Researching a Historical Novel with Guest Jodie Wolfe

Research is always a fun part about writing a historical romance. At least it is for me. 🙂 Although I admit from time to time, I find myself straying on different bunny trails when researching. One subject often prompts me off on another search and I forget about actually writing the book for a while. During the process of creating Protecting Annie, I had a variety of topics to research.

My heroine, Annie McPherson has a lot of book knowledge, but not too much common sense or experience. Whenever she’s thrown into an unfamiliar situation, her first inclination is to consult her trusty guidebook for information. Annie is a planner, so she thoroughly immersed herself with vast research before traveling from the east to Kansas. When she comes across an animal in the alley of the western town she moved to, she’s convinced it’s a wolf. After all, it looks like the ones in her guidebook.

I knew this would be the opening scene for the book, so I started researching various dogs that happen to look like a wolf and would be feasible to have in a Midwest town. I came across the Native American Indian dog. I won’t tell you more, so I don’t ruin the opening scene for you. 🙂

Later in the book, Annie finds and picks some beautiful plants. Again, she consults her guidebook but can’t find an entry on the mysterious plant. She starts to have a reaction to one of them. The hero, Joshua Walker, happens upon her and tells her it’s poison hemlock.

Almost every summer growing up, I had issues with poison ivy however I didn’t know much about poison hemlock and whether it is found in Kansas. Like Annie, I had to do some research. Turns out the plant is in Kansas, and I also learned it’s highly poisonous and contact with the skin can cause nausea and blurred vision. Well, this made for a fun scene…at least to read. 🙂 It wasn’t so much fun for Annie.

My hero is a town sheriff. I have scene where he is sorting through wanted posters. I had some knowledge of them but needed to know if it was feasible to have one be hand-drawn. Off I went researching again. Turns out, they did often have posters that were drawn by hand.

One thing I didn’t research, but I had my heroine try to learn about was the care of a kitten. Annie tries to find a book at the local stores but to no avail. In fact, the townspeople have a hard time trying to figure out why she would want to keep a cat indoors.

I love researching as I write a story. Not only do I learn things, I also am able to share some of those items with my readers. Hopefully they enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

How about you, what are some of your favorite things to learn about when you’re reading a historical novel? Leave a comment for your chance to win a CD with 12 historical romance novels on it. (US only)

Blurb

After twenty years of living along the trail as a deputy U.S. Marshal, Joshua Walker takes a job as sheriff in Burrton Springs, Kansas so he can be closer to his sister. Only problem, she no longer requires his protecting so he’s unsure of his next step.

Annie McPherson needs a change after the death of her father. She accepts a position as schoolmarm, hoping her past won’t catch up with her. Life is good, except for the pesky sheriff who continues to question her ability to adjust to life in the west and creates confrontations at every turn.

When the irritating schoolteacher’s past and present collide, dragging him into the turmoil, Josh has to decide who he’s willing to defend.

Purchase Link

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faith, Hope & Love Christian Writers, and COMPEL Training. She’s been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.

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50 thoughts on “Researching a Historical Novel with Guest Jodie Wolfe”

  1. I love an author who researches before he/she writes. It’s very disconcerting to be reading something and absolutely know that something could NOT have happened in that circumstance

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    • I try and research as much as possible, but there are some times where you have to make your best guess of how something was/happened during a time period you’re writing about. 🙂

      Reply
  2. I love reading about history and learning new things in the book that the author researched. I live in KS so this truly pique my interest. Oh wow, I love CD audiobooks. My husband and I listen to them when we travel and I listen to them when I commute 30 miles to work.
    Good luck and congrats on your new book.

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    • Thanks, Tonya. While my town isn’t a real one in Kansas, it’s loosely based on one I visited multiple times when my in-laws lived in Kansas. It’s a beautiful state.

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  3. I’m a history major, so I like historical research. I especially like to learn folk history or cultural history about how people lived and did things in different time periods.

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    • Janice, I didn’t like history when I was in school. Probably because it was all about memorizing dates, which I’m not good at. But since I’ve gotten older, I truly love learning historical details and stories.

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  4. I like learning more about history by reading historicals and I hate it when it is apparent the author didn’t do there research before writing their story. Thirty years ago I homeschooled and my daughter hated studying history so I would have her read historicals. It was extremely important for the research to be accurate.

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    • I think reading historical novels when I homeschooled my boys made them have more of an interest in history. There’s nothing like a historical novel to make history come alive for a child. 🙂 Okay, grownups too.

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  5. To me history was boring as a subject in school. However, when I began reading historical romance and suspense, picking up tidbits and even large bits of history was very interesting when applied to the actions of characters. I feel as if I have accomplished a great feat when I am given the details as per history. My history is quite a history buff so being to converse with him about things I have learned makes me feel pleased to be able to contribute to his conversations. History of war is definitely challenging to me but when fictional characters recreate scenes and battles by adding emotion to them I am pulled into the story while learning a new part of this country’s past. Thank you for bringing actual past to us avid readers of historical fiction and those who do aggressive research to make your novels realistic, as realistic as possible.

