Another great meeting, thanks to a fine speaker and an enthusiastic audience. More than fifty people came to hear Jeri Westerson talk about how to do historical research. She also demonstrated several medieval weapons!
The topic of the meeting was Researching the Historical Novel, and Jeri was precise and scholarly as she described research strategies. Here are some of her tips from my notes of the day.
- Sometimes it’s useful to have a sensory experience. To illustrate this, Jeri laid out a number of intriguing items on a table and invited audience members to examine and describe them.
- On a larger scale, an author might visit a location to absorb sensory details, although locales can change over time.
- Property research. This can yield biographical details about the owners, construction dates, permits, etc. Before you go, make a list of what you need to know.
- Interview a person who has knowledge of the subject. Prepare questions, notes, thoughts ahead of time, and then be prepared to listen and not talk!
- The Internet. “A good place to begin, but not the end,” said Jeri, who warns of “research rapture” (falling down the rabbit hole as we follow leads). Also, that not all info is reliable. A good tip: at the end of Wikipedia, contributors list their sources in the bibliography of an article. This would be a great place to do your own research.
- Google Earth for visiting other parts of the world. Guild member Lynette Tucker also mentioned that GE is useful for seeing historic views of locales, even though they differ from that which we see at present.
- Jeri mentioned these useful websites for doing research:
- Experts.com Study up on your subject before asking questions. Show the expert you’re at least somewhat conversant on the topic; that you’ve done the work.
- The website of DPLyleMD.com because DP Lyle can tell you what happens to a body when (name your poison!) Jeri also suggested the book Forensics for Dummies by the same author.
I said that Jeri was precise and scholarly, but she’s wry and funny, too. She demonstrated the broadsword (“It’s not sharp”); dagger (the importance of a hilt: so you don’t cut off your own fingers); pigfaced helmet (“go ahead and try it on” – no takers); and gauntlet (“Listen to this!” -she rattles the glove – “You can’t sneak up on anybody!”) The high point was her description of how she researched using weaponry on flesh…well, you had to be there.
One of our audience members asked how important is it that research be accurate. Jeri said we have an unspoken contract with readers: if they’re reading historical fiction, they’re interested in history, so they’re expecting accuracy. She always includes an afterword in her books to explain where she may have taken artistic license with the facts.
Jeri was a hit, and after her talk, we all gathered around to visit with her and buy her books. I bought The Demon’s Parchment, and I can’t wait to read it.
One of the reasons we started the Guild was to learn about local authors. Jeri Westerson may have international reach, but it’s very cool that she is one of the Inland Empire’s own. Thanks to Guild member and Board Secretary Melissa Eiselein for suggesting Jeri as a speaker.
Jim Hitt brought a handout to the meeting: 33 Tips That Will Help You Stave Off Success and Fail as a Writer. Here’s the link. It’s funny and makes some good points. You can click and read or download and print.
Our July meeting will feature a conversation with Angie Martin. Angie is a bestselling and international award-winning author of paranormal and supernatural thrillers. She’s going to share tips for writing in her genres. She’ll also talk about the writing life and her writing process. We’re looking forward to meeting and learning from her..
That’s Saturday, July 22, 2017. All our meetings begin at 9:30 a.m. and are held at the Hemet Library on Latham Street.
This blog post was prepared by Lynne Spreen, President of the DVWG. Lynne writes midlife fiction, because she believes we learn and grown continuously throughout our lives. You may access her website here and her books here.