Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rewards of Research by Alice J. Wisler

Have you ever had a research experience affect you in a way you didn't expect? Today, Alice J. Wisler relates her experience and provides tips for your next research venture. -- Sandy

Alice: After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Americans feared. Sadly, that fear caused ten isolation centers, or internment camps, to be built.  Americans of Japanese descent who lived on the west coast were ordered by the government to relocate to one of these camps.  Many of those who were given less than a week to pack up were American citizens.

Research for this novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus, was eye-opening.  I chose to set my story in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and have the Mori family sent from their home in San Jose, California to this isolated region where they lived out the rest of the war in an internment camp.  I researched the music and listened to lots of Glenn Miller since he was popular during the war.  The fashion included bobby socks, dungarees, and cardigans.  The men and women wore hats, something I wish we still did today on a regular basis.  I listened to old radio broadcasts (many full of static) of the news during the war era.  I also read from personal accounts what internment camp life was like.  I interviewed a woman in my church who had been in a camp in Arizona and received written historical documents and books from a man whose mother had been in a camp in Amache, Colorado. 

I am not a history buff by any stretch of the imagination, but looking up tidbits for Under the Silk Hibiscus, was rewarding due to the relevancy of what I found to make my novel more authentic.  I think when you dig deeper into a historical time period, you can spend hours discovering and be amazed at how those discoveries can enhance your story.  They can also make you super sad as I became, realizing more about the plight of the west coast Japanese-Americans in our country during and even after the war.

Tips on research for new writers:

1)      Take your time.  Don’t rush.  Chances are you’ll enjoy learning because it’s not for a class or school, but an opportunity to enhance your novel and make it more authentic.

2)     Feel free to ask.  Email those who might know more than you do about your historical period.  Or set up a time for an in-person or phone or even Skype interview.

3)     Don’t use your knowledge to make your novel sound like a history book.  Keep the flavor of your style and incorporate what you learn about the time period, but don’t make it sound stuffy or out of place within your story-telling.

How has your research affected your view of history? Do you have additional tips for newbie researchers?


During World War Two Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internmentcamp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan's one desire is to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in a bleak camp as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves.

Alice has authored four contemporary novels published by Bethany House:  Rain Song (Christy Finalist), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist), Hatteras Girl and A Wedding Invitation, and Still Life in Shadows by River North/Moody. Her newest novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) is her first historical romance. 

Since the death of her four-year-old son, Alice teaches grief-writing workshops and her devotional, Getting out of Bed in the Morning:  Reflections of Comfort in Heartache (Leafwood), covers the many losses we face and how God sustains us through each one.  In 2012, Alice and her husband started a business, Carved By Heart, where they carve memorial plaques/remembrances, house number signs, bird feeders, rustic clocks, and other home d├ęcor.   Her website is:

Alice’s Patchwork Quilt Blog: