Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Fun and Benefits of On-site Research

Can research be fun as well as informative? I asked author Miralee Ferrell to provide us with some information regarding the on-site research she did on her new historical novel, Blowing on Dandelions.--Sandy


Miralee: Blowing on Dandelions is my seventh novel, with two more historical romance novels to follow, and I’ve been fortunate to visit every town where my books have been set except for one (Sundance, WY). While online research is helpful and was able to give me what I needed when unable to travel to Sundance, visiting a location in person truly bring a setting to life. The first thing I do is pinpoint any museums or historical societies in the area. I’ll do an online search prior to leaving and often contact the Chamber of Commerce to see if they know anyone who lives there that is a historian. 

My trip to Baker City, Oregon, was no exception. I have a friend who moved to this picturesque small city nestled between the Wallowa and Elkhorn Mountains, only a couple of years prior to my visit. She escorted me to businesses, pointing out buildings that had been erected in the late 1800s, and introduced me to locals who had family extending almost to the roots of the town’s existence. I discovered a family-owned bookstore that carried books centered on the history and founding of Baker City and other towns in the county, as well as speaking to a gentleman who was a historian in his own right.

Local museums are always a fantastic source of information, and I take hundreds of pictures of the artifacts, old photos, furniture and clothing, as well as taking pictures of any original structures in the area. Baker City has an incredible hotel that was built in the mid 1880’s called The Geiser Grand Hotel. If my books spanned a longer time period I would have worked this magnificent structure into my story, but it was still fun to tour inside. My friend gave me mini history lessons on several of the area businesses, and the museum filled in even more information that was helpful.

Often when on these research trips, I find little known facts that turn into interesting story plots, or I’m able to create true-to-life scenes using events that happened during my specific time period. Even better is when I can discover and use a famous person who lived in the town at that time, as I did in my book set in Tombstone, when Doc Holliday showed up at a saloon and interacted with one of my characters.

My Love Blossoms in Oregon series has three different settings. Besides seeing the characters on the main street or in a store or restaurant, the majority of the action takes place in a boarding house, with a quilting group in the local church, and on a ranch outside of town, so my time spent in Baker City covered all three of those areas.
               
When I first started writing historical romance, I worried that the research might be too time consuming or boring. Little did I realize it would become my favorite part of the entire writing process. 

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In Blowing on Dandelions, Miralee Ferrell speaks to women’s heartfelt struggles—from family dysfunction to single parenthood—-while offering them the faith-filled hope they need, all wrapped in an uplifting, true-to-life romance.

Miralee and her husband, Allen, live on 11 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. They have two grown children and recently their son and his wife presented them with a beautiful new granddaughter. Miralee has been writing since 2005, and her first book was published in 2007. Since then, she’s had 7 books published, both in women’s contemporary fiction and historical fiction, with another 6 under contract. Her western romance, Love Finds You in Sundance, WY, was awarded the Will Rogers Medallion for Excellence in Western Fiction and her newest release, Blowing on Dandelions, is the first in a three book series set in Oregon. Miralee loves interacting with people, ministering at her church, riding her horse and playing with her dogs. She also speaks at various women’s functions and has taught at conferences.

You can find her at:
Facebook Author page:  www.facebook.com/miraleeferrell
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/miraleeferrell   

12 comments:

  1. Research is really my favorite part of writing. So much so that I sometimes don't know when to stop researching!

    I've loved your writing since The Other Daughter, Miralee!

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    1. Bless you, Angie, I appreciate hearing that! I'd have to say that Blowing on Dandelions is the closest thing I've written, as far as voice and subject matter, to The Other Daughter, so I'm guessing you'd enjoy it, as well. And I agree, it can be hard to stop researching and start writing.

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  2. Local historians are a god-send for a writer - I especially love the gossipy ones who relay all the scandals of times past. Lots of good material there!

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    1. It's always good to have those little tidbits you don't find in books or on websites. Thanks for stopping by, Celia.

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    2. Absolutely, Celia!! Those are the best resources and a true treasure trove when you stumble across one. Thanks for stopping to visit.

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  3. My WIP is set in the small town of Trenton, TN. I grew up in the area and attended sixth grade there, so I had some background. I used their city & county website for details. There's nothing like on-site research! I have a few other places in mind, like the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound--love at first sight!

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    1. Betty, my first two books were set in my own backyard, so to speak, which allowed me to get my feet wet on writing an accurate setting, then I branched out, so I think you're going about it the right way. We lived in Friday Harbor, on the main San Juan Island for a few months, a truly beautiful area!

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  4. How exciting to actually visit most of your settings, Miralee!

    I've called the CIA and scoured the US Marshal's website until my hubby teased that men/women in suits would soon show up to cart our laptop away, and maybe me. lol. But my most exciting research involved a field trip to a llama farm. Such fun!!

    Thanks for sharing ways to make research fun, Miralee. :-)

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    1. Dora, your research sounds both fun and interesting, as well as a bit of cloak-and-dagger, LOL! Watch out for those men in blakc!

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  5. I love going on research trips and hearing stories about the locals. It's also a good way to get ideas for stories.

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    1. I agree, Vickie! I've found more than one tidbit that became a scene or part of a story thread while on a research trip. Love it!

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    2. Thanks for sharing your research information, Miralee!

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