Saturday, January 18, 2014

Guest Author Julie Lence

A Newfound Respect for Research
Julie Lence

High school is probably when many of us learn to research a topic well. I remember my 11th and 12th grade English teachers assigning essays where students had to prove a thesis statement. We were able to choose our own topic and thesis, and class time was often spent in the library sifting through periodicals and magazines to find articles proving our statements. The topics I chose were easy. So was the research, but back then, spending time in the library, knee-deep in research material, wasn’t a favorite of mine. And history class, certain periods, such as The United States in the 1800’s, I liked. Most I found boring. And then, several years later, I decided to try my hand at penning a novel and history and research were suddenly fascinating.

I began writing contemporary romance, decided I didn’t like that and switched to western historical romance. Influenced by John Wayne movies and my love for horses, I wanted as much trueness to my stories as possible. For instance, my second novel, Lady Luck, takes place in San Francisco, circa 1860. I had several questions about the city in that timeframe, particularly an exact location for the Barbary Coast and gaming halls. So, I went to the library, borrowed a few books, began reading and was instantly hooked on research. San Francisco was such a big boom town back then that I couldn’t help but wonder why some of the things I was reading were never taught in school. Sure, we studied the gold rush, but I was now engrossed with learning about ships becoming permanently dry-docked, crews abandoning them for either the hills or another ship, and how folks used the dry-docked ships as places of business until the city began filling them in with sand and building on top of them. Fascinating! Even more so when I happened upon old street maps of San Francisco, complete with street names and harbors where I could set my own dry-docked ship renovated into a home and gambling hall.

Fast forward a few years and I’m rewriting and editing my third novel, No Luck At All.  Set again in the 1800’s, my hero has obtained his medical degree from a Boston college. But what college? Did Boston have such a school back then? I had no clue, but I did know that to play into the plot the hero had to be in Boston. My knowledge of today’s medical field is limited. Back then is even worse. This time, instead of going to the library, I used the internet. What a tool! I spent hours learning about Harvard and Massachusetts General and how the two worked together and still do. Delving further, I found new procedures being implemented in the surgical field, such as the use of ether, which I just had to have in my story. (And I did.) After this book, I moved on to a new series, beginning with Zanna’s Outlaw, and to researching prisons in the southwest, how beer was transported to saloons and stagecoach routes. Where I once loathed research, I now embrace it and find just one, small inkling to know something leads to a slew of other things. The Wild West in the 1800’s is near and dear to my heart, and learning all I can about it never boring.

Julie Lence has been hosted on The Writer's Vineyard by Victoria Roder.  




Big Mike said...

The internet is a true amplifier to research for authors. My first book (a non-fiction project) took six months and dozens of visits to multiple libraries, plus hundreds of letters to companies. Now I can do the same thing in a week. Amazing.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

If it weren't for Google...

Getting instant answers and pictures as well as correct spellings -- priceless.

However, to immerse oneself in the moment, there is nothing like a few books, from the library, to paint reality into that moment.

Julie Lence said...

Hi Big Mike: My only complaint about the Internet is what I'm looking for usually isn't the first 1-3 links that come up. But when I do find what I need, I'm hooked!

Julie Lence said...

Hi Julie:
I know what you mean about holding a book in your hands. It took me a long time to adjust to reading on a Kindle and holding that device. Now, I find I can switch back and forth easily. But when I researched Lady Luck, it was all books, with several different chapters filled with interesting info. I wish I could have put it all to use.

Mark said...

Crackerjack post, Juls, about a subject that's near and dear to my heart, as well. Research is great, everything from reading to visiting a hands-on museum. Researching one-on-one with an expert can be an enlightening experience, too.

Julie Lence said...

Thanks, Mark!

Victoria Roder said...

You only have to worry about the research you've done when the police want to see your computer.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Vicki, when we write murder mysteries, you are right.

Julie Lence said...

Vicki and Julie:
I know another mystery writer who says the same--if the police ever looked at her computer, she'd be arrested. LOL, one of the hazards of the business.

Katherine Hayden said...

I used to spent hours learning and writing. writing is always difficult. it needs good research to write a paper. after seeking help from admission essay writing service, for me writing is very easy.