How did historical fiction authors ever produce credible and authentic stories more than 20 years ago? My book is going to take me months, probably years, to develop the characters and plot. I can’t imagine how much longer this journey would be if I had to go to a library and look up information about my opening setting, 1897 Philadelphia. Because I want to make my setting and actions by my characters feel real, weaving in tidbits like:
- electric trolleys were the the preferred mode of transportation
- “market brats” made free deliveries from the Reading Terminal Market to city residents
- Bram Stoker released Dracula
- which fraternities existed at UPenn — (Oh, new marketing idea – maybe the fraternity will want to host a reading when I publish!)
So how great is it that as I start writing a scene, I can switch screens and just Google information to fill in some blanks? I am also planning on first-hand research with a trip to Philadelphia in July for business and a couple of days tagged on to walk the streets and visit some period museums. Would have been so much easier when I lived in Philly for 3 years! Oh well. Timing is everything.
The other great way to research for historical fiction is by reading others’ work set in the same period. I had never heard the term “reticules” until I read it in Melanie Benjamin’s The Girls in the Picture: A Novel. Now that I know they are small handbags carried by women in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s, they fit in well to a scene describing some female articles. PS – The Girls in the Picture is a great read about the early film stars, Mary Pickford and others.
Stay tuned for the next early chapters of EPER Novel in Progress to see how all these tidbits fit into Eliza’s story.
And, a special shout out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin in founding Google and their mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” I couldn’t write this book without your visions and smarts!