• Karen Baney

Historical Fact vs Fiction

One of the things I love about writing historical fiction is that I get to read tons of books about real history. I am inspired by the settings, events, and people from the past.



Even before I wrote my first novel, A Dream Unfolding, I spent weeks researching everything about the setting, people, events, mindset, culture, jobs, and more related to the time period. For my first novel, I happened across some letters from Jonathan Richmond, one of the men who was part of Governor Goodwin’s party on the wagon train west to establish the government of the Arizona Territory. When I find first-hand accounts, like this, I am inspired to include some real-life historical events in my novels.


Many books that I read in preparation for a series are works by historians or first-hand accounts, memoirs, etc. Usually, I try to find very specific topics to dig deeper into the history. While I’m researching for the Colter Sons series, some books on my reading and research include:

  • History books about Ash Fork, AZ

  • Books and articles about Arizona Railways

  • Books about Railroads that went through Arizona

  • Books and articles about surveyors, their job, and their equipment

  • Books about cattle branding and inspection in the early days of the Arizona Territory

  • Articles about Hell Canyon


All those topics play a role in the Colter Sons series (Coming Fall 2022 - 2024).



For other books in the Desert Manna series, I researched laws of the Arizona Territory, women working as attorneys in the 1870s, freighting, what single women did in Prescott, and more. Rebecca Elliot and her brother, Alex Glassman, grew up on a hemp plantation in Hopkinsville, Tennessee. I researched that information as well, even though it is only part of the characters backstory.


It’s details like these, woven into an engaging love story, that make a work of historical fiction and westerns feel more authentic. This is why I like reading and writing in these genres.


While it is not always possible to remain 100% accurate, I do try not to inject too much creative license into the historical topics of the novels. Often, I will change the names of minor historical figures or historical figures where I take some liberty in portraying the personality or character so as not to offend those who love the real history of Prescott, Arizona.


Ultimately, my primary goal is to tell an engaging character-centric story with the salt of faith and history mixed in.

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