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June 26th ~ Q & As

By Ana Brazil
June 26, 2020

Our bookshelves are crammed with reference books and our browsers have hundreds of bookmarks to research sites. As historical fiction writers, we have many, many, research resources at our fingertips. And we totally like it that way!

But today we wonder…What’s the most indispensable research resource for your time period?

Kathryn starts with “I feel lucky that so many research resources are available at my fingertips.

Especially during this quarantine period when it’s impossible to travel to a location or visit an archive. For my first novel, I consulted all the usual suspects, plus family histories since the story was based on an ancestor story. Then and now I’ve been grateful for software like Scrivener that helps organize my research. For my new WIP I’m using Aeon Timeline more than ever. This visual timeline software helps me keep the “who, what, where and when” in my plot straight. The “why” is up to me.

“At this point?” asks Katie, writing as Edie Cay, “Probably my Regency slang books.

Boxiana by Pierce Egan (primary source) is a close second. Oh, and the paintings by Hogarth. It gives a very different view of the Georgian era–not the symmetrical and tidy version suggested by Austen and the architecture, but the messy street-view of the everywoman.”

C.V. Lee says “It is hard to pick one, but the one I turn to first is always Wikipedia.org.

This helps me to keep the major details, i.e. correct dates for events, accurate. Don’t want to fudge the date of a battle or the death of a king. With historical fiction I have so many places that I need to consult; biographies of famous people, books about fashion, books about everyday life, etc.”

Ana says “I’ve always been an avid newspaper reader, starting when I was in elementary school.

I studied history in college and also worked in the Microfilm section of the university library. What did they have there? Little boxes filled with historic newspapers! I was in heaven. Just seeing the names of all of the historic papers was inspiring. I didn’t read during working hours, but I used the newspapers for my papers and Masters thesis.

Fast forward to today and Newspapers.com.

I use the historic newspapers in Newspapers.com for everything from fact checking (Q: when did San Francisco get their first Women’s Protective Officers? A: 1913) to word verification (Q: Was the word “guff” used in newspapers/America in 1863? A: No. It wasn’t used until the 1870s). My “time period” stretches from America’s Gilded Age into the Roaring Twenties, a time when every American city had a newspaper and many had dozens. Rich resources!

A lot of historical fiction writers do all of their research before they start writing. Not me. I research as I write. It might not be efficient, but it keeps the story honest. Newspapers help me do that.”

Linda concludes “My novels center around female members of my family.

I start my research on Ancestry.com, looking up vital statistics for real people. In my current work in progress, I researched an obscure sutler at Fort Snelling in the 1830s. No official documents came to light for him, but the Minnesota Historical Society has a wonderful online database that gave me access to Google books like Mrs. Dred Scott by Lea VanderVelde. They also provided books on the history of the fort, the Dakota Indian viewpoint of history, and race relations between Indians, whites, and blacks. These books provide the human stories in anecdotes and diaries. One of the most valuable so far has been Early Times and Events in Wisconsin, by James H. Lockwood. Lockwood, it turns out, is my elusive sutler’s father-in-law!”

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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