Friday, January 29, 2016

Historical Fiction: Researching Your Novel Successfully by Sara R. Turnquist

Hello, this is Sara R. Turnquist. I fight dragons off when they scare my daughter, I mop up milk
messes when my little boy spills his cup, and I dry many, many tears throughout the day. To top it all of, I write Historical Fiction. I know Hannah has a passion for history, so she can relate to my own heartbeat after this genre. Today, I want to delve into some of the pieces that make Historical Fiction unique among other genres.

RESEARCH. Writing may be a bear, but writing historical fiction is a whole different animal. Not that it’s more difficult, just different. All writing requires research. But, as you can imagine, the research for historical fiction is on another level. Not only do you have to dig into the settings, for example, you have to find out what it was like during the time period you are writing in. That can be tricky. Is that information even available? Thanks to the internet, there is more information at your fingertips, but there are many, many rabbit trails awaiting you. And a lot of false information out there. Contrary to popular belief, not everything on the internet is true :). So, you are researching setting, weather/seasons, along with facts and events. But, again, you must be careful what resources you use. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on that information. Look at their references at the bottom of the page and utilize those sources. They are likely better places to get the ball rolling on your research.

Author Sara R. Turnquist
REMEMBER IT’S STILL ABOUT YOUR STORY. Now that you’ve got your research under your belt, how do you weave it into your story? The historical information should support your story, not the other way around. Your story is the reason people are reading your book. If they wanted to learn about the Ptolemaic Period in Egypt, for example, they would probably seek out a textbook. But they are more interested in your characters and the challenges they are facing, their plight. The twists and turns that you, the author, have waiting for them. So, stay true to your story. Let the research guide you and inspire you, yes, but not to the point where it becomes overbearing in your story. Again, weave the details into your story. You want to be as historically accurate as you can be, but do not lose sight of that spark, the initial nugget, the gem that started you on this journey – your original idea.

IT’S ABOUT REAL LIFE. The other thing about Historical Fiction that I find is unique (and I might be overstepping here) is that these happenings that you discover along the way are real. These things occurred. Real people suffered and died. For me, it pulls at my heartstrings and can make it challenging to write sometimes. Because I want to respect those who endured such hardships and be responsible with the information. One of my works in progress is about the Trail of Tears, for example. What a struggle it has been to write about the atrocities the Cherokee faced! But their story needs to be told. For so many reasons.
I truly could go on and on. My novel that just came out, “The General’s Wife” takes place during a
period in history that holds particular fascination for me – the Ptolemaic Period in ancient Egypt. That is the backdrop and the support for the story of a young woman torn from her home and her first love, an arranged marriage, a journey of self-discovery, and this woman’s strength of spirit against those who would despise and resist her very presence among them.

Was there a lot of research? You bet. Was it a dance between information and story? Yes. Were there times it was harder to write? Well, in a sense, yes. Not the same as for the Trail of Tears novel. Capturing the combat aspects of “The General’s Wife” was challenging because I don’t have the military experience that Hannah does :). Yet, as any other writer, I strove to hone my craft through the process. That is what it’s all about.
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The Fun Continues as We Chat a Bit More with Sara!

As a parent, I know it can be hard to find and make that time to write. So how do you do it? Do you have a favorite time of the day to write? 

Sara:  I schedule my writing time around my kiddos. When they are in “quiet time” (thank you, Jesus!) or when they’re at preschool/school.

Also as a parent...well, sometimes the messes to clean up and organize are endless! Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? (ie I can’t stand to fold socks. Supreme Torture!) 

Sara:Ugh! The dishes!

As a fellow writer, I think we can both agree that storylines of different genres kind of float around in our heads. If were to switch writing genres, which one would you choose to write your next novel? 

Sara: Maybe Science Fiction?

Before we go, let’s play a game of Sara's Favorites!

Favorite Dessert: pie
Favorite Restaurant: Liberty Park Grille
Favorite Branch of the Military (I won’t judge you if say anything other than Army, lol ) : Marines
Favorite Genre of Music: Christian
Favorite Subject in School: Drama

Sara, thanks for being a guest with us today and for providing EXCELLENT information on researching material that can be applied to many genres. THANK YOU! :) 

Readers, enter to win an e-copy of Sara's latest novel, 
"The General's Wife" below:  

Twitter:  @sarat1701


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the interview. The book sounds like a good one and I would love to win a copy.