Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Really Get Into Your Time and Setting

I'm working on the second book in the three-book series McKenna's Daughters.

Maggie's Journey,  book one, is set in Seattle, Washington Territory, in 1885. I knew the story of the characters, but I wanted more information about Seattle in that time period. I'd been looking for books and online sites I could trust, and I wasn't finding much. So I was feeling as though I were writing in a cave, with no sense of the setting.

I'm a real people person. I love to interact with them. When I became a professional writer, I worked at home. . .alone. So I started volunteering at the local public library. I learned about books and library services.

I hadn't thought in a while about all the wonderful things a library provides. So I looked up the Seattle Public Library on the Internet. I searched the site until I found the Research link. I sent an email asking for help. All I asked for was possible titles of books and maybe a few links. I wasn't asking the research associate to do the work for me.

I hit the jackpot!!

What I received back was a list of links and the actual text of one out-of-print book. The book covered Seattle by decade. I printed up only the pages I needed. And one of the links led me to a gold mine of pictures. The Seattle library had scanned literally thousands of historical photos, and they had them listed by decade, too. The file containing the photo also had information on everything in the picture--the buildings, the people, the streets, the date taken, and the photographer, if known.

I was able to print up as many of the pages as I needed to give me a feel for the place. I had a lot to use in my book, including the street names, what they looked like, what businesses or homes were there. And a multitude of other information.

When the book comes out, I'm going to donate a copy to the Seattle Public Library in thanks for all the help I was given by this research associate.

When Maggie's Journey releases October 4, you'll be able to walk with me on Commercial street, or go to Pinkham's variety store. You'll meet the people who live on Beacon Hill and a doctor who practices at Providence Hospital, as well as a young man who graduated from Territorial University.

In the meantime, check out Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, my book that released last May. You'll go from Boston to Golden, New Mexico, by way of Los Cerrillos. And you'll meet gold miners, and a preacher and his wife who run the hotel. Oh, yes, there's also a strange love triangle that needs straightening out.

What makes a historical novel most interesting to you?


Beth Shriver said...

I love historical fiction stories. Not only if it's a great story but ones that make you really feel that you're there and learn something from the experience. With all of the research that you do I'm sure that's what brings readers back for more:)

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thanks, Beth. That's what many of them tell me.

Jillian Kent said...

Love historicals. I love the characters most of all. But I consider setting character. :) I can immmerse myself into a character and imagine what they are seeing and hearing in that time via all that fun and sometimes not so fun research.

Can't wait to read Maggie's Journey.