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 imporant 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.
Most of my characters are a combination of people I’ve read about in my research or just come up with out of my imagination. Sometimes, when I read a biography, that person becomes an inspiration for a character. In A Refuge at Highland Hall, the hero, Alex Goodwin, is inspired by Rex Warnford, a brave and daring British pilot who was the first one to knock a German zeppelin out of the sky. I took bits and pieces of Rex’s life to create Alex, but Alex is more fiction than fact. Here’s a video about Rex Warnford.
I’ve traveled to England twice to research The Edwardian Brides’ Series. My husband Scott traveled with me on the first trip in 2012. We had an amazing time when we visited the Oxford area, including Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed, The Cotswolds, and the Peak District. That was a great foundation for writing The Governess of Highland Hall and The Daughter of Highland Hall.
My friend and fellow-author, Cathy Gohlke, traveled with me on the second research trip in 2014. We visited Tyntesfield near Bristol, which is the inspiration for the setting of Highland Hall, and the beautiful Lake District.
2014 Visit to Tyntesfield – Highland Hall
2012 Research Trip to England