Nothing breaks the mood like a duff note – a glaring anachronism, a remark made in inappropriate slang, or the moment when your character’s eyes change mysteriously from blue to brown.
On the other hand, it’s important not to get too bogged down in verifying details when you’re writing. After all, it’s the story that counts, isn’t it?
Copy editing – which we’re doing now with The Bellini Card – is the proper time to address those niggles.
Is the name of the street spelled correctly? Do baby artichokes come into market before the asparagus?
Last week I even asked a fencing master round for tea, and we discussed the swordplay I’d written for the Contessa. It has been years since I fenced – sabre, not foil – but it turned out I’d got it almost right, except for calling octave optime; and he had a nice riff for me about a beat to the blade…
So The Bellini Card even has a fight co-ordinator!
On the question of slang, I gave some minor characters in The Janissary Tree Cockney accents. I wanted to show that they were working men and women who’d grown up on the city streets: Istanbul, of course, not London. I think it was the right choice – I’m writing in English, after all. Decide for yourself, maybe.
I just checked with a friend whether women were able to work as calligraphers in the Ottoman Empire, transcribing the Koran.
My answer arrived by email: a beautiful Hilya – a calligraphic portrayal of the Prophet – by an 18th century woman calligrapher, Esma Ibret.