One of the most popular posts here a few years back was from author Krista D. Ball who had just released What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank. It was a brilliant book – a writers’ guide, a cookbook, and a history of food all rolled into one. Anyone who read it will be delighted to hear that Krista is back with a follow-up.
Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide. It’s another treasure trove of useful information and fascinating stories (for readers and writers alike).
Chapters like Whores, Wenches, and Women as well as Cleanliness Leads To Drunkness prove that this is no airbrushed guide to Victorian and Georgian London. While you get the view from high society, you will also rub shoulders with guttersnipes, prostitutes, and mudlarks.
Once again, Krista has taken a very… hands-on approach to research and I invited her back to tell us more.
Krista D. Ball on Researching Hustlers, Harlots and Heroes
It might seem strange to go from the history of food in What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank to a history of Georgian and Victorian London. I’d like to say there was a big, overarching reason why the second book of the Guide series is based in this specific location and time period. I could say there was, but I’d be lying.
I just love this time period.
I love the Regency era. Jane Austen. Napoleon. The dresses. The carriages. All of it. I love it. Many of us have an idealized image of the past and there is perhaps no other time more romanticized than the Regency and Victorian periods. Bustles and bonnets, boots and boudoirs.
Romances are the typical thing people think of when I say “Regency.” There’s so much more. Napoleon was having a party in Europe. Only a few years later, the steam engine was being perfected and soon the railway was changing the face of everyday life forever. This is the era of steam and war. The stuff of fantasies.
So I came into this book thinking about how to give writers the context of what was happening in the 1700s through to the late 1800s in London. A lot had happened in those 150 years or so, and I wanted to tackle how to treat the everyday life of people in a more nuanced and authentic manner.
Likewise, I wanted to give readers a chance to learn the back story and context of some of their favorite books. Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes tackles the myths many people have concerning these eras, from racial diversity to the notion that only men held paying jobs.
Readers of What Kings Ate are already used to my (often disastrous) attempts at trying out advice by period experts. Sadly, I don’t have any tales of ruining the drywall, bathing my dog in lard, and having mushrooms marinated in cat pee. For those of you who are new to my books, it’s okay if you’re staring at this paragraph in confused horror. Those of you who read the first book are probably all moaning in disappointment; I know how much you loved me ruining my walls!
Instead, I worked as a maid-of-all-work in my own home. It was horrible and I didn’t even give up all modern conveniences, because even I draw a line in the sand. Last book, it was at soaking a dead chicken in beer. This time around it was giving up electricity and plumbing.
I began my day at five freaking a.m. scrubbing the fireplace! From there, I made three meals, scrubbed floors, walls, sinks, and toilets, plus the outside steps leading up to our house. I boiled water, aired out bedrooms and treated beds for bugs. I polished cutlery, dusted furniture, and brushed animals. I ironed and mended clothes.
I followed period guru advice when I made a simple family meal of leftover chicken fricasseed, roasted pork with chutney sauce, Brussels sprouts and bacon, and lemon pie.
Simple meal my sore ass.
I also ate what servants were often given in poorer homes, which wasn’t the damned chicken. Bread, more bread, with a side of bread. And beer. A lot of beer, which was mostly to help me cope with what I was doing.
And I did it all in a corset and dress.
I worked until 10pm, collapsing into bed. The next morning, the alarm went off at 5am…and I did it all again.
And on that second day I realized something very, very important: if I’d been born during Jane Austen’s time, I wouldn’t have married Mr. Darcy. I certainly wouldn’t have cleaned Mr. Darcy’s boots. But I’d sure have been willing to join the 1 in 5 women who worked the sex trade in some form because a night of drunken men paid the same as an entire year of scrubbing floors.
So if you’re a lover of Austen, a writer of Steampunk, or an admirer of Jack the Ripper (really?), Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes offers a unique and snarky look at one the most popular periods in history
Final Note From Dave:
Thank you to Krista, and I hope her new release does really well. It’s a great book and I’m sure I’ll be returning to it over and over.