Writing is hard work for a writer, but I find research totally absorbing – almost too much so. It’s very easy for me to trip from fact to fact, often ending up with an entirely different set of information than I set out to unearth. Suddenly the day’s over and my time’s run out for the writing I planned to do that morning!
There are times when I think information in the 21st Century is like a plague of words. We just can’t get away from them and it can be difficult to be selective when there’s so much tantalising stuff to distract from our core purpose. Key a few words into any online search engine and you’re likely to be confronted with hundreds of research choices.
But authenticity is important to me and I employ various methods of research. One of my key resources for researching the Regency period is ‘Georgette Heyer’s Regency World’ by Jennifer Kloester. I had the pleasure of listening to Jennifer speak at the 2017 RWNZ conference. Most of Georgette Heyer’s novels are as familiar to me as the nursery rhymes I learnt as a child.
I use both extensively and generally like to verify facts through several sources, particularly if I’ve discovered the information online. I’m a keen reader, frequently visiting our excellent library and making good use of book fairs, markets and second-hand book stores as well as downloading Kindle books I’m likely to use more than once. I Iove reading magazines and picture books and have found these are the most effective resources when I’m researching places like gardens, woodlands and historic homes.
Despite the care I take when researching, I do get things wrong from time to time and here’s where my Beta Readers fill the gap! I’m fortunate to live near talented author Poppy Mann who is a history buff and has studied art history and the history of fashion design. Poppy has enlightened me more than once when I’ve got my facts wrong – once I had the wrong queen married to the right king!
Jen Yates writes fantastic sexy Regency Romance and her contribution to my research has been so helpful. My English friend Vicky hones in on expressions or facts that might be out of kilter in the English setting of my Regencies.
I’ve been fortunate to visit some historic places in England and this has allowed me to grasp the antiquity and the scale of the spaces inhabited by people in that world. Visits to museums and art galleries add to my store of knowledge, as do period television dramas and movies set in that era.
There are infinite aspects to research, for example: clothing, speech, food, housing, transport, landscape and the natural world; shopping, diseases, health, medicines and treatment, keeping a household or conveying messages. These must then be broken down into the components needed for a particular piece of work: how long might it take to travel from A to B – by ship, carriage (what kind of ship or carriage); cart, horse or foot; fabrics (no denim or zips in those days!) and protocol among and within various layers of society.
Research can’t be restricted only to the Regency period; like all of us, the characters who people my books had parents, grandparents, ancestors and events that influence their lives. And there are many more details to be considered, used or discarded – so easy to spend far too much time on research and too little on writing!
Excellent article, Leigh. And I take my hat to you gals that do all that research for your regency novels.
Thanks so much GeeA. Luckily, I love the research!