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December 20th ~ Friday Q and As
By Ana Brazil
December 20, 2019

This Friday we listen to James Taylor—or Judy Garland or Sarah McLachlan or Michael Bublé or The Carpenters—singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as we share resource tips.

Today Kathryn wants to know… “What resources have been particularly helpful when writing about the practicalities of a period?“

Ana is the BIGGEST FAN of Newspapers.com.

“I depend upon it for providing historical atmosphere and facts, finding out what words were used when, and letting me know what was and wasn’t normal at the time.

And I love vintage newspaper advertisements! They’re a great way to find out what people are wearing, eating, drinking, reading, and using around their houses…like the advertisement for these Japanese and French Paper Lanterns from the 1909 Hartford (Connecticut) Courant.

Finally, I’m crazy about Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and have raved about them on Suzanne Adair’s Relevant History blog. Since I write mysteries, I need to feel confident about the historical mileau, and Sanborn maps definitely show me what’s where when.

Katie says it has to be the internet.

“I hate to say it, because I have several wonderful reference books, and I’ve connected in real life with lovely and knowledgeable people, but the internet is a treasure trove.
Some great things include: the British Newspaper Archive, where I located the reporting of a sunken ship in 1816; pictures of stoves from 1890 that would likely be in a house in North Dakota; and of course, the beautiful clothing that I can give my wealthy aristocratic heroine in 1816.

Since Linda’s historical fiction is based on family stories, her most valuable resources are family photographs and stories.

“I use the Internet to search for details about the events of the times I’m writing about, and read fiction set there to get a feel for customs, language, and attitudes. It’s also especially helpful to visit the place you are writing about to get a feel for the setting. For Under the Almond Trees, I visited locations in Santa Cruz, California, where I’d never been before.”

Kathryn shares that she depends on other books, of course!

“Even though more and more sources are available in digital form, I still love paging through an old book related to my research. A favorite recent find is Swiss Fairy Tales, collected by William Elliot Griffis in the 1920s. Fairy and folk tales illustrate what a culture fears and reveres.

YouTube videos of people performing tasks from the past have given me a sense of how people lived, but even better is a hands-on presentation at a historical site or conference. These presentations have allowed me to card and spin wool, churn butter, tat linens, and ride in horse-drawn vehicles—activities which would have been commonplace for my characters but are completely foreign to me.”

And finally, C.V.’s go-to resources are Wikipedia and YouTube.

“Wikipedia helps me keep my events and dates straight while YouTube is helpful is watching the mechanics of how things are done. I have also used children’s books about the era. The pictures and brief descriptions make the information easy to absorb.”

Ana Brazil
Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

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