Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I’d Rather Research than Write – Musings of a History Nerd By Susan F. Craft

Today, author and editor Susan Craft gives us her experience with researching her latest novel, and throws in a few resources! -- Sandy

Susan: Since I want my history to be right in my novels, I do extensive research and travel to the locations of my novels to absorb, to breathe in, everything I can: sights, sounds, smells. Thank goodness my husband drives us, because I have no sense of direction and can get lost in my driveway.

Our most fun trip was one we took to the North Carolina Outer Banks to research for my upcoming books—Laurel and its sequel, Cassia.

In Laurel, which takes place in 1783, my characters are shipwrecked on Diamond Shoals (the Graveyard of the Atlantic).

Cassia, which takes place in 1799, has pirates.

Between the two books, I knew I needed to learn more about the ships that sailed at that time, some of the nautical terms, and seafaring jargon. In Beaufort, NC, I found a gem of a resource in the Maritime Museum where I spent hours in the library that still uses a card catalogue system (at my age, I felt right at home).

I learned about the wild ponies that have roamed Ocracoke Island for hundreds of years and I became fascinated by the pirate lore of the area.

A local restaurant owner pointed out an area for us to visit that still looks the same today as it did in the late 1700s. Locals have turned out to be some of my priceless resources.

I always like to share some of my resources for research that can be relied on. Here’s a short list, but you can find more on my website

  • A Writer’s Guide to Horses is a compilation I did for the International Long Riders’ Guild with just about anything a person would want to know about horses. Working with NY Times Best Selling author, Doug Preston, and with author Jeremy James (both Long Riders) we came up with this Guide to help authors “get it right about horses in their works.”

Finally, I’d like to put in a good word for the SC Archives and History Department. One of their archivists, Marion Chandler, was my go-to person. He answered all my questions that ran the gamut from “Greek landowners in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” to “which colonies taxed men—and how much—for being bachelors.” He also read each of my novels for historical accuracy. I’m sure each state has a similar agency.

What on-site research has been most helpful to you? Do you have favorite resources to share?


Susan F. Craft writes historical romantic suspense. Her Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, won the
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick. Susan recently retired after a 45-year career as a communications director, editor, and proofreader. Forty-five years ago, she married her high school sweetheart, and they have two adult children, one granddaughter, and a granddog. An admitted history nerd, she enjoys researching for her novels, painting, singing, listening to music, and sitting on her porch watching the rabbits and geese eat her daylilies. She has two post-Revolutionary War novels being released in 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas—Laurel, in January, and its sequel Cassia in September. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency.

About Laurel— Searching for their toddler and her Cherokee aunt kidnapped by slavers, Lilyan and Nicholas Xanthakos trek from their North Carolina vineyard, through South Carolina backcountry to Charleston, a tinderbox of post-Revolutionary War passions. There Lilyan, a former Patriot spy, faces a grand jury on charges of murdering a British officer. Once free, they follow Laurel’s trail by sea and are shipwrecked on Ocracoke Island. Will they be reunited with their dear child or is Laurel lost to them forever?


  1. Oh, Susan, you and I are kindred spirits (of course we already knew that)! I LOVE historical research and I write contemporaries. LOL.

    I love the Maritime Museum and the SC Dept. of Archives and History, too. I could spend days in either. The SCDAH has an online documents page, too. Here's the link to the index:
    Love pirates and banksie ponies!

    1. Hi, Angie. Before the Internet, I used to spend hours in library resource rooms spending pocketfuls of quarters making copies. Thanks for the link. I'll add it to my list.

  2. We have yet to make it to the Outer Banks, though I was there as a youngun'. Great resources, Susan!

    One resource for those with a Texas setting is TSHA and the Handbook of Texas ( I get their daily "Today in Texas History" posts and save the ones I'm interested in. It's a great resource for information and stirring those ideas for stories.

    1. Sandra, the Outer Banks is one of those areas that give off what I (as a 60s girl) call "vibes." My creativity thermometer goes up several degrees standing on the beach and visualizing a pirate ship in the distance. :-)

  3. I am so going to make it over to see those wild ponies! Bookmarking these resources. Thanks, Susan and Sandy!

    1. Hi, Dora. I was amazed to learn that the horses can dig shoulder deep holes in the ground searching for fresh water.

  4. I feel so alone today. šŸ˜‹ I admire you historical writers and all your research, but it is totally not me.

    I have to admit though, you find out some fascinating information.

    1. Don't feel alone, Terri. Contemporary writers do their share of research, too, so I'm sure you've uncovered some fun facts for your stories. :)

    2. Terri, I owe my love of history to my father, but mostly to my seventh grade South Carolina history teacher who brought history alive for me. Especially when we were studying Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox); she told us some personal family tragedies he suffered, and it was then I realized that the people in our books were flesh and blood and not just names to memorize.


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