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What’s your happy place? Mine’s research

The medieval tower in Aragon that inspired The Girl From Oto

The medieval tower in Aragon that inspired The Girl From Oto

When writing, editing, and revising get tough, I do several things:

1. Stretch, pace, go for a walk, throw in a load of laundry, do a crazy dance, talk to the dog. This is good. This is fairly healthy. It gets me away from my keyboard and out of my chair. And as everyone knows, sitting is the new smoking so I really shouldn’t be sitting at all.

2. Chew gum, nuts, carrots or any other edible, stress-relieving chewable item within reach. Not so good for my teeth, but excellent for anxiety relief.

3. Do research. As in, “What did nuns do for entertainment in medieval France? Hmm, let me turn to the vast sea of information at my fingertips and get lost in Google book citations for two hours. Then I’ll check out Google France and get into an even happier place decoding a scholarly article about nuns written in French. Yes!” Research is my happy place. It puts me into a trance and gets my creativity flowing. If I’m stumped, research opens up new ideas and possibilities and helps me fix what needs fixing. If I’m haunted by critical (and imaginary) voices pointing out details in my book that absolutely could not have existed in 1500, voices that snipe at me about my utter lack of reverence for THE WAY THINGS REALLY WERE, I turn to research.

Here’s how I deal with that issue, by the way. If there is one example anywhere in the literature of nuns having fun during medieval times, I will take that as permission to let my nuns have fun, even if they exist in a fictional locale far from the actual partying nuns I read about. Sorry, historical fictionistas who do not agree with that approach.

Another thing: if there is a gap in the historical record, if there is no blueprint for THE WAY THINGS REALLY WERE for a group of people in a certain place at a certain time, I feel free to make stuff up. Yep. I do. Because this genre is called historical fiction, and in fiction, we get to make stuff up.

To sum up, here’s my happy place recipe:

research + new inspiration + historical fact & lore + making stuff up = happy place.

What’s yours?

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