Our Guest Blogger, Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is giving away a print copy of A Love Transformed to one lucky commenter. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see if…her winner is you!

tracie-peterson-author-photoAfter writing 110 books, most of which are historical in setting, I’m often called The Queen of Christian Historicals. Anybody who knows me, knows that historical research for my stories is important to me. I work hard for accuracy and sometimes that means getting my hands dirty to learn something I want my historical characters to do. In keeping with that I’ve learned to drive a stage coach, tat, make soap and candles, handle firearms, skin a deer, studied and use centuries old patterns for clothing and the list goes on. I once had a wanna-be writer say to me, “Why bother – it’s just fiction?” My response? Because it matters!me-spinning-1

Nothing ruins a story faster for me than an author who hasn’t bothered to do their research. For example, one book I read had characters on a railroad line that didn’t exist. It might have been okay to create a fictional rail line, but the author had a railroad in the west before railroads had been established. I read a story once where the hero and heroine were eating at a famous hotel restaurant – only the restaurant wouldn’t be a part of the hotel for another twenty years. It’s things like that that make me throw books against the wall. Of course, I realize many readers will never know the difference, but to me it’s a sacred trust we the author have with the reader to make the books as accurate as possible. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. I make plenty, but we owe it to our readers to give our very best.

Recently, I decided to have a character who finds healing and consolation in working with sheep. She enjoys herding the sheep and then learns to card and spin wool into yarn and so I thought I should do the same. I found someone with sheep who also worked with the raw wool. The smelly stuff had to be washed, dyed and carded and so I learned all about that. Next, I found a wonderful woman who is a historical weaver and spinner. She taught me to spindle spin. My yarn wasn’t very even, but it was good enough to use in crocheting a hat.carding

Once I had spindle spinning under my belt, I found a friend who taught me to spin on a wheel. What fun! I found I really took to the process. I loved the feel of the wool in my hands and the methodic, relaxing process of sitting at and operating the wheel. I found it to be great time for prayer. Better still, it allowed me to be able to share the process in my story. Sure, I could have just plunked my character down at the spinning wheel and said “she spun” but I felt that knowing more allowed me to really bring that action alive.spindle-spinning-1

To me learning new things for the sake of the story is important, whether it’s new writing techniques or old day-to-day processes that kept a family alive and well. I love to talk to people who know their history and craft. To me one of the most important aspects of our job as writers is to weave history seamlessly into the story so that the reader finds themselves swept up in the time-period and lives of the characters. My favorite authors are those who can draw me into the story so completely that I feel like I’m there—right alongside the characters. Those are the very best stories of all. So if you ever wonder if the extra research is worth the effort—it is.


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28 thoughts on “Our Guest Blogger, Tracie Peterson”

  1. Tracie, I so agree with this “My favorite authors are those who can draw me into the story so completely that I feel like I’m there—right alongside the characters. Those are the very best stories of all.” I also appreciate more than I can say, how much I love it when historical writer’s are accurate in their stories. As a reader, I may not know all the facts, but I trust the author to! You bet it matters 🙂 Since I read mostly historical fiction, I expect the facts to be true.

    How fun that you learned about how to work wool into yarn! I love these pictures, looks like you had a blast. And that while you were working, you had time to pray, love that too! I bet your research for historical accuracy has made many an adventure in your life 🙂 And can bring about the realism in your stories!

    Thanks for a fun article and giveaway chance! I absolutely adore your writing for the very reasons you’ve listed here.

    • Thanks, Trixi. The research has led to many an exciting adventure to be sure. That’s one of the things that fun about doing what I do. Thanks for reading the books!

  2. Hi Tracie, I agree as well with your statement, “My favorite authors are those who can draw me into the story so completely that I feel like I’m there—right alongside the characters. Those are the very best stories of all.” When an author creates wonderful well defined characters and a “world” for them to inhabit that is well researched, I get pulled into the story and become one with it. That is the most enjoyable for read for me.

    I love it when authors work at learning a craft that their characters will be doing as it leads to authenticity in the story.

    Cindy W.

    • I completely agree, Cindy. When I read an author who hasn’t done their research, I don’t usually go back to that author. The trust is broken and their writing then becomes suspect to me at every turn. Thanks for your comment and reading the books!

  3. I do so dislike it when research is not done well. My husband is retired from the State Police and I notice it more with police stories.

    • Yes, when you’re familiar with a topic, the mistakes really jump out. As someone who tries hard to be accurate, I know I’ll make mistakes, but I do my best to talk to folks in the know.
      Thanks for reading the books!

  4. I think authenticity makes a story so much more enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time to make your stories authentic.

  5. Oh wow!! My admiration for you has gone up even more!! I so much enjoy reading your books and to know that you actually go out and “do it all” is amazing. I am envious in a good way. I would love to experience all these things. Well I guess this is where reading your books comes in. Thank you for all you do to make your books come alive.

