The devil’s in the details, or so they say. By details, I mean the background, the texture of the life that your characters are living. There seems to be two camps of opinion on how much history actually needs to be in a historical romance. One camp seems to feel that you can never have too much research and uses the term “wallpaper” as an insult. As for the other camp . . . well, obviously someone is writing and reading all these wallpaper historical romances, right? 🙂
I would say I’m right between these warring camps. (Meaning I’ll get shot first, right?) I do want to be transported to the time and era that a book is set in, as part of a satisfying reading experience. But I’m also of the opinion that if I wanted a lot of history, I’d read a history book (which I do quite a bit for fun).
So what kind of research am I doing for my California historical set in the San Jacinto mountains?
I’m living my life out here in the country. I grew up in the shadow of these mountains and I now live in their foothills. I note all the plant life around here and their growing seasons, seeing exactly what my characters would be seeing. I look and listen for birds and wildlife, the animals that I encounter everyday, since my characters would be seeing them everyday too.
The country out here is beautiful, teeming with all kinds of birds, animals, and plants. I see quail, hawks, vultures, and rabbits everyday. I see signs of snakes, but no actual snakes most of the time (thank god). And as I see all this natural beauty around me, I make myself come up with descriptions of it all, descriptions that I can use to make my characters’ world real to the reader.
I tell myself its a way of writing even when I’m not actually writing.