Writing Historicals

I was an average student.  I received a D in reading in sixth grade.  I’m still a slow reader.  History wasn’t my favorite subject until I was introduced to historical fiction by my mother-in-law, Edith.  After that, I was hooked, not just on fiction, but on facts and details. 

First, I was fascinated by California history. All but three novels in my B.C. years were historical romances set in California between 1840 – 1880.  Hence, upon becoming a Christian and having God nudge me to write again, I set Redeeming Love in California during the Gold Rush. 

A Voice in the Wind fit better in ancient times.  Struggling through the question of where the courage comes from to testify for Christ, I needed another setting.  Jerusalem, Rome, and Ephesus seemed the best places.  Christian martyrs died in these cities and the times were dramatic.

The trouble with writing historicals is a writer can get caught up and fascinated by the research.  I wanted to keep reading and forget about writing.  Rick, my husband who was a history major at Cal, taught me to go back to the earliest works, and reading Josephus and Philo and Pliny the Elder and Caesar and the Gauls was a lot more interesting and fun than buckling down to write a novel about a fictional character.  But then, things shift and all that history helps to create a character that feels real, who begins to breathe and have a heart beat and starts whispering in my ear.  Sometimes, when I’m still going about my self-designed procrastination (more research), the character/person shouts.

Since I have an average mind, I make binders with information.  I hand-write a lot of my notes because writing the information out helps it to stick a little better in my Teflon brain. 

The most interesting research I do is study Scripture, but that is on-going, every day, sometimes (when I’m not writing a book) all day.  Most of the time it has nothing to do with the current WIP and all about the question:  “Lord, how then shall I live this life You’ve given me?”  Each day, each circumstance requires instruction and encouragement, comfort or caution.