Delicious Research: Time Traveler
Denise A. Agnew
First of all, a hearty thank you to Pamela Clare for inviting me to her blog. I first started reading Pamela’s books earlier this year, and I’m so glad I did. All her books are awesome, and like all her fans, I can’t wait to read the next one.
I’ve written historical romances in the past, but have taken significant time out to write contemporaries. Why? Because my interest in historical writing comes as it comes. I can’t really write them on demand any more than I can write other novels on demand. I have to have a spark, and idea that grabs me by the throat. My time travel BRIDGE THROUGH THE MIST takes the reader back to 1318 Scotland. The hero, a Highlander, demanded that his rough and tumble world be created, and I said yes. After all, he did have that big sword and...oh, did I just say that out loud? I loved researching Scotland via books and computer, but in the 90’s I had the great fortune to visit Scotland several times. There’s nothing like being there...books and research can never convey quite the sounds, smells, visuals that visiting a country can. There’s nothing like standing in front of a great castle and savoring the wonder.
On the other hand, what if you’re writing a book set during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 London, England? I’ve always had a fascination for writing fictional stories based around true events, and because I’d been interested in Jack The Ripper’s antics for quite a while, I’d researched the heck out of it. When I took the plunge to write MIDNIGHT ROSE, I found all that fascination paid off.. It took about five months to create the first draft of the story, plus a few months more to revise and edit. I ended up with a very long manuscript, but one I was so proud of, and one that satisfied me to the core. When I had that big ole book in hand, I sighed with relief. Yes, this felt good. No, it felt fantastic.
When I wrote LOVE FROM THE ASHES, my story set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the research once again consumed me. Because I’d always been interested in earthquakes, the science and the history of the event swept me up. Like an adventure, I rode the tide with the real life people who experienced the event, learned a lifetime of details. Again this story took me a long time to write, but once more the satisfaction was beyond compare. Where did I get the original idea for the story? I’d read that many marriage licenses were taken out the day after the earthquake. How romantic is that? So guess what my hero and heroine did? Yep, that’s right.
In ’06 a burning ache to write another historical started to consume me. Soon I possessed an inkling of where and when I wanted to set the story. Roman Britain. Oh, boy. If you want to cause shudders of dread in an author, tell them you are research ANYTHING to do with the Romans. Well, okay, some authors’ eyes will light up, other author’s mouths will round in a big O of admiration. Some will grunt and say how would I stand the research? I located tons of stuff on line and gobbled it up. I’d already accumulated two books on Roman Britain and read those. Then I bought books on the Roman Army and digested them with complete fascination. Watched my Gladiator DVD again. Watched my HBO Rome DVD set again. Sucked it all in. Wrote my notes about the plot, the characters, thought of their names. Soon I had a big, big idea for my book. Eventually I wrote the entire tome, then ended up having to clip away at it after my agent and I realized I’d overdone the history. (SIGH). And that heart-warming, excited feeling of accomplishment built within me. I love this story, and I hope someday you will all get to read it and enjoy as well. Wish me luck!
Earlier this year, I researched 1840’s and 1850’s Philadelphia and the surrounding area, the politics, the upheaval, the immigration of Irish to the area. I completed that book as well. Beyond that I’m also researching for a novel set in 1700’s France. I’m enjoying learning something new every day as I search the Internet and tap into research books.
As I explore history, I notice that nothing is new and everything repeats itself. These themes allow an author to create in infinite new ways. I’m continually drawn to big events and writing about how those events changed and altered people. How do a man and woman survive catastrophic occurrences and what do they learn from them?
Most of my historicals are out of print right now, but you can stop by my website any time and read excerpts from my contemporaries and from my time travel.
As a reader, what makes you happiest when you’re reading a historical? What draws you into the story? At the end of the day I’ll pick one person to receive a free download of my out of print historicals LOVE FROM THE ASHES or MIDNIGHT ROSE.
Thanks again, Pamela, for inviting me to your blog today.