Sunday, July 19, 2020

Historical and Cultural Blunders

by Susan G Mathis

Whether it’s historical, intercultural, cross cultural, or a mix of all of these, getting the historical and cultural differences accurate can make or break a piece of writing. After traveling to Ireland, researching some more, and studying the craft of novel writing, I finally finished my Irish novel in 2017. Since then, I've had five novels published...all of them with Irish characters and cultural nuances.

If you’ve been reading my writing for any amount of time, you know that I love this great big globe and the interesting cultural uniquenesses we have. I’ve spent time in more than forty countries, and every time I go to a new place I dig deep into the cultural contexts of each place I visit so I can relish the time I spend there.

So it is with writing. Historical and cultural differences can be subtle or stark, strange or simple. They can enhance a piece of writing or distract from the story. So I take time to do my homework well.

Obviously, visiting the place and people I write about is the best way to go, but often that’s impossible. Before I visit any place, I immerse myself in the culture with movies, travel books and videos, and novels and nonfiction books about that place (and time, if I’m writing historical). And, of course, I do a lot of web surfing, YouTube watching, Facebook friending, and more. Then I find someone who knows about the time and place and have them do a culture critique.
Through all this I discover lots of things. I find out unique words and phrases, subtle nuances, interesting dialogue, and one-of-a-kind cultural quirks. Sometimes spelling and grammar is different. Sometimes seasons are different if you’re in North America writing about a country in the southern hemisphere.

How do I avoid making historical and cultural blunders in my writing? I have critiques done by those who live there and who are experts in the history of the area. With my Thousand Islands Gilded Age novels, I have the president of the Historical Association for the Thousand Islands go through each of my books with a fine-toothed comb.

The authenticity of my setting, characters, dialogue—all of it—matters whether I am writing a story in your hometown, across the country, or around the world. It’s the small details that can distract, discredit, or disconnect my readers, and I sure don't want that to happen. But when I get the details right, my writing can shine, my characters can live, and my story can be life changing.

Have you read a book that didn’t ring true culturally? Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on August 19th for my next post.

Check out Devyn’s Dilemma, Book 2 of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series

1910, Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart.

Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Visit for more.

Lighthouse Publishing:








1 comment:

  1. I really am not sure, but I do look to see how much research the author claims to have done. Thanks for posting.