Readers often ask, “How do you find the ideas for your stories?” or “Are the people and events in your stories true?” For the answers to these questions and many more . . . join me for a look at how I do my research.
I’ve always enjoyed history and traveling, so doing research for my English historical novels is a lot of fun for me. I can easily get lost in a stack of books when I am plotting out a new story. I usually find the characters and the issues they face by doing my research, so it’s a very important part of bringing the story to life.
I begin by looking at the big picture to get general background information about that time period and location, then I focus in on the exact time, place, and social circles of my main characters. This is where I do my detailed research. I want to get to know my characters’ corner of the world so well that I can move around there in my imagination. I can picture my character walking down a street or sitting at a table and know exactly what the character would see, hear, feel, and smell. I want to research until the historical part of my novel becomes almost second nature and I can focus on the story.
In my latest No Ocean Too Wide and No Journey Too Far, I focused on the heart-wrenching child emigration scheme that took more than 100,000 poor and orphaned children from England to Canada from 1869 – 1939. I chose to tell this story through the experiences of the fictional McAlister family, but I wove in many actual accounts given by British Home Children. The idea for the story was sparked by a Facebook post from the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association Group. I joined that group and began reading about the children’s experiences and watching video interviews of the few who are still living. I knew I wanted to tell their story and make sure British Home Children were remembered and honored.
I read some wonderful books to give me background information for this story including, The Golden Bridge by Marjorie Kohli; Nation Builders – Barnardo Children in Canada by Gail H. Corbett; The Little Immigrants – The Orphans Who Came to Canada by Kenneth Bagnell; Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children by Rose McCormick Brandon; and Labouring Children- British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924 by Joy Parr. Pinterest and Google were also a great help to see images of the areas where the story is set and learn more about British Home Children. You can see the characters and setting on my Pinterest Board for No Ocean Too Wide by clicking this link.
I’ve traveled to England twice to research my novels set there. My husband Scott traveled with me on the first trip. We had an amazing time when we visited the Oxford area, including Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed, The Cotswolds, and the Peak District. That was a great foundation for writing The Edwardian Brides Series.
My friend and fellow author, Cathy Gohlke, traveled with me on the second research trip. We visited Tyntesfield near Bristol, which is the inspiration for the setting of Highland Hall, and the beautiful Lake District. I hope to travel to Northumberland where Shine Like the Dawn is set and also Kent where Across the Blue is set. No Ocean Too Wide and No Journey Too Far takes place in London, Liverpool, and Ontario, Canada. I’ve visited those places in the past, but I’d love to go again. Cathy and I both dream of returning to the Lake District where her novel, Until We Find Home, is set and where I’d also love to set a future story.
Scott and I recently visited Dr. Dobson at his new ministry headquarters in Colorado Springs. What a great experience to meet a man we both admire and respect so much. The visit came as a result of a blog interview I did a few months ago. I was asked, “Who is someone you’d like to meet?” I said, “I’d love to meet Dr. Dobson and thank him for the way he has blessed our family over the years.” A member of Dr. Dobson’s staff forwarded the blog to him. He then emailed me and invited us to visit him the next time we were in Colorado Springs. We spent about thirty minutes with him in his office talking about family, ministry, writing, and grandkids. It was a wonderful visit and a memory we will treasure!
Carrie enjoyed meeting some new friends when she spoke at Hopewell United Methodist Church in October 2009.
In September 2008 I traveled to Minneapolis, MN for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. Over 400 published and aspiring authors came together for three days of workshops, networking, worship, and appointments with editors and agents. ACFW also sponsored a huge book signing at the Mall of America with over 100 Christian fiction authors. I shared a table with fellow Love Inspired author, Missy Tippens, and we had a great time meeting people and talking about our books.
One of the highlights of the ACFW conference was the award banquet on Saturday night. I was especially excited to attend because my novella, Moonlight and Mistletoe in A Big Apple Christmas, was a finalist in the ACFW book of the Year Contest in the novella category. Sitting with my friend Cathy Gohlke helped calm my nerves and enjoy the evening.
After a delicious dinner, it was a thrill to see my book and photo go up on the big screen and then hear my name called as the second place winner.
I’m thankful for my editor Rebecca Germany and all the folks at Barbour who have given me the opportunity to publish several of my stories. It was a wonderful evening that boosted my confidence and motivated me to keep writing!
2007 ACFW Conference, Dallas, Texas
Carrie and her coauthor Vasthi Reyes Acosta enjoy meeting at the conference.
The coauthors of A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS at the book signing in Dallas. Carrie, Lynette Sowell, Vasthi Reyes Acosta, and Gail Sattler.
Carrie with Cindy Woodsmall, author of WHEN THE HEART CRIES and WHEN MORNING COMES.
Carrie with Beth White who first encouraged her to join ACFW. Beth writes romantic suspense. Her latest is OFF THE RECORD.
Terri Gillespie and Carrie at the Awards Banquet at the ACFW Conference. Terri is in the Philadelphia writers’ group with Carrie.
Margie Vawter was the freelance editor for KISS THE (COOK) BRIDE and a wonderful writing friend from Colorado.
Tiff Stockton with Carrie at the Barbour Author Dinner in Dallas. Tiff used to be in our Philly group but she married fellow ACFW member Stuart Stockton and moved to Colorado. Tiff has some new historical series coming out with Barbour soon.
The Vine Christian Bookstore, October 2006
Carrie, Mindy Starns Clark, Cathy Gohlke, and David Brollier—all members of the Philadelphia ACFW group take part in a book signing at The Vine Christian Bookstore in Springield, PA.
2006 ACFW Conference Book Signing
Linda Windsor, Vickie McDonough, and Carrie at the 2006 ACFW Conference book signing.
2006 ACFW Conference in Dallas, TX
Carrie with Rosemary Morton at the 2006 ACFW Conference in Dallas, Texas.
ICRS, Denver, CO, July 2006
Carrie and Margie Vawter (our freelance editor for Kiss the Bride) at Kim Sawyer’s book signing at ICRS in Denver, July 2006. Kim was signing her first book with Bethany House – WAITING FOR SUMMER’S RETURN.
May 2006 Book Signing at Lemstone Christian Bookstore in Warminster, PA
Carrie, Gayle Roper, and Mindy Starns Clark at our May 13th book signing at Lemstone Christian Bookstore in Warminster, PA.
Carrie with Philly ACFW friends Terri Gillespie, Gayle Roper, Tiff Miller, and Mindy Starns Clark at the May 13th book signing.
ACFW National Conference Nashville, TN, September 2005
Author Debra Raney and Carrie at the ACFW National Conference in Nashville.