Thanks so much for having me here today, Delilah.
Hi, my name is Min Edwards. Actually, it’s Pam Headrick, but I write under a nom de plume for several reasons. The most important one though is that I want to separate my author persona from my business persona. As Pam Headrick I’m a book designer, A Thirsty Mind Publishing and Book Design, and have been for almost seven years. I’ve been a Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense author for almost three years now although I’ve crafted stories my whole life… I called them daydreams.
Today I want to talk for a bit about research goals and processes for fiction as opposed to non-fiction academic writing.
During my archaeology career, I wrote non-fiction or technical reports heavy with citations and footnotes. Now I’ve just completed my first historical novel and realized that the way I approach research for novels is not the same as picking out tidbits of knowledge and quotes for a non-fiction article. I thought you all might be interested in the differences.
First, non-fiction research for the most part is from primary sources; from the original publication where the quotes and facts initially were established. Occasionally I used secondary sources or second-hand references (think Wikipedia, but more academic). But when I wanted information about an archaeological site or materials recovered from it, the best possible data came from the initial site logs or subsequent research by the professionals who were actually on-site at the time of the excavation. Of course, if the excavation took place a century or more in the past quite often the information came from professionals decades or more later who re-examined the recovered artifacts or cited the original source material which either no longer existed or was in a language other than English. An example, although from a different discipline—paleontology, is the marvelous book, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephan Jay Gould. Dr. Gould re-examined fossils from the Burgess Shale site in northern Canada many decades after its discovery and using the newest technology uncovered a surprising interpretation of the ancient life those fossils represented.
Second, non-fiction writing and specifically academic writing, not only uses a bibliography to show the reader where more information can be found (although you have to almost be a scholar to track down some of it because it’s buried in dungeon-like university library stacks or was when I was actively researching), but also uses citations, numbered and carefully conforming to academic styles. I recall the stress of not so much writing my undergraduate and graduate papers and master’s thesis, but the layout of the pages to conform to these academic styles… and most of this before the age of computers. Think about this… adding all those in-line citation numbers referring to the list of citations at the end of the paper, but also the placement of footnotes! I used a lot of ‘white-out’… do any of you remember that stuff?
Third, the information in these citations and footnotes had to be exact in style as well as content, particularly with academic writings. You could use short quotes as well as the rephrasing of information, but you did it all according to the Chicago Manual of Style and in the case of archaeological articles and monographs, the SAA Style Guide (Society for American Archaeology). Being accused of plagiarizing was the kiss of death to an academic career, and woe to you if you spelled an archaeologist’s name wrong or used incorrect academic affiliations.
In the first novels I wrote, it was a relief not to be bound by these strict conventions. The research I used was minimal because those stories used places and situations that were familiar to me. Of course, I had to research weapons, local government make up, and in some novels, I referred to maps so that my locations were factual. But all in all, I had a free rein and it didn’t take long to complete each book.
But now I’ve delved into a new realm… the historical novel. And serious research. Of course, for the most part I use the internet for my sources because my tiny local library is just that… a local village library. There is a university library in our county seat but that’s more than 30 miles away and it’s now winter and I stay off narrow Rt. 1 that leads me there. Thank goodness, I don’t actually have to put citations in my novels because what I’m going after in my research now is trivia. Little tidbits of information to liven up my story. If an historical character was a smoker, in a novel he doesn’t have to be. My choice.
The Russian Phoenix is the title I’m working on now. The time, 1913 during the Romanov Jubilee year (500 years of Romanov rule… and there’s some trivia attached to that as well). It was a turbulent time in Russia and my story revolves around a girl who’s fallen on hard times but is rescued by the Tsarina, a distant cousin, who takes her and her mother into the Alexander Palace near St. Petersburg to live with her, Tsar Nicholas II and the royal children. I have maps of the time period in Russia bookmarked on the computer, biographies of the Romanovs, articles on guns and vehicles of the time period, little wars and conflicts in Russia at the time, the building strain between the upper class and the workers which of course lead to the Red Army vs the White Army and the murder of the royal family in 1918. All these little bits of information I’m inserting within the text while telling the story of Natasha, a young woman not yet used to nor completely understanding the excesses and politics of the time.
The research is color, building conflict, a view of a crumbling society and status in the first part of the story and as Natasha leaves Russia behind it sets the stage for World War I, the world-wide influenza pandemic and her eventual emigration to America. Trivialities while I build characters, insert evil intentions, find romance—then the death of romance, and the final rise from the ashes of a girl becoming a strong woman. A Phoenix.
I wish this novel was in its final stages and I could show you cover art but that won’t come until sometime in April. Today I want you to see the sequel to this story. Precious Stone available now at Amazon as well as iBooks, B&N, Kobo and other outlets. I know it looks like I have this sequence backwards, sequel before prequel, but trust me, it works. And I’ve had so much fun delving into research now that I don’t have to worry about strict adherence to the factual past and can pick and choose what I say about my historic characters and situations… tweaking the past into a story I want to tell, because, hey, it’s fiction after all.
A gift of thanks to a young girl from the Tsar more than 100 years ago… and now the Russians want it back.
Collee McCullough, the owner of The Bakery in Stone Bay, Maine, has a perfect life until early one morning men in suits come calling. She has something someone dangerous wants. Something that her Russian great-grandmother, Natasha took when she fled Russia in 1913. Too bad Buka never told her son or anyone else what she had or where she left it.
Jake Elsmore, visiting Stone Bay to sell his mother’s house, walks into The Bakery for a cup of Earl Grey tea, but gets more. There she is. Collee McCullough, stepping out from behind the Chief of Police, a lovely, fiery-haired fairy toting a shotgun while two men lie insensate on the floor of her shop. Looks like that tea will have to wait.
About Min Edwards
I wear many hats… author, book designer, archaeologist, and citizen of the edge of America… Lubec, Maine, the most eastern town in the U.S. I’m a life-long reader, but I don’t chain myself to only one genre. I love, almost equally, romance, suspense, thrillers, sci-fi. And if a book takes me someplace I’ve never been with a story that makes my heart beat with excitement, then I consider that an excellent book. I strive for the same excellence in my own stories.
My first novel, STONE BAY, a Contemporary Romance, was published in March of 2014. It was followed by a new Romantic Suspense series, Hide Tide Suspense, bringing danger to the small village of Stone Bay, Maine. Out now in the series are STONE COLD, STONE HEART, STONE FALL and PRECIOUS STONE. Finally for the conclusion of the series, THE RUSSIAN PHOENIX, a women’s fiction historical and the prequel to PRECIOUS STONE is coming soon. These books can be found on my Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2bHJ1kb.
You may also find all of my published books at sites such as iBooks, B&N and Kobo through Books2Read.com.
Stone Bay: https://books2read.com/u/bw8gDG
Stone Cold: https://books2read.com/u/49x5y8
Stone Heart: https://books2read.com/u/b6QP9J
Stone Fall: https://books2read.com/u/mgK8V6
Precious Stone: https://www.books2read.com/u/bP1Gk7
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