For the first time since college I’ve immersed myself in scholarly works of history, books dedicated to specific topics and specific time periods. I used to be one of those people who dreamed of documenting the life of an ordinary person in an extraordinary time or finding a connection between two things hitherto unconnected. I’d write an informative yet interesting book as my doctoral thesis before moving on to my real love: historical fiction.
Well, grad school never materialized—but the historical fiction did. As I began rewriting my historical novel into two historical romances, I found myself needing to research once again, needing to heed the advice of my college history professor.
He was unusual, this professor, in that he didn’t poo-poo my dream of writing historical fiction. He only adjured me to write out of my knowledge of a time and place, not to fictionalize a famous event or person. I’ve never forgotten his advice or the time he took to give it to me.
So after a complete re-do of my first three chapters, I high-tailed it to the local university library. Back in my element. Back to years of research for college history classes. Eager to unearth the knowledge that would explain my characters, give them accuracy and motivation, and provide fodder for plot twists, I brought several books home with me. But I found myself wanting to stay in that place, to lose track of time while perusing entire shelves of interesting titles. I felt like a college student once again, the world wide open before me.
I still have some research left to do before I let myself become engrossed in my storyworld once more. But my storyworld will be so much richer for the time spent reading about the real thing. And since I love both aspects, it’s a win-win situation!