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    • I can relate to not liking history when I was in school. By reading historical novels and discovering the stories that are part of history made me want to write novels about long ago. Of course, I loved the Little House on the Prairie stories as a kid. 🙂

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  6. We’ve had fun researching. For one of our books we did a google street search so we could describe the area. We’ve got a double screen set up so we can each be in front of the screen. That year when the wife wrote the Christmas letter she included a trip to the city we researched. We had a good laugh when I edited the letter that year.

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  7. I think it’s fun learning about the women’s work, like cooking in a fireplace or wood cook stove, having to carry water to a large fired pot outside and make your own soap to wash clothes with a wash board. How I love my modern conveniences!

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    • Me too! While I like writing about life in the 1800s, I don’t know that I would do so great living during that time period. 🙂

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  8. Jodie, so nice to see you in another venue. and to hear about your research methods and tips. I like research, even the rabbit trails. If I find something really good that doesn’t fit, I save it for another project. History is fascinating, I suppose that’s why I write and read historical fiction.
    Good post Jodie!

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    • Thanks, Kathy. I’ve done the same thing as well. In fact the current book I’m writing, the opening scene is from a small tidbit of history I learned years ago. I’m finally getting to use it. 🙂

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  9. I homeschooled my kids for 26 years and what I learned that has stuck with me is that the information gathered on those bunny trails usually sticks better than the info they were originally seeking.
    It’s also the stuff that they are most eager to share.

    Or maybe it’s just these kids. their dad has always loved doing research—even back in the day when there was no internet.

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    • I can relate, MaryEllen. My boys still remember those bunny trails. 🙂 We didn’t use the internet much when they were young, but instead we delved into books.

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  10. I, too, am a rabbit trail chaser. If I read about something or somewhere in a novel that catches my interest I will look it up on a map and on the internet. I really don’t like books where the characters are not true to the time period in which the story is set. So, thank you for all your research.

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    • I had to laugh at your comment, Alice. My heroine in Protecting Annie talks about rabbit trails, but says they’d be better off being called snail trails since snails leave a trail behind them. 🙂

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  11. Hi, your book sounds like a great read and I love your book cover, it looks intriguing ! Whenever I am reading whether a book or an article and I come across something I don’t know about, I start looking things up, I really enjoy to research things because I have learned alot of things by just researching them. Thank you so much for the chance. Have a great weekend and stay safe. I enjoyed reading your post.

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  12. I was a history major in 4 yrs of High school. I loved about the civil war and the american indian culture. I listen to cd audios a lot love them

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    • I’ve never been a fan of the Civil War, maybe because I live in an area where there are a lot of reenactments. 🙂 Although I’m planning on writing a book soon about a soldier shortly after the war.

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  13. I love looking up things that I don’t understand or want to know more about it. I run into this quite often when I am reading. It so nice to have google at your fingertips to use.

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  14. I like learning the definitions of new words I come across when I read books. Sometimes I look up how the sound too if I can’t quite tell from reading it.

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  15. I really do not reseach anything that I read in books. I take the explanations the author has given me as the correct information. I love finding information out as I read the book. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

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  16. I like learning about the time and place in historical reads. It helps me connect with the characters in the book.

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  17. Good morning. I’m always interested in the historical significance of where ever I’m at in that moment. As in traveling even if I’m just on a virtual vacay truck a friends or families social media posts I’ll find myself googling about the area. Thanks for stopping by & for a great blog. A giveaway is an awesome way for me to find a new author to add to my go to authors list! Happy 2022!

    Reply
  18. Jodie, Welcome to Petticoats and Pistols. I love learning things and find it very easy to get lost down the rabbit hole. Like tonight, I sat down at 9 to answer emails and visit some favorite sites, and now I am just getting here. I wrote a birthday email to a boy we sponsor in India and got curious about where in India he lives. I spent nearly 1 1/2 hours online checking what the area is like, what historic and cultural sites there are to visit, what tours are available to visit them, festivals, best time to visit, etc. I do the same thing no matter where we are going to travel. To me, the history of an area, both human and geological are important. We will be going back out to San Antonio in April for a conference and I’ll soon have too work on that . I enjoy finding out about everything. Like Annie, I bring books with me every trip so I can research anything and everything.

    Thank you for an interesting post. I am sure Protecting Annie is going to be an interesting, informative, and enjoyable read. Best wishes for your writing career. We may pass in the rabbit hole one day.

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  19. I like to learn about the setting: scenic attractions, historical significance, customs or activities that are popular or important to that area. What nationalities are living in the area, what are the main industries, ranches- what do they raise, crops grown, power struggles, Native American influences, tribes, fun activities: quilting, barn raisings, schooling…

    Reply

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