Monday, March 9, 2009

Research Made Interesting

Welcome to Chatham in Fredericksburg, Virginia. And home to a scene in my soon to be released novella, 'Till Death Do Us Part in the collection, A Blue and Gray Christmas.

This is one of the many places over the course of my writing career where I have gone to do research on my novels. In my Civil War novella, there is a major scene that takes place at this very house. And what better way to bring the scene to life than to make a visit. Which we did during the holidays, and I was able to paint a more accurate portrayal of the house once I walked the grounds and listened to the guides tell of its history.

It's important to have factual research in books, especially historical novels. Guides are eager to oblige when you tell them you're a writer and you have a novel coming out soon about their particular historical area. Several years ago I went to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky to research the cave for an upcoming book, Into the Deep. Before arriving, I talked to the ranger in charge of media relations and also the historical ranger. The first ranger gave me a free guided tour of the cave, even taking us to places now off limits to tour groups. And then I sat down for two glorious hours with the historical ranger talking about the history of the cave. All of this was then incorporated into the novel which was then published and is now a part of the collection, Kentucky Brides.

Of course sometimes it's not possible to actually journey to the places you are writing about. But if you can do it, it lends an certain authenticity that is unmistakable. And it makes you one with your novel as you seek to bring the historical nature of the story to life in the written word.

1 comment:

schultpe said...

A very good article! I look forward to reading this novella. As an author of HF, I agree that research and keeping one's facts straight, avoiding anachronisms, etc. are of paramount importance. My novel is set in 1941, and I recall the digging I underwent to ascertain details such as when a particular popular song was being played on radio, or how much a NYC taxi fare cost that summer. A major challenge, but a vital one to overcome if one wants to maintain the story's credibility.

My novel is entitled The Fuhrer Virus. It is a WWII spy/conspiracy/thriller for adolescent/adult readers and can be found at,, and


Paul Schultz