Paty Jager on Research

Writing historical books requires hours of research and most of that research doesn’t even get put on the page, but it’s in the author’s head, making the setting and scenes real to both the writer and the reader.


I love the research as much as the creating of characters. When I decide on an area, if possible, I travel there and hang out in the museums. I gather historical books about the area, check out information online, talk to people in the museums, and I spend hours devouring newspapers of the area at the time I’ve set my book.


Nothing gives the writer more authenticity than reading the newspapers. This is my favorite, though, most time consuming research method. I chuckle as I read the local sections about who is courting who, who went to visit relatives, and where the good doctor spent most of his time delivering babies.  Reading the notices of local activities such as dances, performances, and horse races the place comes to life.  And becomes real in my head.


Meeting people who live in the area and know the intimate details of their area’s history are even more intriguing to me. I met an interesting woman while researching the Galena, Oregon area for my first published novel, Marshal in Petticoats. Someday, I plan to spin her into a heroine in one of my books. She and her husband ran the last pack train into the highest mountain mining areas.  She showed me photo albums of their mules and the loads they packed to the miners. 


She also told me a fact that figured into, Marshal in Petticoats, and solidified my setting.  The miners hated to waste time traveling down the mountain to, what was then Susanville, to get their mail. So one night, they snuck down and stole the post office, building and all.  The town didn’t go up and take the post office back; they just renamed their town. Learning this, I knew I had to put my accident-prone heroine in this town.


Visiting a local Oregon historical museum in The Dalles, while researching the second Halsey brother book, Outlaw in Petticoats, I met another woman who had lived her entire life in The Dalles area.  We started chatting as I waited for a museum employee to bring me a map of the town in 1887. The woman was a volunteer and loved to talk about her home.  After telling her I was interested in one of the hotels prominent at the time of my book, she told me about various pieces of it that were scattered around town and how the bar had finger holes drilled in the bottom of it, so men who drank too much could shove their fingers in the holes and still remain standing.  I found the bar, and sure enough, there were holes spaced just right to stick fingers in, and leaning back, you wouldn’t fall down. And yes, that little tidbit is in Outlaw in Petticoats.


What are some of your favorite ways to research? When reading a historical do you want the cold hard facts or do you like the unusual trivia?


If you’re interested in reading excerpts and reviews about my books or just entering my June contest head on over to my website at:


Paty is giving away an autographed copy of Perfectly Good Nanny to one lucky reader drawn from the comments this weekend!



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32 thoughts on “Paty Jager on Research”

  1. Good Morning,

    First of all your books sound great.

    I love ALL history and love the unusual facts that aren’t will known. I live in Middle Tennessee and we have a great archives with people who love history that run it.

    When I get something on my mind to find out the internet is great. I am amazed by the things you can find.

  2. Hi Paty! I’m starting a new ms, which means I’m researching like crazy. I’ve found that it’s not the big stuff that consumes me. It’s the details, the stuff that gives a story authenticity. I can spend hours tracking down something as small as a book of fairy tales or whether flowers could be delivered in a certain city.

    I love the titles of your books! Definitely intriguing : )

  3. HI Paty! I like both the hard cold facts and the unusual stuff too! I sure apprecriate all the hard work you wonderful authors put into researching so that when us readers sit down with a book….we really can go back in time in our minds and not have to say..”NO WAY was it like that”…LOL… My “dependable” authors never let me down with their historical data and to me..that always makes for a wonderful book…to know that alot of what Im reading really happened!

  4. Victoria, I’m like you, the little things are so darn interesting and intriguing! And time consuming! LOL But I think they are what makes a story come alive. Thanks for stopping and commenting!

    Melissa, Thank you for commenting. Every historical writer I know submerges themselves in the history of their stories making sure that the reader doesn’t have to scratch their heads and wonder if it’s fact or not.

  5. I love historical romance and history in general. It is so interesting to hear the funny, offbeat, and personal facts that go with the boring dates and places that you often get in history classes. The stories make the people and their time real. It must be so much fun to dig for that history when you research for a book!

  6. Historical romances have always been one of my favorite genres… I love the settings and characters… I have to admit that I learn alot from the blogs here… the women at Petticoats and Pistols share their findings with the rest of us and give us a look into things we might never have heard or seen before! Thanks for sharing!!! 😀

  7. Hi Paty, I’m late today in welcoming you to P&P! We’re so glad to have you. Loved your topic. When I get immersed in research I disappear for a few days. I find it absoutely intriguing. The thing is you never know what you’re going to find.

    As for me, I like both the hard facts which help a lot in describing setting, and also can get ecstatic when I find a little known nugget of information. It’s the small gold nuggets that make your story more real to the reader. I always uncover several intriguing tidbits when I research an area. One thing I always do is actually walk the ground of the area. I want to smell the air and touch the ground. I want to see what trees, shrubs, and wildflowers grow in the area. That always is a big help.

    Thanks for blogging with us. Your books look wonderful!

  8. Hi Paty, Your post on research for your books is really interesting. It must be neat to talk with people who have a personal or family history to share and I’m glad some of these “bits and pieces” have made it into your stories. I think it definitely makes a story so much more real.

    I thought how much history we could preserve in this country if we each wrote down one historical tidbit about our families. (There was a recent post about geneologies by the P&P authors which was very good.)

    Thank you for a very interesting blog. I can understand why the research is so important to a historical story.

    Have a good weekend.