    • Thanks, Mary. I encourage everyone to just go out there and find the things that interest you and give it a try. People who are knowledgeable about a topic generally love to share what they know.
      Thanks for being a reader.

  6. I must be different than others – I probably won’t ever notice if something isn’t historically accurate. I usually get too involved in the story to notice if a restaurant wasn’t in a hotel at that time in history yet. But, don’t get me wrong – I am very happy that authors do try to keep things historically correct!! I know it must be a hard line to toe. I love when fictional elements are added to big historical events – almost a “what if” in the story. I have to add, though, that the one thing I do notice/catch are the details regarding guns and ammo. My family loves to target practice and shoot skeet, so I have found discrepancies in a few westerns, but that has never made me dislike or stop reading the book. I must just get too involved in the story! LOL. Great post!

  7. I’m a weaver but I haven’t learned spinning and carding, but then I weave with a variety of materials.

    I really love doing research myself, too, but like Susan P I don’t worry much about absolute historical accuracy when reading–depending on what it is, of course. I think readers have certain areas that may be triggers for them, or maybe they’re just particularly knowledgeable in certain areas. I’ve also read plenty of reader comments saying something in a novel was anachronistic when the event had actually happened at that time or even long before. Oh well, that’s the nature of people’s preferences and differences, I suppose. I was an editor so you’d think I’d see every last editorial mistake when I read for enjoyment, but I don’t and I’m glad. It’s far more enjoyable reading that way. My radar does go off with a pet peeve, though–pronouns being used when it should have been a gerund (and more people get that wrong than right)–or if a book is just too riddled with errors that they begin to pile up to one’s own sense of critical mass. Again, I think it’s a personal thing.

    All that said, I really do appreciate all of the research many authors do, and I also really enjoy tidbits they sometimes give us in notes at the end of their books.

    • Eliza, I admire your weaving ability. That is something I don’t think I’d be any good at and happily leave it to you. The woman who taught me to spindle spin weaves the most amazing things, but when she showed me her pattern it looked like math. I hate math. 😀
      Thanks for being a reader.

      • I guess I see weaving more like a book than math, that is, one has ideas around which a whole is created from those initial “glimpses.” My Scottish friend who is an artist and a weaver of wall murals (rather than fabric as she would say), as well as a painter, is the one who started me on a simple hand loom and just set me loose to see what I could create. Of course I had her beautiful examples for inspiration even though I could never match her expertise and results. Like learning a skill at anything–even writing–I kept at it until I could weave on looms as well. So again, I see weaving as another creative endeavor requiring vision, concentration and hard work like other art forms.

  8. It is definitely obvious that you thoroughly research your books. I love that in a book. It has a way that draws me into the book and I feel like I’m actually a part of the story.

    • Thanks, Karen. We writers love when a reader feels they are involved. One of the funniest things a lady told me once was that she knew it sounded so silly, but she actually found herself praying for one of the characters before remembering they weren’t real.

  9. Historicals are my favorite and I appreciate all the research authors put into their stories. It always shows. What a wonderful way to learn. I once heard an author say she made stuff up – well, the story of course is made up, but I expect certain facts to be true, especially in historicals. Maybe she should write futuristic lol.

    • I agree. It’s one thing to make up a town but base it on the time period and other towns, and another to make up an 1850’s town and give it a 2016 flare. That would fit more into Steampunk or fantasy.

  10. This is a great post and I appreciate you sharing. One of the reasons I love historicals is the look back at how people lived, so I think it’s important too to have the details right. Although with some of it I guess I wouldn’t know if it was wrong or right, but still.

  11. Hi Tracie….Welcome to P&P! I’m so sorry I didn’t get over here yesterday. Often a writer’s life is not her own. Your research tidbits are fascinating. I can’t believe you learned to card wool and spin just so you’d know how to write about it. That’s amazing. I, too, try very hard to get my facts straight but never have I resorted to actually learning what I write about. I admire your steadfast determination to get facts right. No wonder your books are devoured by readers!

    Wishing you much success in life and in writing.

  12. I love how much research you put into your stories. It shows. I once read a book that said it was sert in 1810 in England & Scotland but the characters still used bows and arrows and the feudal system. I don’t know if they misprinted the date or what but I couldn’t get past it. Thank you for sharing your research process. I would love to learn how to use a spinning wheel.

  13. What a great post! Research means everything when it comes to a book. Sometimes I can look over a few things but not always.

  14. Enjoyed reading the comments.
    My Grandfather had a few sheep on his ranch and I can remember playing with some of them as a child. I remember how soft they were and of course they would not let you hug them.
    Your books sounds really interesting.

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