Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Research! Oh, how I love it! by Erica Vetsch


I'll admit, there was a time when just the word "research" terrified me. It still does to a degree, mainly in having the confidence to believe everything correct. Today, author Erica Vetsch provides tips for searching off the web for those precious tidbits that bring accuracy and interest to our stories. -- Sandy

Erica: I have author friends who say they could never write historical romance because of all the research it entails. What? Research is one of the best parts of writing historical fiction!

In this age of the Internet, research is easier than ever. If you have a question, someone has written an article on it somewhere.  With the digitization of thousands of books, catalogs, atlases, and periodicals, historical information is just a click away.

But what do you do when all of your searching online turns up nothing useful, and you can’t find the answer to a specific research question? Where do you turn?

You have some options beyond Google.
  1. Museums. The smaller the better, actually. If you need to know how many young men in Dodge County, MN served in World War 1, call the county historical museum. If you need to know if orphan trains ever stopped in Salina, KS, call the Saline County Historical Society. County museums are a TREASURE TROVE of delightful stories and information, and there is often a volunteer or docent there who is DYING for someone to call him/her so they can talk about their passion: local history! State historical societies are also excellent resources! Try those before you  knock on the Smithsonian’s door.
  2. History professors/experts. Most history professors I know (and I do know a few!) are eager to share their passion and expertise. Try the history department of a local college. If they don’t know the answer, they can probably point you in the direction of someone who does. A polite letter or email will get the conversation started, and you can schedule a phone call or skype chat, too. Be sure to have your specific questions written down beforehand, so you can use the time efficiently. 
  3.  Books. And not just from Amazon. Check places like abebooks.com, powells.com, and alibris.com for out of print books on your topic. These books come from used booksellers around the globe. When selecting books for your research, remember these few tips.

    a. The closer the book was published to the time you are researching, the better.

    b. University presses and historical society presses are usually reliable sources.

    c. Getting two or three books on the same subject will allow you to compare accounts.
The truth is, not every question can be answered, but you can get a general idea if you dig a little deeper. Sometimes this means clicking around on Google or Bing, but sometimes it means talking to people and ordering books.

Other than online, what is your favorite source for story research?

~~~~~~

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
 
A Home for Her Heart

After being jilted at the altar, Southern belle Savannah Cox seeks a fresh start out West and accepts a teaching position in Minnesota. But between her students' lack of English, the rough surroundings and sheriff Elias Parker's doubts and distrust, Savannah's unprepared for both the job and the climate. However, she's determined to prove she can handle anything her new town throws her way.

Elias gives it a week—or less—before the pretty schoolteacher packs her dainty dresses and hightails it back home. But no matter how many mishaps he has to rescue her from, Savannah doesn't give up. Yet the real test is to come—a brutal blizzard that could finally drive her away, taking his heart with her…


4 comments:

  1. Festivals. We're having Arts on the Ridge (art festival) this weekend, and our mayor always has a storytelling on the steps event, where older folks come sit on the porch and tell stories while everyone sits around on the steps and listens. It's a great way to learn what happened in the early to mid-twentieth century. Sometimes they'll tell stories that their parents told them, too. Bonus!

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    1. What a fabulous resource! And what a wonderful way to preserve history that is still in living memory!!

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  2. A few years ago, at a town event, I stopped to talk with some Confederate reenactors. I learned such fascinating tidbits, and one I used in my then project. If the story involves such periods as the Revolutionary or Civil Wars, reenactors can be a great source of information.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent advice! I've been to several reenactments, and just watching the battles gives you a better idea of the scope and sounds and sights!

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