Research

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It is amazing all the odd things you have to research when you are writing a book. This is especially true if you are writing about another time period. I’ve run into the problem while writing the rose series and my time travel series. Parts of the rose series takes place in the city of Boise in 1881 while the first book of the time travel series takes place in the mining town of Atlanta, Idaho in 1876. Since these are both real places, the first step was to read the history of both areas. The Idaho territory (Idaho didn’t become a state until 1890) has a very colorful history with a lot of fascinating people.

The key to making a good historical story is taking real events with real people and placing your fictional characters in the middle. Diana Gabaldon does a marvelous job of this in her OUTLANDER series.

There is an amazing amount of detail you need to know about ordinary life. What was the population of each city? What types of businesses existed during that time? What was considered an average wage? What did things cost? In the case of my time traveling heroine, I needed to learn about women’s fashion, there is a considerable difference in hairstyles, under garments, and shoes. My heroine also had to learn how to cook. Obviously there are no microwaves, frozen meals or prepackaged foods, everything is made from scratch. I had a real problem trying to figure out a respectable occupation for a woman with no family.

The point of all this is to have your details as accurate as possible to give the reader the feeling of truly living with the character in the past.

Have you ever read a historical book that didn’t get the details right?

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Augustina Van Hoven

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