I have to pass along a fabulous tip for background research that I received from Betsy Tunis, who wrote a few historicals under the name of Elizabeth Delancey in the early 90s. (If you haven’t read “A Touch of Lace” or “Sea of Dreams,” you really should. I’m still mourning the fact that she stopped writing. I wrote her a fan email a few years ago, and she mentioned that my email had inspired her to spend the weekend writing. She hasn’t had a new book out in 15 years, though, so my inspirational powers must have been severely limited. Darn.)
Annnyway, if you’re like me, you can easily find the answer to a discrete research question, but you have trouble with the overview/background stuff. Tunis, who is a librarian, had a brilliant suggestion: children’s non-fiction books! It works like a charm. They contain great overviews, lots of pictures, and don’t tend to get you bogged down in a lot of academic/technical stuff that doesn’t matter for fiction writers. I have used this tip again and again for research into contemporary and historical topics alike. They often give me enough of an overview to get me started: If I have specialized or specific questions, I can look online to track down the answers. I am forever grateful to Betsy for this great tip, and forever hopeful that she’ll decide to write another novel.
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