Getting the Details Right

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.

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