Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Research Joy: Preparing to Write Historical Fiction


I write books because I love writing (it's who I am, how I breathe, etc. - all those things writers say), and I write historical fantasy/fiction because it's what I love to read, but I also write historical fiction because

I LOVE HISTORICAL RESEARCH!!!

I don't know how other authors feel, but I absolutely adore the research phase before I write. I am an English teacher, but I considered studying history first because I find it so fascinating. Right now I am in the middle of the research phase for my next book - the as-yet-untitled third installment of The Gold and Gaslight Chronicles (though it will certainly be called The "Something" City, like The Heartless City, which is out now, and The Hypnotic City, which comes out August 1st) - so I thought I would write a quick post about my historical research process and my experiences with it so far.


Above are just a few of the books I read while researching The Heartless City, which is set in a re-imagined London in 1903. Even though my London was "reimagined" - quarantined and filled with monsters - I still had to get the details right. I was lucky enough to visit London back when I was a teenager, but it didn't really help me in this instance. What helped a lot, surprisingly, was looking at old maps of London online (and sometimes I even used Googlemaps to find out how long it would take to go from one place to another on foot). My main conclusion after researching this book: being poor in Victorian London sucked.


As you can see, I read even more books for the sequel, The Hypnotic City, which is set in New York in 1905. In this instance, the fact that I had been to Manhattan numerous times was actually quite helpful. I especially loved learning about the theatre world and the nightlife at the time, and I ended up incorporating some very cool, real, historic events into the novel - like the first time New Year's Eve was celebrated in Times Square. My main conclusion after researching this book: being rich in turn-of-the-century NYC rocked.


This is just the start of my research for the third book, which - as you can see - is going to be set in Paris. I've never been there but I am LOVING reading about it, and I can't wait to see what ideas the research will spark or what conclusions I'll draw.

So what about the rest of you who write/read historical fiction? What is your process? Do you enjoy the research stage?