Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Importance of Research When Writing Historical Romance

Research is very important when writing Historical Fiction. I had fun writing the Bear Lake Family Saga series because I was able to put some very interesting historical facts in each of my books. Some things I added were from history while others were experiences of my ancestors. I will list one historical fact from each book so you will understand what goes into my research.

In Melinda and the Wild West, I found that Butch Cassidy robbed the bank in Montpelier during the time period of my story, which takes place in 1896 at Paris, Idaho. I used every detail of the robbery in my novel. I found that Butch Cassidy referred to himself as the “Robin Hood of the West.” He actually wrote, “The best way to hurt them is through their pocket book. They will holler louder than if you cut off both legs. I steal their money just to hear them holler. Then I pass it out among those who really need it.”

Cassidy never acted without a well staked-out plan. That was why he never got caught. He had two partners in crime at the time of the Montpelier robbery. Meeks held the horses while Cassidy and Lay robbed the bank. When the robbing was done, Cassidy nonchalantly walked outside and climbed upon his horse. Then he rode out of town while Elsa Lay held a gun on the bank teller. Then Meeks followed shortly afterwards. No one took notice of Cassidy or Meeks. After a while, Elsa Lay walked out of the bank, hopped on his horse, and took off at high speed. All three got away without a problem. (Treasured Tidbits of Time, Bear Lake Historian Pat Wilde) Every year, Montpelier puts on a reenactment of the robbery for the public.

In Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, my heroine is a nurse. My great grandmother, Frances Davies, saved a man’s life who had been gored by a bull. When the doctor was away, the neighbors went to her. Every detail was recorded in her biography and I used it for my story.

One day a bull gored my great grandmother’s neighbor and she went to his aid. Finding that his abdomen was torn open, she washed away the blood and relocated the man’s protruding intestines. Then she sewed him up with a violin gut string that she had sterilized. Afterwards, Frances fixed a liniment of arnica burrs steeped in alcohol and then she applied some sterilized cloths to his wound, which was saturated with the liniment. When she was done, Frances wrapped a clean strip of cloth around his body to hold the bandages in place. Each day she washed his wound with carbolic water and applied fresh bandages. The man lived for over 20 years after his accident. I instantly knew that Edith had to have this experience as a young nurse in my story.

For the subplot of Jenny’s Dream, the community has to deal with a vicious grizzly bear that is roaming the mountains. In the history of the Rocky Mountains, there have been many bears that roam the mountains, but none so famous as Old Ephraim. He roamed the mountains from Soda Springs, Idaho to the Logan Utah Canyon from 1911 to 1923. They called him Old Ephraim or Old Three Toes, since he only had three toes on one foot. As a subplot to my story, I added the actions and deeds of this vicious grizzly. Old Ephraim measured at exactly nine feet and eleven inches tall, and weighed 1100 pounds.

As the subplot in Sarah’s Special Gift, I added the intriguing story of the Bear Lake Monster. The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of the Bear Lake history ever since the pioneers arrived in Paris, Idaho in 1863. Prominent leaders of the area encouraged the Native American legend because no one had a desire to move to the cold Bear Lake country. The valley was located at the tops of the Rocky Mountains and the winters were harsh.

The legend of the Bear Lake Monster made life a little more exciting for the pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen the monster and gave descriptions of it. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. Is it fact or fiction, legend or myth? It was fun to add accounts of those who claimed to have seen it into my story.

Elena Woman of Courage was such fun to research. I wanted Elena to be a doctor during the 1920s, so I had to do some research and find out if there were women doctors back then. I found that Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate with a doctor’s degree in 1868, and she opened a medical college for women where they could have the opportunity to get an education. Women were not allowed to attend a medical university until 1899. So how did Elizabeth get in?

She hounded them until the faculty gave in and admitted her as a joke. They figured she would fail miserably. But she fooled all the professors and graduated at the top of her class. After her graduation in 1849, she sadly found that no hospital would hire her because she was a woman. But this did not stop her. Elizabeth organized her own clinic in New York and helped many people.

Elena, Woman of Courage takes place during the roaring twenties when women stood up for their rights. They bobbed their hair, raised their hemlines, and wore long beads down to the waist. It was a new era for everyone, with new challenges. The new styles caused a lot of commotion. Women with bobbed hair were fired from their jobs without any warning. A preacher pounded the pulpit, saying that a “bobbed woman was a disgraced woman.

The language of the twenties was new. Parents were in the dark, wondering what their children were talking about. I will list just a few slang words I got from my research:

Ah, horsefeathers! - An expletive
Tomato - a woman
Bearcat - a fiery woman
Doll - an attractive woman
Cat’s pajamas! – How wonderful!
Chassis - a woman’s body
Gams - a woman’s legs
Goofy - in love
Hotsy-totsy - something pleasing
Moonstruck - acting in a dreamy, confused way; in love.
Spooning - kissing or talking about love
Bank’s closed – There’s no kissing tonight.
You slay me! - That was real funny!

This Book Trailer helps you to feel the mood and the Romance in this series.

Here are 5-minute AUDIO samples to listen to below.

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger: Edith is a nurse. When a mysterious stranger starts writing to Edith, she gets to know a man's inner soul before making any harsh judgments. Whoever he is, this man is a mystery but is he as wonderful in person as he is in his letters?

Jenny’s Dream: Jenny is an aspiring author. She has a dream to fulfill, but the only thing standing in her way is an unpleasant memory, which has haunted her since childhood. She must learn to forgive before she can follow her dream.

Sarah’s Special Gift: Sarah is a beautiful and successful dance teacher but she is not an average young woman. Sarah is deaf, but this does not stop her from living life to its fullest. And it does not stop her from falling in love with a man who needs her help.

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Leona Olson said...

Wonderful histories.

Colleen Reece said...

You are so right. Including actual historical events raises the interest and authenticity level of fiction to new heights. Great post, Linda1

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed your post on research. I enjoy history also and am glad you’re preserving it for future generations.