Since I’m out and about promoting A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, I’m reposting some of my favorite pieces from previous years. This is a reader question from Aimee Celeste originally posted in August 2014.
You do a lot of great research for your novels. What are your favorite resources for historical details, particularly in the time periods you write in?
I have a wide variety of sources, and I’m not remotely snobbish about where I start. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia and children’s books. With Wikipedia, I go straight to the bottom where the sources are linked. Following those can take you to websites you might never have found on your own. I have prowled through parliamentary archives, period newspapers, art museums, and stately homes without ever leaving my study.
With children’s books, I can get a quick overview of a foreign country including agriculture and industry, history, topography, and demographics, giving me a quick shortcut to which areas need focused attention. I also follow archives and museums on Twitter to keep up with their latest exhibits, and museum curators often keep blogs full of arcane information. My favorite books for research are memoirs and journals kept by people who lived in my setting during the time period I’ve chosen–especially if they were children at the time. Children retain lots of detail in their memories, the sort of detail that can flesh a novel out beautifully. I also read cookbooks and natural history books to get a good sense of what people ate and what animals and plants were around. And I keep an eye out for information about fashion, transportation, sports, music, etc. just to add extra depth.
Finally, if there’s an author who writes great nonfiction about a given time period, I find them on Twitter or check out their blogs for even more goodies!