This week author Allison Knight has graciously agreed to share with us her thoughts on the role of research in writing fiction.
Research, Research, Research
I learned a long time ago, 'cause I've been at this for a long time, that research was a necessary evil.
Why do I call it an evil? Because, if you're like me, you get caught up in the research and your writing time has disappeared. When I had to go to the library and spent hours finding books, or copying material, it took even longer, but today we have the internet and that saves hours.
So, I thought I'd give you a few hints on some of the things I've discovered about research, be it historical romance or contemporary romance. I know the people who write suspense and mainstream may also discover some helpful hints here too but since I don't read or write paranormal, fantasy or scfi, I'm afraid I can't be much help there.
So here goes!
With romance novels, I discovered the first thing I needed to know was the lay of the land. I certainly can't travel through every part of the places I write about, any if I could get there, or had already visited. And I definitely can't go back in time for my historical locations. If I'm not familiar with an area, I better find out what it's like. Is it hilly, mountainous, tree covered, what kind of trees, what's the weather like? For most the that info the internet is wonderful. I visit google earth and NASA for help with identifying the area and the weather in the
. There's information available on US Europe and some part of the mideast as well. If you are writing in a time period before the mid 1800's you'll have to depend on the local newspapers of the location. They did record any severe weather, and yes you can find all kinds of old newspapers on the web. I even found a newspaper account of the fire where the weather for the past season had been discussed. London
Another hint. Sites that sell trees, flowers, seeds will also tell you whether what you've picked to fill a garden will grow in the area you've decided to use, often with even bloom time for flowers. They will often give you information about whether the species is native to that part of the country you are using in your story.
Once I have an idea of the type of weather and what the area is like, then I turn to the kinds of homes in that location. Again the internet is invaluable. If I'm working on a contemporary, I go to google for a street map. Once I get an idea of the layout of the streets, than my best bet is local real estate listings. I get an idea of type of house, cost, type of neighborhood, etc. With historicals, the web is full of manor houses and castles that serve nicely for homes in your historical setting.
Medical information is no problem either, because once again you can search for a disease or condition and find all kinds of information. The same is true of the occupation of your characters, even medieval labor.
Because I'm not the most organized person, I make a hard copy of what I've discovered with the URL and keep it with the information I have on that particular book. One word of caution. I never depend on one source. For example, if I'm looking a certain type of house for a contemporary, I'll check out several real estate agents, the same is true for growing things, neighborhoods, etc. I'll always try to find at least two sources that agree. If I can't find two, then I won't use that information.
Yes, it all takes time, but it's fun learning about different places, their weather, their homes, the way they live or lived, and lucky for the reader, they know you care enough to be accurate, especially if they live in the area of your book setting or are a student of the time period. Combine that concern with a good story and they'll want to read your next novel.
So, happy researching.
Find Windsong and other books by Allison at Champagne Books
Award winning author, Allison Knight claims she's married to the world's greatest husband because he's her greatest supporter and works with her on all her projects. The mother of four children, she retired from teaching to move south to warmer climes. She has written and published nineteen romances for both paperback and digital publishers. Her third medieval romance from her 'song' series and a short story are available from Champagne Books, Inc.
Because she can never quite step out of teaching mode, she blogs often sharing the knowledge she gained writing and publishing in the romance genre. She also loves to talk about the growing digital market.
You can find her at:
She blogs once a month for The Writers' Vineyard, http://thewritersvineyard.comhttp://thewritersvineyard.com