Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Author Catherine Delors: Importance of Trivia

519b -Gz6wL._SS500_Please join me in welcoming Catherine Delors, author of the highly praised MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION, as the special guest blogger today as she makes a stop on her blog tour with her latest release.

Catherine has creates an evocative historical mystery set in the aftermath of the French Revolution, FOR THE KING is now available in paperback. It chronicles the aftermath of the “Rue Saint-Nicaise plot,” which was one of many real-life Royalist assassination plots to overthrow Napoleon during the revolution. After a cart full of gunpowder explodes in a failed attempt to take Napoleon’s life, dozens of innocent bystanders are killed and Chief Roch Michel takes on the daunting task of finding and arresting the conspirators. But when his investigation is hindered by corruption and jealousy among members of the police force, Roch has no choice but to trust those who might be friend or foe.
In her trademark style, Catherine weaves together historical fact and fiction to create a suspenseful and thrilling story that will transport the readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post revolutionary Paris in a timeless tale of love, lust, revenge, betrayal and redemption.
I asked Catherine if she could talk about doing research. So today she’s here to tell us about ‘researching FOR THE KING, or the importance of trivia.’

Every historical novelist is familiar with this quandary: she has to explain the era of the novel while avoiding the dreaded “information dump” that will make the eyes of the most enthusiastic reader glaze over. A novel is not a thesis.

Of course I researched the historical background of FOR THE KING, which is Napoléon’s rise to power, and the deadly plot to blow up his carriage in the heart of Paris on Christmas Eve 1800. But the novel deals with much more: everyday life at the turn of the 19th century, and the history of the French police, its techniques and procedures. 

My research always turns up more material than I can include in a novel. To determine what will be kept in the final version, I use two tests: what is indispensable to the comprehension of the historical background (and I often simplify it to make for an easy yet accurate understanding) and also what surprises or amuses me. I love those Wow, I didn’t know that! moments of discovery. Those details and tidbits are also easy to include casually, in a line of dialog or in the flow of the narrative.

I believe those forgotten little things give a true period flavor to FOR THE KING. Scholarly works won’t stoop to such details, but 18th century people cared much about them, and of course wrote about them aplenty, in their letters, in police reports, in memoirs. Digging into these primary sources is always a treat, maybe the most pleasurable part of writing historical fiction.

For instance: how did Parisians, not only aristocrats but also ordinary people, keep clean without access to our modern conveniences and easy access to water? Public baths and showers, installed on barges on the Seine River, were extremely popular. I discovered that such an establishment played a part in the investigation, which delighted me. I even kept the name of that place in the novel. And people loved to swim for the river, with the multiple benefits of keeping fit, and clean, and refreshed in the heat of summer. 

“What about winter?” will you ask. Well, that was the time when having one’s private bathroom, with its copper or marble tub, and servants to bring in hot water, came in handy.

So, while you enjoy your pool, or seaside vacation, remember those 1800 Parisians frolicking in the Seine…

Catherine, thanks for guest blogging today. Trivia is an important part of a story and adds a bit of fun to it. Wishing you much success with FOR THE KING.

Ring in Bastille Day (July 14th) with an eerie suspense novel (FOR THE KING) that might make you wonder, who can you trust? For more on Catherine and her writing, visit her website at http://catherinedelors.com/.

Do you enjoy bits of trivia mixed in with a story? As an author, do you like to include trivia? As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


  1. Hi Mason .. such an interesting post by Catherine on her book .. you know I love Trivia, so had to look at this post.

    I love Catherine's two tests - make so much sense. Fascinating about the bathing .. I guess it was separate times for the different sexes?

    Fascinating and then great that you can include it in the book .. sounds an interesting read ..

    Thanks Mason - and hope your MIL's care is getting easier and more settled .. not an easy time ..

    Have good weeks both of you - and good luck Catherine with the book .. I love trivia! Cheers for now - Hilary

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Catherine.

    Catherine - I couldn't agree with you more. Those little details, trivial though they may seem to be, really add to a story. That's just as true for an historical novel as for any other genre. And it takes work and effort to do that research and find out those details. Thanks for sharing how you do it :-).

  3. Great interview and I love the cover.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.