the 18th Century as it was during the Potato Famine. Few Irish Catholics had the resources to make the crossing, unless they were transported for crimes. Charles Carroll of Maryland, who signed the Declaration of Independence, is certainly one exception though. Most of the immigrants were of Scotch-Irish descent, and they settled around Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas.
For all of the hours and years of research, a good writer of historical fiction must never forget that they are writing fiction, not a document. Hopefully readers will remember that as well. Good story telling should be priority one, with accurate historical research enhancing and enriching the reading experience.