Friday, April 14, 2017


New Story
Research can be quicksand for me. I start tracking down what I need for my book and find something else fascinating along the way. Before I know where time went, hours have passed and I’m on an entirely different subject.

I’m unlike Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character, who didn’t want to fill his brain with unnecessary information that might limit retaining the useful. Even if what I’m reading is not on target, often a new story is triggered. At other times, the information may not be anything I’ll ever use but sets me thinking about how lucky I am to live with a loving, supportive husband in a house with modern appliances and air-conditioning!

For instance, when I wrote O’NEILL’S TEXAS BRIDE, I had to learn about coal mining in Central Texas in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. I thought I could quickly find what I needed online. Instead, I found twentieth century information and that in England going back to the ninth century. Eventually I found photos and the descriptions I needed—but couldn’t stop reading.

At that time, I found that children and women used to mine in the tight crevices and veins where a man couldn’t fit. In a tiny space they had to crawl along with a lantern and drop coal into a bucket, the heat must have been stifling. That’s probably why women wore only a strip of cloth around the waist that covered only their privates with nothing above the waist. I don’t imagine they lived long doing that work—or that they wanted to. Shudder. What a sad life for them and for the children.

For THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, I needed information on train travel from Tennessee to Central Texas in 1878. I visited several railroad museums and wrote to others. I have a thick binder now of railroad information. Since then, that has been useful for numerous historical romances plus friends have asked me to share facts with them. When I began the research, I had no idea my data would be used so many times. That’s one time I didn’t fall into quicksand while researching.

For THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE I did a ton of research on Irish Travelers, nineteenth century Irish, traveler carts, blessings, and superstitions. My husband and I were fortunate enough to take a tour of Ireland. I admit Ireland fascinates me and I loved this research. I was able to use a bit of it in OUT OF THE BLUE so I redeemed myself from the quagmire I’d created. I’ve saved the information, of course, in case I think of a future plot what would benefit.

As you can probably discern, my intent is to be historically correct in each book without taking readers out of the story. Occasionally I may miss something that my editor and beta readers don’t catch either. Anachronisms or misinformation drives me crazy when I’m reading other authors’ books and I don’t want anyone to find them in the books I write. I may use only a line or two that has taken a lot of research, but I want those lines to be correct. Most authors share this opinion.

Do mistakes in books annoy you? Do you just skip over them and keep going?

1 comment:

Lorna Collins - said...

Since we write historicals, I know the trap of starting to research one thing and ending up off on a tangent because new information intrudes. Nevertheless, we eventually often use all of it. I don't believe in "reader feeder" or data dumps, but we can sometimes use the information we uncover to add "color" to our characters' lives. Of course, we spent over two years writing the first one, and we'll probably spend about the same amount of time on the sequel.