Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Research for Historicals
When crafting historical novels, a writer must first feel grounded in the period, and confidant with the setting and what the characters wear, eat, see, and how they live. That’s a tall order, and takes a lot of time.
In thinking about my upcoming workshop at RWA National in July, where I’ll be getting specific about Researching for Historicals, I realized it could have been a one-day workshop instead of only several minutes. In researching for my October release, The Tapestry Shop, I visited museums in France, where I found artifacts that enriched my novel, set in the thirteenth century. In a museum I saw some of the tools they used in the Middle Ages, as well as everyday items like a lady’s comb. What fascinated me about the comb was that the upper part, where the teeth were attached, was made of tin. This was their mirror. This same comb plays a part in my novel, when Catherine sees her mother’s face in the tin reflection.
Fine, you say. But I can’t make it to London to research my Regency! Not to worry. You can browse parts of the Smithsonian, even online. I keep a list of online sites, set down as to category and time period. When I’m in a hurry, I just throw them in my Favorites folder and sort them later.
Aside from the internet, SCA events, like reenactments, are great places to see what life was really like before modern times. Best of all, keep reading books written by authors who write in your time period. Chances are they have done their homework, and can save you a lot of time, but it never hurts to double-check the facts before sending your book out into the world.