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Posted September 24, 2011
MAKE THEM THINK YOU'VE BEEN THERE -- PART I
Guest Blogger - Jennifer Hudson Taylor
I've lost count of the number of people who have read my Scottish historicals and assume I've been to Scotland. I confess, it's a lifelong dream! I'd like to think that people believe this due to my superb writing and my over-active imagination, but the truth is, I think the credit goes to research-where I literally pour myself into the century and the place.
Take Advantage of the Internet
While you can utilize general search engines such as Google and Yahoo to find online articles, blogs and educational sites, don't forget about the power of the virtual library system. Now that most files are in a computerized database, you can search by subject, title, and author-and beyond your local library-right from the comfort of your home.
Request a reference to be shipped to your local, public library by using their online system. Most public libraries are now linked through the Internet and have inter-loan systems. However, in order to access some of these database systems, you might need a library card with a number you can punch in, or you may be required to register online. Believe me, it's worth it.
The inter-loan service is particularly helpful to authors as they need access to geographical details in various places for story setting. The best information will always be in the local area of the place one is researching. If you don't live there and can't visit in person, this is the best way to locate those rare, but specific facts. While there are plenty of Internet sites that give some great information, most only give brief summaries, and we authors need details.
One of the best sites I used for historical research on my new novel, Highland Sanctuary, is Caithness.org. The amount of information is amazing! I already had the plot of my story in mind, but I wasn't sure where in Scotland I wanted to set it. I made my decision when I discovered this site.
In my case, I even emailed someone who manages the Caithness.org site and asked them about weather patterns there. Before the Internet, this would have been an expensive long distance phone call. I researched what kind of flowers and trees grow there so I could be accurate in my descriptions. The aerial views of Brough Castle (Braigh Castle) where I planned to set my novel were a great asset to the maps I'd already discovered. I took a virtual tour of a couple of castles on a different site.
University Library Research
You don't need to be a student, professor, or a faculty member of the university in order to access their library. Depending on the university's area of concentration, some college libraries specialize in specific medical research, scientific studies, archaeology, law, concentrated histories, etc. Their professors and graduate programs are always conducting new research and they are on the cutting edge of new discoveries.
Universities and colleges provide the experts. Make a few phone calls or try and email one of the directors or professors who have a background in the area you are researching. Many of them don't mind being interviewed and have a passion for their subject. They would rather take the time out of their busy schedule to educate you on the topic so you don't misrepresent facts, than having too many people with the wrong impression.
Also, they might appreciate the publicity or the acknowledgement as a reference in your book. They need credentials for their career just as much as we do. Browse university websites and check out their course descriptions in the areas you might be researching. This will give you a better idea of a person's expertise.
If you would like to comment or have research questions, email me email@example.com