The amount of research I conduct for my novels varies considerably, but as an author of historical fiction, research is vital. As the History Quill puts it, “One of the trickiest aspects of writing historical fiction is doing all the research required to create an immersive, authentic historical world.”
Luckily, I love history, and I had an interest in the early 20th century, specifically World War I, since I was a teenager. This meant that when I began developing what would become the WWI trilogy, I already possessed a large amount of knowledge on the era.
During both the planning and rewrite phases, I conducted research using these four methods.
While documentaries on WWI aren’t as plentiful as those about World War II, I watched as many as I could find. I discovered documentaries detailing day-to-day life in the Victorian and Edwardian eras to be particularly helpful.
In addition, I watched many motion pictures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The films showing the interiors of homes and street scenes show what life was really like. I paid particular attention to fashion, and how traffic flowed in a day and age before traffic laws.
Photos, especially colorized ones, are helpful when visualizing everything from women’s fashion to the Victorian parlor to the battlefields of France.
I used internet resources dedicated to the war as well Edwardian life. Because my characters are Canadian and I am not, the Canadian Encyclopedia and the Canadian War Museum were websites I consulted often.
Having been an English major, I own multiple classic novels. Those set during the late 19th and early 20th centuries are good ways to learn how people spoke, especially in public, the rules of society and people’s daily concerns.
Nonfiction books were the bulk of my research. I read multiple books on the war, Canadian history and general history of the era, including catalogues and house plan.
Researching the 19th Century
For my upcoming novellas, Journey of Hope, Rose’s Assignment and The Unmarriable Kind, I used my Canadian history books for the bulk of my research. I also consulted internet resources.
The novellas are set in 1829, 1859 and 1884. There are no photos for 1829 and ones for 1859 are not plentiful. However, there are many for 1884. Etiquette rules for the early 20th century applied to 1884, but there were changes since the earlier eras.
I discovered the further back in time I went, the less plentiful were the resources, so I am very grateful for my Canadian history books.
Do you enjoy research? What is your favorite topic?