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Saturday, July 30, 2011

A BOOKWORM'S GUIDE TO RESEARCH

I'm a book geek and a research/writing book junkie. I know the latest can be found online but when I write fantasy romance set in the Dark Ages, books are just fine. I love curling up in a big chair with a book, I love the rustle and smell of paper. I grew up hearing, whenever I asked a question, to "look it up."
My kids HATE when I pull that on them...
So when I sat down to write Riever's Heart, Verdeen was my existing character from before. Daq Aryk was the unknown. So I started w/Spartans in Iceland. Researched Iceland, Glaciers & the Northern Lights online. Then I started grabbing books on Spartans and Vikings:
  • On Sparta by Plutarch
  • The Vikings in History by F.Donald Logan
  • The Vikings by Tony Allen
  • The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings by John Haywood
  • Warriors of the Dark Ages by Jennifer Laing
  • Weapons by Edwin Tunis
  • Oars Sails & Steam by Edwin Tunis
  • The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger
  • The Concise History of Costume & Fashion by James Laver

What crops would and would not grow there. What animals and birds might live there. What their homes and clothing and tools and weapons would be like. What life might be life with the seasonal darkness and how much importance they might place on those precious few months of sunlight.

A hard life. People focused on survival with no time for frivoloties like art and culture. A total shock for the rather sheltered Verdeen. She's a bookworm like me. Whenever she's faced with the unknown, she does what I do--she looks it up.

EXCERPT:

"What were you reading this time?" Verdeen heard the queen pick up the book
from the bedside table. "'The Art of Chivalry'? Ugh. This dates back to
Kiel Brightblade's reign. The fool who banned women from the military. Whyever
would you be reading this accursed tome?"

"I wanted to know why," Verdeen confessed. "I wanted to understand why he did
it."

"Always trying to find the answers in books. Not all tough questions have
simple answers. You can't always look it up."

"I know, but books are a good place to start."

"And did you receive your expected enlightenment?" Queen Dara's tone was
dry.

"Nay. All it did was make me angry. As if having breasts makes one incapable
of wielding a sword."

"Acourse not, which is why we revoked that particular edict."

"A lot of good that did me. Everyone's turned against me. My own family
didn't show. The war mares rejected me..." Verdeen's voice trailed off.

Of course, in the case of Aryk and Isadorykja, the books prove useless as the public preconceptions turn out to be largely inaccurate. Sometimes, nothing beats hands-on research!

RIEVER'S HEART, Book 5 in the Guardians of Light series, is available 9/27/11 from Samhain Publishing.

http://www.reneewildes.net

http://www.reneewildes1.wordpress.com

11 comments:

Mara said...

I know it must take an incredible amount of time, but I love when authors do a lot research about a time period even if it exists in another world. Cool stuff. I also love stories with Vikings, Dark Ages, etc. Wouldn;t have wanted to live back then for anything, but I love reading about it!

Mara
marajbrandon AT earthlink DOT net

Renee Wildes said...

Most people only see the lawless brutality of the period, but it was a time of small villages. All about kin & clan. It took a tremendous amount of personal strength to live back then. Each person had to live by their own personal code of honor.

You might like checking out Riever's Heart and seeing the end result of all that research!

Anna said...

Thanks for the glimpse into your research.

Renee Wildes said...

Hi Anna!

I was always THAT kid in school who over-reasearched & ALWAYS did the extra credit. Most stuff we discover never makes it into the books. (Go figure.)

It's a juggling act/guessing game between "just enough" and "too much."

Mara said...

I'm definitely going to check your book.
Thanks!

Mara
marajbrandon AT earthlink DOT net

Robin said...

I love how your research brings the world to life and teaches me things too! Thanks for all your efforts!

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com

Renee Wildes said...

Hi Robin!

It's fun to learn about new stuff - one of the perks of this job. I couldn't tell you how to do modern math (I'm useless at helping kids with homework) but cataoult trajectories and 10th century blacksmithing and I'm your girl!

Stacie said...

I think researching a book would be so much fun. It is probably time consuming too.

User1123 AT comcast DOT net

Renee Wildes said...

Hi Stacie!

It is time consuming but you learn so many COOL things! It's almost sad when you have to stop and start writing. What kills me is when you find out something really odd that you think is facinating--but can't make it fit anywhere in the story!

I'd ROCK on Jeopardy, tho'!

Na said...

Research is fun fo me and I really enjoy books that are well-researched. I think it's especially important in science-fiction and historical genres because these facts will help build the world. Of course with fiction it doesn't have to be true but I think the research will help make the story stronger.

Renee Wildes said...

With fantasy fiction you make everything up, but it has to have a certain amount of "real" thrown in there for the sake of concreteness and consistency. Have to se able to keep it all straight, especially where you're dealing with the span of a series.

I'm working with another fantasy author on a proposal for Savvy Authors on World-Building...