The somewhat reluctant researcher

By day (and sometimes by evening), I’m a librarian.  I know, huge surprise – a writer and reader who is also a librarian.  So that’s my day job.  When I was contemplating library school, I had lunch with a librarian friend of mine.  He said that while library school had its ups and downs, he loves being a librarian because he learns something new every day.

(I love it because of all the conference swag and the fact that no one seems to know what to say when I tell them I’m a librarian.)

One of the things I appreciated about writing my first novel, Stone’s Throw into the Deep, was that I didn’t have to do much research.  I didn’t have to worry about misrepresenting life in a certain time period because life in the world of my fantasy novel is whatever I say it is.  I love doing research – and I’m good at it – but it was enough to figure out how to write a novel without having to add in a whole bunch of research.

My second novel, which is currently in rough draft form, turned into a contemporary novel with a strong historic overlay.  The third novel, which is just a vague flicker in the back of my mind, is shaping up to be a squarely historical novel.  (So is the fourth.) I confess to feelings of hesitation and reserve.   Can I fairly represent a time period without being paralyzed by it?  Can I devote necessary time to the necessary historical research?  Will I have access to the information I need?  And why am I not writing historical novels set in Barbados?  (Mainly I ask this when it’s snowing, so pretty much all the time lately.)

I’m not the first author to contemplate this, nor will I be the last.  I’m actually at the place where I need to research more what others are saying on this topic, like this excellent post by Susanna Calkins on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Look forward to future posts detailing my scouring of the internet and my adventures in archives and libraries.  Good thing I have a degree in research!

2 thoughts on “The somewhat reluctant researcher

  1. Hey thanks for the nice comment! Good luck with your writing! And try not to be paralyzed by the research! I know it may seem daunting. It’s hard to know whether this would be helpful or not, but perhaps get a simple textbook from a time period you are interested in exploring. That way you can get manageable information about big picture issues (social, political, gender) and then you could start to narrow down from there. Good luck!

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    • Thank you for the original post – and for taking the time to comment here! The textbook idea is great, as is your suggestion in your column to consult some good reference works. I’m reminding myself that it’s like when I work with students at the library reference desk and they want super specific articles about a topic they know nothing about. In those cases, it is almost always reference books to the rescue for that great overview and orientation. Looking forward to reading your book – I just added it to my to be read pile.

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