Writing historical fiction means doing a ton of research. I find historical facts, places, and events against which to set my fictional story.
My 2015 novel, LIKE A RIVER, is a Civil War story with a few elements the average reader might not know about. It’s also a story about hardship. And triumph. And people.
My research included stops in six states. I visited dozens of intriguing sites and met numerous helpful people. I learned to load and fire a muzzleloader. I talked to experts and read stacks and stacks of books. I learned a lot of facts.
There were “ah ha!” moments that helped mold my story line. And interesting facts that gave me a new perspective on lives lived 150 years ago.
Many of them will not be in the novel. Some of them were things I needed to learn to get a feel for the place and time I was writing about.
My new novel, EMPTY PLACES, is about a coal miner’s family during the Great Depression, more than eighty years ago. The story all takes place in one state—Kentucky. But I did research in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, as well as Kentucky. I saw old coke ovens and coal mine equipment in Tennessee. I visited a restored coal mine village in Pennsylvania, and saw an old moonshine still in its museum. In Michigan, I drove a 1928 Model A Ford.
The hands-on research is the most fun, but I also love reading about different time periods to see how different—and sometimes how alike—they are compared to today. And again, I wrote a story of hardship, triumph, and people.