Monday, April 4, 2011


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.


Anita Davison said...

I can heartily recommend Neil Oliver's excellent 'A History of Scotland'. This is part of the blurb: ..By placing Scotland's story in the wider context of British, European and global history, some of the myths that pervade the past will be exploded to reveal a Scotland which forged its own destiny, often with success.

The DVD is definitely worth watching for the beautiful views of the Highlands as well as his understanding of the colourful history.

Elle said...

Research texts are wonderful, I have a huge library of my own, but they can't compare to a good library, preferably a university library. Any writer who thinks relying solely on the internet will be sufficient is sorely mistaken. A library visit, no matter where you live, is worth the time and investment.

Wendy said...

Reading history books especially the beautifully illustrated ones is a favourite pastime for me too, even when I'm not researching a particular era. Strange my obsession with history, since I failed that subject in High School. That wonderful series 'A History of Scotland' is on our TV now. It is so well presented and the country is beautiful. I wish I could have visited Scotland, but I think it's too late for me now.

Rosalie Skinner said...

What about the wonderful auditory experience of listening to the DVD commentary. Love the accents.
Research is essential. Libraries are dangerous places, for being transported and losing track of time. Photos are great but as you say, nothing replaces going to these places and experiencing the breadth and depth of the landscape.

Unknown said...

Great post! and as a Brit I can identify with all the old castles and old buildings.A lot of them do have a grim history though, unfortunately but they are very nice.

Funny about what you mentioned in your profile about going to the beach - I just wrote a post on that and have everyone wondering if could actually DO any work on one :)

Mike Hays said...

Great post. Historical details research done painstakingly and accurately can not only paint a more realistic story, but every detail can open up new doors and ideas.

Charlie said...

Lovely post. I do agree with researching. It is important but it is oh so much fun, espeically when you can do it in person. Thanks for sharing.
C.K. Volnek