PLEASE WELCOME MY VERY GOOD FRIEND, WONDERFUL WRITER, GREAT ENCOURAGER, AND ALL AROUND FUNNY LADY, JULIE LESSMAN.
Love you, Julie! Thanks for being our guest this month!
CONFESSIONS OF A HISTORICAL AUTHOR …
WHO HATES RESEARCH!
“But I don’t write “historicals,” I said stupidly to my agent. “I write romance.”
Uh, wrong. And, yes, I was that green of a writer, one who actually didn’t consider the historical aspect of my story as important as the emotional tug-of-war between the hero and heroine. I mean, come on now, everybody knows the most important thing is WHAT happens in the story, not WHEN it happens, right?
Wrong again, a lesson I learned the hard way, which is my usual mode of study, apparently. I can still see the twelve two-sided pages of feedback my critique partner gave me on A Passion Most Pure, my debut novel in The Daughters of Boston series. Simple little things that may have been nit-picky to me, but were deadly to the historical accuracy and feel of my story.
a “Julie, the chocolate chip cookies Mrs. Gerson serves in chapter seven sound good, but this is 1916, and chocolate chips weren’t invented until 1939.”
a “Julie, the word “sync” in the sentence “A twig with a heart-shaped leaf plummeted to the ground, in sync with her mood” is too modern for 1916.”
a “Julie, sorry, but the O’Connors drinking orange juice in the winter is probably not too realistic given that fresh fruit was not readily available.”
And the WORST offense of them all, a blunder that almost derailed my plot completely and got past me, my critique partners, and my editor. A huge mistake caught, ironically, by my editor’s husband who happened to be—what are the odds?—an Irish historian! He innocently pointed out to his wife that the O’Connors traveling on a ship to Ireland during World War I would not have been feasible as passenger ships at that time were commandeered for war. Not to mention the annoying fact that German U-boat warfare made it too dangerous for ship travel. Sigh.
So, how does somebody like me who despises research tackle the job of ensuring that the setting, speech, hairstyles, clothing, mannerisms, appliances, music, movies, etc. are good enough to transport your readers to the era along with your characters?
Very carefully. For me, it begins with browsing the Internet where I catalog the best websites I find, either by bookmarking them as a “favorite” on my browser if I intend to use them a lot, or pasting the link in a “Historical Research” document that I create for each book. Here are some of my faves:
1.) SEEKERVILLE: Seekerville is blog of 15 ACFW authors sharing experience and advice on writing, contests and the journey to publication and beyond and this link will hook you up with tons of GREAT articles on research: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/search/label/research
2.) HISTORICAL TIMELINE: Fun website!! http://timelines.ws/.
3.) ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY: Without question, THIS is one of the sites I use more than other! As a historical writer, I have to make absolute sure that the words and slang my characters use typify or even qualify for the era for which I am writing. To this end, I would be absolutely lost without the Online Etymology Dictionary.
4.) ANSWERS.COM: I always research slang sayings and phrases as well through favorite Web sites such as: http://www.answers.com/.
5.) Finally, as I write, I will research various things like automobiles, telephones, appliances, etc. to make sure they were available then and how they worked. One Web site I’ve used for appliances is http://www.oldandinteresting.com/, and another good general Web site that touches on a lot of historical items is Charlotte Dillon’s “Research Links for Writers” at http://www.charlottedillon.com/ResearchLinks.html.
Ironically, my critique partner gave me a progress report on the first book of the next series I wrote, and you guessed it—she nailed me again.
“Julie, when Katie is typing, she can’t “push the return key with a focused glint in her eye” because it wouldn’t be a key, it would be a lever, right?”
Sigh. “Key,” “lever”—who really cares? Well, when you’re talking historicals, the reader does, apparently … and now, so do I!
Click HERE for Free Download of
A Passion Most Pure
Click HERE for Romance-ology 101
More about Julie.
Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. She has also garnered 15 RWA awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her ebook A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Finalist. You can contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at www.julielessman.com.