Every book takes research. Even memoirs might require the author to dig into the historical milieu of the era that shaped their views and customs. As a writer of historical fiction, I prefer hands on research—museums, re-enactments, and recreations of the times—followed by first-hand accounts of people living in that period. You can imagine my excitement when my editor agreed to a proposal highlighting one of the first women to climb Mt. Rainier. The gates of the national park are 45 minutes from my front door, and the riches of the Washington State Historical Society archives are 30 minutes in the other direction.
And none of that was available during the pandemic!
Every library was closed, every museum shuttered. Even the park closed for a time. What’s a writer to do?
Rely on the work of trusted others:
Google books and original sources. Anyone can put anything up on the internet, and I for one am thankful! Google has digitized a number of books spanning history, commerce, and the sciences. So have some universities. For example, the University of Michigan Library digitized the Illustrated Guide Book to Mount Tacoma, Piece County, Washington, which was published the exact month and year my heroine makes her historic climb. It included not only the route from Tacoma to Rainier (called Mt. Tacoma by some at that time), but where to stay along the way and which route to take to reach the summit safely. It also included a set of advertisements for local businesses offering to sell climbing gear, host visitors, and develop photographs. A goldmine!
Online collections. Likewise, many museums and universities have made photographs and photographic reproductions of their artifacts available online. I was able to find photographs of the major streets in my characters’ home city at the time the story was set. I was shocked to find them lined with telephone poles! When my production editor questioned the use of telephones in the story, I was able to prove they did indeed exist.
Tomes by recognized experts. If there is an obscure happening in history, someone somewhere has likely written about it. Digging deeper into scholarly works, I discovered a book on the financial Panic of 1893 and how it affected Washington State specifically. I also located a wealth of information on the Suffrage Movement in the Pacific Northwest.
Reference librarians. Though sometimes harder to find now, specialty librarians may be part of some library systems. I was thankful to reach one in at our State Library, who confirmed the location of a historical figure I wanted to use in the book. Another librarian was able to confirm that there were no suffrage societies in Tacoma at the time, so I was safe to create my own.
We live in a time of great wealth of information. Sometimes it just takes a little thinking outside the box to dig out that information and enrich your writing.
Award-winning author Regina Scott is the author of more than 50 works of warm, witty historical fiction including A Distance Too Grand and Nothing Short of Wondrous. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the
prestigious RT Book Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of
history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in
the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma,
Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her latest release, A View Most Glorious, features a headstrong beauty who must rely on a rough mountain guide to get her to the top of Mt. Rainier so she can bring attention to women’s suffrage and avoid marrying the man her mother chose. But her mountain man has hidden potential—and so, she discovers, does their future together.
You can find Regina online at
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