On the Time-Consuming Quest of Research

The Lady is Tempted was intended to be more simpler, lighter, and less fraught with anachronistic mishaps than my WWI romances, yet I find myself dragged into the morass of research!

At the moment, I’m knee-deep in researching art and art criticism of the 1880s-1900s, and I am dizzy with all that I did not know! I’ve discovered a multitude of art journals, women art critics, art movements peculiar to England, and a host of competing galleries and cliques outside of the Royal Academy. Simmering on the backburner is research on girls’ schools (I am constructing my fictional school from a number of real life schools), the publishing industry (my hero, Hallam, owns a book publishing company), women chemists and English chemical societies, and the London theatre world. On top of this I have to keep track of the status of women’s suffrage in 1904 (WSPU was founded in Manchester in 1903, but did not make a name for themselves until 1905!), train travel, the London Zoo, girls and women’s fashions, sports in girls schools, how art was taught, and politics!

Lest you feel overwhelmed reading all of this, I must admit that I wing it most of the time: I’ll bookmark some pertinent information and then read it when time comes for it to be used in a scene. Also, since The Lady is Tempted is part of a series, all of this research is pertinent for the other books. Phew!

Nevertheless, this reminds me of why historical romance tends to be “lighter” on the history than historical fiction. Most novelists in the latter genre are expected to write meaty tomes full of historical detail that may take a year or more to write, whereas in the former, the production schedule is usually a book due every six to nine months (and heaven forbid they schedule back-to-back releases!). Research for most is usually like an iceberg–the portion readers see is usually 1/10th of what we authors have conducted!–but it’s still time consuming to acquire, and I assume many writers still find new facts after they’ve completed their manuscript.

I personally don’t feel satisfied unless I’ve searched through every nook and cranny of my favorite research hubs (Google Books mostly, New York Times archives, academic texts, old magazines and newspapers, etc) for nuggets that will enhance the characterization and the plot, because I love the process of building a world around the romance. Perhaps my method might not work well with publishing schedules, but who knows. All I can say is that this works for me and is part of my evil genius plans to increase awareness of the hybrid genre between historical romance and historical fiction!

Author: Evangeline Holland

Evangeline is a public historian who brings her academic skills to fiction, in order to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Her love for history permeates just about everything she does, going so far as to "suffer" for this love--as the bruises and stuck fingers from fencing and sewing costumes to understand life in the past firsthand can attest.

1 thought on “On the Time-Consuming Quest of Research”

  1. Ah, the black hole of historical research…I’ve fallen into that one before. Just the other day I sent looking for something online–I can’t remember what–ended up finding a telephone directory from 1898 and spent an hour researching the history of the telephone before realizing there was no way I could shoehorn a telephone into my story.

    Here’s the link if anyone else has an hour they want to waste:
    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~npmelton/ctelindx.html

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