THE BARD’S GIFT, of course, is an historical fantasy. I researched the Iceland, Greenland, and the way of life there in the 14th century to get as much of the background of the story right as I possibly could. But the story is mine, not based on anything that really happened.
There are other, sometimes less obvious ways, that fantasy and history meet. A medieval setting has become the default for second-world fantasy stories. Of course, some writers do medieval better than others. I still remember my confusion in reading a story in a clearly medievalish setting that nevertheless had private bathrooms with running water. Not that you can’t do that in a fantasy story. Just that you probably should provide some tiny explanation of the change. (Maybe it’s magic.)
The medieval default is so strong that an author has to work a little harder to convince readers that the setting isn’t medieval. I always seem to especially enjoy those stories. They’re like a breath of fresh air. And I’ve written a couple of them. MAGE STORM has a sort of settlement-era setting (like when farmers were first settling in the Ohio River Valley) and at least part of the setting for MAGIC AND POWER is modeled more or less on the desert southwest (without cowboys or the wild west aspects).
Sometimes history provides inspiration, too. In MAGIC AND POWER, I needed a reason for Ailsa’s family to be political outcasts. My inspiration for that was actually the Duke of Windsor, who was forced to abdicate because he married a divorced American woman (although the actual history was somewhat more complicated than that). So, just what do you do with an ex-king? And how would his presence nearby affect the new king? Those questions provide some of the external conflict for MAGIC AND POWER.