Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The joys of writing. . .

Betina here.

Of late I've been researching a new book, looking for a period and place and a provocative story nugget that I can turn into an epic romance. And you know what-- I LOVE research. For a trivia junkie like me, this is heaven. I could do this all day, every day. That is, unless I'm expected to actually produce something from it. Sigh. There's always a catch.

So far, I researched gun manufacturing in Britain during Victorian times, oriental trade and political relations during the Victorian era, and the development of martial arts in the orient and elsewhere. Oh, and did I mention British political scandals of the Victorian era?


Breach loading rifles, karate, and Gladstone's obsession with soiled doves. Try making a steamy romance out of those.
Then I stumbled back to medieval days. . . for a look at how weaving began and what the weaving centers for tapestries and fancy wall hangings were. Then I looked at early looms and the process of making threads and producing dyes. Then I looked at medieval legends in England and France. . .

Prehistoric looms and shuttle calluses, alchemists who produced dyes in secret and carried out industrial intrigue against each other, and woodcuts of people with no arms and one great mouth in the middle of their chests. . . ewwww. Keep looking . . .


Then I raced to colonial America. . . where I began looking at early American agricultural practices. And the run-up to the war of 1812. . . which was our SECOND war of independence. I began looking at what happened at the burning of Washington DC and the incident of Dolly Madison saving George Washington's portrait. . .

Hey, did you know they used to beat apple trees in spring to make them produce? How about harvesting oats green to get both "king(top kernal on the stalk) and queen (bottom kernal)"? Did you know guys with great breeding horses used to tour the farming areas offering their stallions for stud. . . living off the proceeds? Traving studs. Okay we're getting warmer. . . definite potential here. . .

Whoa. Did you know that what stopped the British from taking over Washington permanently was literally an act of God? Honest-- it was a hurricane and a tornado that wrecked the British ships lying offshore and made such a mess of the British troups occupying the area that they retreated in disorder! Is that a historical paranormal writer's dream or what?

Gotta learn more about that event. . .

So, more than you wanted to know about the mind and imagination of an historical writer and what happens when one gets stuck in RESEARCH MODE and doesn't want to leave. Do you ever start looking up something and find yourself on the trail of a fascinating bit of trivia?
And if you had to choose, would you rather read a colonial America book, a medieval, or a Victorian?

16 comments:

Michele Hauf said...

Hmm, well I'm picking medieval only because I just never seem to have much interest in American stuff. But any time period from Betina Krahn is going to be an amazing read!

So that's very interesting that you research first to get your story ideas. Do you have a hero and heroine in mind before that, or do they come to you as you're researching? And the basic plot? Does that come out of research too?

M

Debra Dixon said...

Very insightful Betina!

I'm out the door for RWA's national convention in San Francisco. And I'm on the schedule to blog on Thursday. So, if you guys don't see a blog, you'll know I've gotten lost.

Betina Krahn said...

I'm liking medieval, too, Michele. Surprisingly the medieval folk were a lot freer and more enlightened than people in later ages-- like the Tudors, for example. And thanks for the vote of confidence there.

Often I start with reading about an era or place and an incident or factoid trips my "whoa" meter and I start digging. A character usually appears out of the morass to involve me in her/his story. I've got all kinds of ideas and characters floating around in my head just now.

Deb-- we'll see you out there! have fun!

Keri Ford said...

Interesting stuff. I've never been that much into history until I started writing a regency a few months ago. Now I can't stop with the research. It's fascinating--until you can't find what you're looking for. :( that not so fun.

Have fun at conference!

flip said...

Colonial america!!!! I haven't read a good historical set in colonial america for so long. There are some awesome colonial american novels. Did anyone every read Mistress Devon by Virginia Coffmann? It is such a good book. Story is about a troupe of travelling actors and their seamtress.

Playground Monitor said...

Alas, I'm not much for historicals. So I can't pick a favorite era. But I can SO identify with getting lost in research. One link leads to another which leads to another and before you know it, an entire day has been spent roaming the 'net.

I've met Cindy and Deb before, and I hope to meet the rest of the Top Down crew in San Francisco.

Marilyn

MsHellion said...

I did know that about the hurricane; and I did know that the war of 1812 was our 2nd war of independence. (My OWN sister didn't know who we fought in the war of 1812. I nearly disowned her.)

I vote Colonial America. I love our Revolutionary Guys--I think they totally rock.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I love history! History of England/Gr Britain was one of my minors, but I have to say it's American history that puts me on the kind of trail you describe, Betina. So little women's fiction is set in colonial America. I'd love to read more. But I've especially loved your Victorian era novels. Your voice really lends itself. So hard to choose. I just want more Betina Krahn historicals!

Helen Brenna said...

I'm with you on getting carried away on research, Betina. It's one of my favorite parts of writing.

I vote medieval. Michele's right, though, you'll make wonderful things from any era you choose.

Betina Krahn said...

Gosh, you guys, I'm blushing.

I've written several colonial romances, but it's been a while since I pubbed one. It's one of my favorite eras-- so dynamic and lots of stuff no one know about.

I love Victorian stuff, too-- am a latecomer to the era, but so much of what we are today comes out of movements begun in that era. And I love the enforced "restraint" that we can play so well in a romance.

Marilyn-- I'll look for you in San Fran-- I owe you a hug!

Mshellion and Flip-- you are so great! I have a killer idea for a colonial-federalist story. I'm hoping the eds see it my way.

But you know, I've enjoyed all three of these eras. . . so I guess I'll be happy with whichever one gets chosen.

Oh, and how much of your research do you do on the internet these days? Remember the days of camping out in the local university library? LOVED browsing the stacks, but sitting in my cozy chair is so much more comfy.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Betina. I love research too but find I get so sidetracked when I need to be 'focused'.
I like all historical periods. They all have such fascinating events. And like the others said - if it's one of your books I don't care what period it's set in.
And I do most of my research on the web - including contacts who help me with specifics. I belong to several loops and bless them anyone I've ever asked for help has been gracious in either providing it or steering me in the right direction.

Estella said...

Colonial America.

Dina said...

I love all kind of medieval stuff.

catslady said...

I love medieval the most but I'll read anything historical. I think the further back it is, the more I enjoy it. I want to be in another world but not so far as the future lol.

M. said...

another vote for medieval. partly influenced by such satisfying reads as 'the husband test'...

Betina Krahn said...

Thanks, everybody fo rhte input. It seems to me that medieval has slightly edged out colonial in the voting. And Victorian is bringing up a poor third! I wouldn't have guessed!

I have to say, I'll share this with the editor and we'll discuss.

It helps that I have a good colonial idea and a good medieval, too. Decisions, decisions.