For any historical author, and most contemporary set writers, too, researching has to be done to make the book read as authentic as possible.
The smallest item can seem suddenly very interesting, and also extremely difficult to find the history about! Hours can be spent pouring over library books and the Internet searching for the right answer. We tear our hair out wondering if a certain item was invented and widely used in our period, etc. it can be terribly frightening, but also very rewarding when we do find the correct answer. I think it is very important for historical authors to get the period they write – right! However, that said, we are only human and we make mistakes no matter how hard we try not to. We can’t know everything (although we like to think we do) and that’s where different types of researching comes into it.
Sometimes, if we are lucky, we can travel to the places we set our books. Visiting castles, manor houses, streets and landscapes all help us to ‘see’ the place as our characters do. Of course over the years places and buildings change, but we have imaginations, good ones as writers do, and we can see how it would look through our characters’ eyes. taking numerous photos of one building, hill, village or street becomes common place for a writer.
Aside from traveling to a place, we can use our TVs and watch documentaries and movies to help set the mood. One of the best DVDs I have for my research is a walking guide to places around the Calder valley and Hebden Bridge area of West Yorkshire. Thankfully, I have been to that area myself, but if I hadn't just by watching the dvd I could see the steepness of the walks, the hills, etc, and that information would help write the book.
Research books are one of my favourite expenses. There is nothing like buying a large research book filled with interesting information and beautiful pictures to capture my imagination. I can never have enough of them. I sigh over them like some women sigh over a gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a Gucci handbag. Tragic, I know. But I don't want the cure.