When writing historical fiction, writers face a unique dilemma. In my last post I wrote about a book I recently read and greatly enjoyed - The Physician. It is historical fiction, and one of the aspects I liked best about the book is the setting, and learning about a time in the distant past - what people ate, what they wore, how they celebrated. As in any work of historical fiction, the details are fictional. But in any good historical novel, the details are based in research.
Historical novelists must often do extensive research before they write. Several years ago, when I first began my own historical novel, I had just finished reading A Respectable Trade, by Philippa Gregory. It did for me what great books do - it made me laugh, cry and care. I was so moved that I wrote to Ms. Gregory, and told her how the book impacted me, and also asked her questions about how she did her research and what the writing process is like for a writer of historical fiction. This wonderful writer, who has sold millions of copies of her books, actually wrote back to me! She offered very helpful advice. She spends anywhere from 6 months to a year or two conducting research. Then she writes.