Friday, April 29, 2011

Research and the Writer’s Journey by Susan Page Davis

Whether we write historicals or contemporary novels, research still plays an important part in the writing process. Today’s guest author Susan Page Davis shares just how important research can be! Enjoy!

Research and
the Writer’s Journey
by Susan Page Davis

Research is a part of writing that I love. Sometimes it seems to go on and on, however—even after the manuscript is turned in. That happened with my April book, Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island.

I read and researched for many hours before and during the writing of this book. I spent time at the provincial archives in Charlottetown, PEI, reading old newspaper accounts of the preparations for Prince Albert Edward’s visit to the island in 1860 and other historical sources. I loved every minute of it—and I thought I had everything straight.

But when the copy editor sent me her notes, something jumped out at me. Neither one of us had noticed it before, but now it was obvious as I reread my story. Several times I’d referred to Province House, the main government building in Charlottetown. It was there when the prince visited—in fact, a ball was held for him there, in the legislative chamber. But Prince Edward Island wasn’t a province yet. Canada wasn’t Canada. (Upper Canada and Lower Canada at that time referred to Ontario and Quebec.)

Now, I knew that PEI was a colony, not a province, in 1860. And I knew they didn’t join the Canadian Confederation until 1873. I also knew from my previous research that the building in question was called the Colonial Building during the years before PEI became a province. But I’d used the two names interchangeably in the book, and that wouldn’t have happened in 1860. So it was a simple matter of double checking, then searching and replacing “Province House” with “the Colonial Building,” but I’m sure if I hadn’t caught the mistake every Canadian who read the book would have howled in laughter.

Another research emergency occurred when I had just started writing a book. The editor had given my synopsis to the art department so that they could work on the cover. In the synopsis, I’d mentioned the hero taking the heroine a bouquet of wildflowers. “What kind of flowers?” the art department wanted to know. So I had to drop what I was doing at the moment and research what kind of flowers were native to that location and would have grown there at that time of the year.

Ah, research. It draws us on, into the land and the culture we want to portray to the reader. I love it. But I always wonder if I did quite enough!

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than thirty published novels in the historical romance, mystery, and romantic suspense genres. She is a past winner of the Carol Award and Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. The mother of six and grandmother of six, she and her husband Jim live in Kentucky.

To learn more about Susan and her books, please visit