Jacqueline Seewald, has taught creative, expository, and technical writing at Rutgers University as well as high school English. She also worked as both an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Twenty of her books of fiction have been published including books for adults, teens, and children. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications. Learn more about Jacqueline and her books at her website.
Romance and Research
You’ll notice that a lot of romance writers set their novels in places they either live in or have lived in. This may seem provincial, but in fact, it makes for good writing. If writers know a place well, they can create a realistic setting, an intriguing background for their novels. Setting is one of the important components of any piece of fiction.
But what about writing historical romance, writing about times and people long ago?
The answer here is that writers need to do extensive research. The fact is every novel requires a certain amount of research, some more than others. I believe the best novels combine elements of what we actually know with research into what we need to find out. I’m no fan of info dumping in fiction, but writers need to read and discover a lot more information than they will actually use in their novels before they begin writing.
In my latest historical romance, Sinful Seduction, I’ve tried to seamlessly incorporate the culture and history of the turbulent, passionate period of American Revolutionary War history into my novel. The characters represent the viewpoints and prejudices of those times.
A good way to find out about a particular period in time is to find available reference books at the local library on the period. Reference librarians can provide helpful input. We examine time lines first. What important events were happening in the world, in that particular country and in the geographic area, historical as well as political? How did people dress? What did they eat? What were their general beliefs? How were women treated? The library catalog also allows readers and writers to locate appropriate books that can be borrowed.
One historical novel author suggests writing the book first and then researching the areas that need filling in. But I prefer immersing myself in an historical period and setting before starting to write. It’s true there will always be some essential information that requires further research. However, that should be part of the revision process.
In Sinful Seduction, I wrote about people in New Jersey because I was born, raised, and have lived my life in this state. I am fascinated by NJ history during the American Revolution, since my state has been described as the cockpit of the Revolution.
Finally, there’s a lot of satisfaction in both reading and writing well-researched historical fiction.
Anne McIntyre, a schoolmistress in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey at the outset of the American Revolution, is serious-minded, intelligent, and patriotic. Anne supports her sister in her marital problems and helps the ironmaster’s widow manage a difficult situation with her daughter.
Peter Kensington should have been an earl, but thanks to the duplicity of his younger brother and his own reckless nature, he has ended up an officer in the colonial war. Spying is alien to his gentlemanly code. Yet he must do exactly that. Anne is suspicious of him from the first but as passionately attracted to him as he is to her.