  9. I like going to the library and looking at the old news papers on micro. When I lived in Casper, Wyoming I was shocked at how violent the town was 50 to 100 years ago. They hung people in the middle of the street off of lamp posts. It was an amazing history lesson for that town. When I lived in St. Augustine, Florida I loved to visit the old parts of town. There is so much history there. There is the old fort, the foutain of youth, the old light house, etc. There are so many stories about that town that living there was a great experience for me.

  10. I like both the cold hard facts and the unusual trivia. Both are interesting.
    I am a reader but for other purposes I use the internet so often to research.

  11. Paty, welcome back to Petticoats & Pistols. I loved your blog today, and had to smile at the finger holes anecdote. Too funny–because it was true.

    Now that’s a tidbit I’ll have to file away in my pea-brain for just the right spot in a book.

    Thanks for being here!

  12. I enjoy reading historicals since they are fascinating and filled with wonderful background information that makes the novel interesting and true to life. Whatever is included makes it a unique book and I enjoy it all.

  13. Thanks for this lovely visit. Historical romance appeals to me greatly. I enjoy learning about the setting, the characters and the era. This pulls me into the story and makes it realistic and I can picture it well. Living in a historic area makes reading these stories come tture for me.

  14. Before the internet, I used to do most of my research at the library and with encyclopedias for my school papers. I like the hard facts and the unusual trivia.

  15. The best kind of information comes from a living source or one of their family members. The next best is the internet where I can immerse myself
    for hours (or even days) in all sorts of historical
    sites! Thanks for stopping by today!!

    Pat Cochran

  16. Hi, Paty! When I’m reading, I’m not interested in a history lesson, but I love it when the author incorporates both the hard facts and fun trivia into the story, especially if she weaves it in so it’s just part of setting and tale she’s telling. It’s really a treat when it’s done well 🙂

  17. Great post, Paty. And your book titles!!! I’ve got a Petticoat Ranch, we must think alike. 😀

    I’m sorry, if you knew me, you’d probably be deeply offended to have such a thing said about you.

  18. You can come across some very interesting facts when researching a novel. I visited North Dakota last summer to research a series set there and learned some fascinating things. I loved the finger-holes in the bar thing. That’s such an interesting little detail.

  19. Your books sound great! Working part time at a newspaper, I love looking at old issues for interesting bits of gossip!

  20. Hi Paty,
    I like a combination of historical and interesting facts of an area. The funny thing is that I was never too interested in historical facts but you put them in a story and I find them much more interesting.

  21. Hi Paty. What a great subject. I’ve always loved history and research is my favorite part of writing. Books, museums, interviews, and onsite visits. I love to actually visit my settings, that way I can walk the walk, learn and feel things I could only imagine otherwise. My biggest problem, since I love to research I spend too much time on it. My justification, some day I may have picked up just the seed I need for a plot or character. In order to write “Give Me a Cowboy” about rodeoing, I watched PBR for a year, went to ranch rodeos. Now that the book is at press, I still can’t miss an event! Makes no sense, except one has to love those bull riders! Enjoyed your post.

  22. Cheryl C.,

    Thank you for stopping by!

    Colleen, I agree this blog is a great site to learn historical information!

    Hi Linda, Thank you for having me here! I know the feeling when you come across that “nugget” of info. It’s almost as good a feeling as finishing a book!

    Za, Thank you for commenting. Historical facts are great for grounding a story, but the little things- those are what make a story real to me.

    Rebekah, I use micro film all the time when writing my books. My librarian is getting used to me. 😉 I just recently spent hours going over micro film from newspapers in Helena. MT.

    Estella and Robyn L. Thanks for commenting.

    Pam, Thank you for having me. Yes, I love finding those little bits, like the finger holes. And it was one of those, “I have to find a way to use this in the story”.

    Jenna, Jane, Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Ruth, I, too, prefer to visit the area I am writing about. So far my books have been around Oregon, so I’ve been able to get there. I’m hoping to get to Helena, MT. this summer as that is where the first book of a new series will start off.

    Pat C., Yes! I can get lost in the researching. Especially in a museum. While doing the research for Marshal in Petticoats, I came across something that intrigued me and that information went into my book Gambling on an Angel. If you keep and open mind you can sponge up information for another book. But then that’s my problem as well- Then I have to get the book done I’m on so I can get into the next one! LOL

    Fedora, I’ve always loved history, but reading it in a romance novel- is so much better than a history book!

    Crystal B., Thanks for stopping by!

    Cheryl, Thank you for having me here this weekend, it’s been fun! And I forgot to add to my blog, I’m being interviewed by Regan on the Air today, Sunday, June 22nd at Blog Talk Radio.

    Mary, LOL- I don’t mind you saying we think alike- I think all writers are wired the same!

    Vickie, Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it’s the little things in writing and in life that make all things interesting.

    Connie, When I read the micro film, I always read the local happenings sections. And more times than not they make me laugh! Not only the way they worded things, but the things that they thought deemed newspaper space! LOL

    Maureen, It’s funny how many readers I’ve met that didn’t like to read history in text books, but LOVE it in their romance books.

  23. Phyliss, I know what you mean. I prefer to go to the spots I’m writing about. My current WIP is about a bareback bronc rider. I’ve interviewed a national Champion and have been e-mailing with the wife of a rodeoer to get the feel and my children have participated in small local events and I’ve attended several PRCA rodeos over the years, but I realize I’m going to have to go to some more rodeos to really get the flavor.

  24. Historicals have always been my favorite. I love to learn things as I read a great story and all the extras make it a great story. I like real details and any trivia too!

  25. Hi Paty – As a reader, I enjoy reading both the cold hard facts and the unusual trivia. I find it very interesting when I read historical novels.

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