Writing Resources for Historical Fiction Writers

Welcome fiction writers! The writing resources on this page are from my personal library of historical research books.  

Of course, there are a gazillion other titles available to help historical fiction writers research their novels.  My plan is to continue adding to this page.

If you have a book in your library that you think other historical fiction writers absolutely MUST have, please email me!  I would love to make my readers aware of additional writing resources that can help them achieve the next stage of novel writing success.

Thank you for your help!

~ Adrienne deWolfe


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s

by Marc McCutcheon

I relied heavily upon this book, and its companion, The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West, while writing my first five novels (including Texas Outlaw, Texas Lover, and Texas Wildcat.)  Everything's here:  transportation, clothing, recreations, etc. I highly recommend the entire Writer's Guide series (which follows, below).


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West

(1840-1890)

by Candy Vyvey Moulton


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America

(1607-1783)

by Dale Taylor


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life from Prohibition to World War II

by Marc McCutcheon


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages

by Sherrilyn Kenyon

 Kenyon does a great job bringing the Middle Ages to Life.  I turn to this book when I need a quick medieval reference for my fantasy novels.


The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life among the American Indians

By Candy Vyvey Moulton


The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England

By Kathy Lynn Emerson 


The Writers Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England

(1811-1901)

By Kathy Lynn Emerson

I love this book!  (Probably because I love Regency Romance novels.)  Emerson has absolutely captured the Regency era.  If you're writing Regency Romance, this book is a DEFINITE must-have for your research library.


How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: 

The Art and Adventure of Sleuthing through the Past

By Kathy Lynn Emerson

The title says it all!  Do you want to write historical murder mysteries?  Then you have to check out this book.  Great tips on finding historical facts and figures that you can put in the mind (or the mouth) of your detective-protagonist.


How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction

By Persia Woolley 

Woolley teaches historical fiction writers what to expect and how to survive in the publishing world.  A good "marketing title" to add to your reference library.


Life in a Medieval Castle

By Joseph and Frances Gies


Life in a Medieval City

By Joseph Gies


Life in a Medieval Village

By Joseph Gies


Back in the Day:  101 Things Everyone Used to Know How to Do

By Michael Powell

I love this book!  Do you have a character who needs to read a Coat of Arms?  Throw a battle ax?  Brew mead?  Tie a hangman's noose? Fight with a dagger?  "Behave" at a medieval banquet?  Pan for gold? Shear sheep?   Embalm a body?  Make soap?

I've just touched the tip of the iceberg of the lessons inside this marvelous how-to!  Easy to read with short, concise instructions for each task, this book will help you convince your readers that your Hero  knows how to joust, duel with pistols, or forge a sword; and that your Heroine knows how to treat a battle wound, read palms, milk a cow, or count on an abacus.


The Prairie Traveler:  The 1859 Handbook for Westbound Pioneers

By Randolph B. Marcy, Captain, U.S. Army 

I learned early in my writing career that diaries provide a fascinating slice of life about a particular time period.  While this book isn't a diary, it is a well-conceived instruction manual written by a man who immersed himself in the Western migration, riding with and protecting pioneer caravans.

Marcy's handbook tends to focus on male-dominated tasks of the era, including tracking and hunting, provisioning for shelter, fighting Indians, sending telegraphs and/or smoke signals, caring for horses, fording rivers, and packing wagons and driving them.  However, the book also deals with medicinal remedies, wildlife, and habitats.


Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician

By Nicholas Culpeper (the famous English astrologer and physician of the early 17th century)

Another of my favorite research books.  

While much of the information is based on the "virtues" of plants, you can't fail to appreciate the depth of knowledge that Culpeper attained through observation and experimentation.  You also can't fail to appreciate just how new and raw medical science was during the 1600s.  

I refer to  this book for "folksy" wisdom related to plants and their medicinal values -- the type of education that is passed down from mother to daughter through the ages.  The chapters cover gathering and drying herbs, as well as making various treatments from them:  simples, compounds, pills, tinctures, wines, vinegars, plaisters, syrups, oils, ointments, etc.


Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman 

By William Main Doerflinger

This book is great fun!  It immerses you in the culture of logging camps and seamen, giving you a glimpse of how they think, love, and react under stress through the lyrics that they sing.


English Through the Ages

By William Brohaugh

This book is a good general reference if you'd like to understand more about the evolution of the English language (or have a "Henry Higgins" type of protagonist.)