While I was writing Striking Balance, I shared six-line weekly snippets under the #Rainbowsnippets hashtag. In many of those snippets, I included Tiny History Lessons, interesting historical bits I discovered during my research (okay, some I already knew but thought you might not know). I’ve compiled them into two posts before the novel’s July 21st release day. This is post one.
Apples: The only apples native to North America are common apples AKA crab apples and late 18th century southern Appalachia was still too new a territory for there to be established European apple trees.
Slavery: the subject shouldn’t be ignored or removed from period writing to make it more palatable. We should call it what it was and show it for what it was though I admittedly barely touch the topic within Striking Balance because slavery wasn’t a significant portion of the Southern Appalachian existence. Indeed, Northeast Tennesse, where this novel is set, mostly attempted to stay with the Union while the rest of the state seceded. But the Civil War is a good seventy-five years ahead of what’s happening in Striking Balance so I’m jumping ahead at the mention. That said, slavery does appear within the novel’s pages.
The Lost State of Franklin: Northeast Tennessee has an intriguing history. The main portion of Striking Balance actually ends as the State of Franklin comes into being. In actuality, the entire Appalachian Elementals series takes place in what is now Washington and Unicoi counties, Tennessee, with an occasional dip into Greene county. If you take that map of the State of Franklin below, it tucks very neatly into the northeast corner of Tennessee.
Read about the lost State of Franklin HERE.
Smallholder: during the latter 18th century, a smallholder was a farm that a family worked for subsistence and to hopefully make money via one or two cash crops. Ben and Conall work a double smallholder, manageable for two grown men receiving assistance during the planting and harvest seasons. While most smallholders were worked by their owners, Ben and Conall work for Master Gow, a regional landowner. They subsist on their garden, the meat they both raise and hunt, and are paid in supplies and coin by Master Gow for tending the cash crops.
These days, a smallholder is a piece of land too small to be an actual farm that supports a single family through a mixture of subsistence and cash crop farming.
Coat vs. Jacket: The modern equivalent to an 18th-century coat means what you wear when you go out somewhere nice, like a formal…ish dinner. Yes, this even happened in 1779, but you didn’t wash that coat unless you absolutely had to, so you brushed the wool to keep it clean. Ben is lucky in that he has a pair of work breeches, a pair of good trousers, two shirts, a scarf, a cocked hat, two work caps, leather gloves, and that coat in need of brushing. Cloth in the colonies, particularly the frontier areas, was widely homespun and everything had to be handstitched. The common person had one, perhaps two sets of clothing and those were considered high in value. In fact, clothing was listed by item in period tax records because of its perceived value. Ben owns two full changes of clothing plus some. Not everyone had this privilege, especially a farmworker. So why do people in historical novels seem to have so many clothes? I believe we make assumptions concerning clothing based on our modern times and on the fact that so much (but certainly not all) of the historical fiction we read deals with royalty or people of wealth. (Side note: Ben’s coat is probably midweight and of a general longer shape, not one of the waist-length work jackets of the day, so it’s multipurpose. Some people had what were called greatcoats, which were heavier, but it’s doubtful Ben owned one.)
That’s the end of today’s tiny history mashup, which means there will be another tomorrow, so you simply must come back for that.
Striking Balance, an historical dark fantasy set in Southern Appalachia, is available for preorder from Amazon in both ebook and print formats via the clickable cover to your right or through other online book retailers such as Barnes and Noble and IBooks.