Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Place of Confidence

I've always loved eighteenth century history. When I was in elementary school, that time period seemed so romantic with its pioneering spirit, elegant balls, travel by carriage, and tea parties staged to quench the thirst for freedom.

Before I wrote Whisper Falls, I researched that period of history for six years, visiting historical sites and reading historical tomes.  Along the way, I discovered just how brutal, frightening, and uncivilized that Colonial and Post-Revolutionary America could be. Reality only intensified my curiosity. What mindset did it take for the upper classes to not see the human beings who served them? How must it feel to believe in an ideal so fiercely that the possibility of forfeiting life, family, or fortune was deemed worth the sacrifice?

By the time I began writing Whisper Falls, I had saturated myself with learning about the people of the 1790s. I'd collected reams of data on their clothing, daily life, food, religion, and jobs. The quest for information continued as I wrote. Susanna (the heroine) was an eighteenth-century indentured servant. Mark (the hero) was a modern-day mountain bike racer.  I am neither, so I had to research both. Two luxurious years elapsed between writing the first-word and making the first-sale.

For the sequel, I've had to compress the schedule dramatically.  A Whisper in Time1 must be written and researched in nine months.

In the historical part of the second book, even though a new century has dawned, I assumed that my previous research still held.  Wrong. America evolved a great deal during the ten-year span between 1795 and 1805.  Politics, fashion, architecture, attitudes—all were changing. 

In modern-day part of the sequel, I gave my protagonist an obstacle that involves Federal laws with little precedent, a government official of little imagination, and the thin line between truth and fact.  The protagonist's struggle to wade through the maze of regulations and governing bodies became my struggle.  The process of discovery nearly crippled me.

I hit the jackpot late last night. After weeks of battling websites and dense content, I finally connected the dots and figured out how the system works.  Not surprisingly, it is boring, time-consuming, and often stupid. But it is possible to navigate.

For an author, knowing the system allows me to alter it. Poetic license is possible now that I understand.

The book has resumed writing itself. Once I've done the research—once I have complete access to the facts—only then I am free to write from a place of confidence.
1 A Whisper In Time is the working title for book two of the Whisper Falls trilogy.

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