16 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ Tips for Researching Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction, by Nicole Evelina, Author of The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Guinevere's journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years - and it's not over yet. Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot.


I love research. A LOT. Like I could do it for my full-time job if someone would offer. (Hint, hint.) So I guess it is natural that I gravitated toward historical fiction when I started pursuing writing as more than a hobby. Because why not give yourself ongoing, voluntary homework as an adult, right?

I was very lucky that in my senior year of college we had to write a thesis paper and learned proper research techniques. Everything from citing sources to using journal databases was covered, so I had a solid foundation. For the next decade or so, I cut my teeth on learning everything I could about Arthurian legend in order to write my historical fantasy trilogy about Guinevere. And in case you are wondering what kinds of things I researched, I put together a list of things you need to know about your time period when writing historical fiction.

I never thought I would graduate to non-fiction, but in late 2016, I was asked to give a presentation on Guinevere for Women's History Month in 2017. Since Guinevere is fictional, I had to come up with some kind of way to organize my talk, rather than just giving a life story. I ended up wondering how the character had evolved over time, and once I started doing my research, I realized I had the makings for a book. That's how The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend was born.

I could teach a whole class on research, and I kind of do in my online class on historical fiction, but today I'm going to offer some research tips I've learned along the way that might be helpful to others:

1. Use Amazon to your advantage - The first thing I do for any research project is look up the subject on Amazon to get an idea of the kinds of books available on my subject. If they don't have it, chances are good it will be a bear to track down. (Though not impossible, mind you.) As I go, I add to my "wish list" so I can easily find books I liked later on. Abe Books is another site you can use like this, though it is a little more cumbersome than Amazon.

2. Take advantage of the interlibrary loan system - Most libraries (at least in the U.S.) will allow you to request a certain number of books (my library's limit is five at a time) from other libraries with which they have agreements if they don't have a book in their catalogue. Worldcat.org, a library holdings database, is a great tool to find out if any libraries near you have a book you're looking for. And interlibrary loans aren't just for books; you can request copies of journal articles, CDs, DVDs and microfilm that way as well. Check out your library's web site to see if they have a form you can fill out to make a request.

3. Talk to experts - Don't be afraid to email people who are experts in your area. Most are more than willing to share what they know, especially if they know you are writing a book. My top suggestion is to wait to contact them until you have done your basic research so you can ask informed, pointed questions. I was very lucky that when I was researching my Guinevere books, I was able to talk with Arthurian scholar Sir Geoffrey Ash and Arthurian enthusiast Jamie George, both of whom helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research her famous book, The Mists of Avalon.

4. Travel, if you can - As author C.C. Humpries says, "There is memory in stone, in the places where the characters you hope to conjure trod." Places have an energy that remains even over centuries. Because of this, there is something about traveling to a location, even many years after your characters would have been there, that can't compare to all the Internet research or looking at pictures in the world. Take in the slant of light and smell of the air and then translate that into your book; your readers will notice.

5. Journal articles don't have to cost an arm and a leg- If there is an article you want to read, first check Jstor.com and Academia.edu to see if they have it. If not, see if you can get it through your library's interlibrary loan system. If that fails, ask if that library (or another one nearby, like at a college or university, especially if you are an alumni) has access to a database that can get it for you.

6. Don't neglect theses and dissertations - They contain not only new theories and original research, but also often cite sources that will be useful in your own research. They can be hard to get a hold of, but many are available online or at request from the school at which they were submitted. Try Googling your topic plus "thesis" or "dissertation" and see what you get. If you know the school at which the paper was submitted, you can also see if they house their listings online. (Some do, like Standford, UC Davis, Oxford, etc.) You can also try databases like EBSCO, ProQuest, OATD, or Global ETD, though they often require you to login. Your local public or college/university library might be able to help you get access to those for free or at a discount.

7. Remember to use the bibliographies and footnotes in your sources - Some of my best sources have come from the bibliographies in other books, at least in part because two people will approach researching a subject differently and people don't always have access to the same sources. If your source is more than a few years old, the author may have had ready access to books/articles you'll now have to search for because they are out of print or old, but at least you know they exist since they were cited. Sometimes awareness is as important as anything else in research.

8. If you are writing non-fiction, learn how to index your own book, especially if you are an indie or if your publishing house would make you pay for it. It takes time, is tedious, and can be quite frustrating, but no one knows your material better than you do. Here's an article I wrote on my first foray into indexing and what I learned.

And I'm not quitting after one non-fiction book. I'm already hard at work on two more: a biography of Catholic mystic Marie Rose Ferron and a book on the history of feminism in the United States. But I'm also working in historical fiction as well, expecting to publish the last book in my Guinevere trilogy this year and gearing up to work on a couple of WWII novels. And I'm just as excited about the research as the first time, though perhaps a little wiser thanks to experience.

Nicole Evelina

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About the Author

Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction, romantic comedy and non-fiction writer, whose four novels have collectively won over 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations (Daughter of Destiny by Chanticleer Reviews and Camelots Queen by Author's Circle). Nicole is currently working on Mistress of Legend (2018), the final book in her Guinevere's Tale trilogy. As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and traveling to locations when possible. For example, she traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere's Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon. Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, as well as a member of the Historical Fiction Writers of America, International Arthurian Society - North American Branch, Romantic Novelists Association, Novelists, Inc., the St. Louis Writer's Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher's Association. For more information, please visit Nicole Evelina's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads. Sign up for Nicole's newsletter to receive news and updates.


Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 31 Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1 Review at Pursuing Stacie
Friday, February 2 Feature at A Bookaholic Swede Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, February 6 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Wednesday, February 7 Excerpt at What Cathy Read Next
Thursday, February 8 Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
Friday, February 9 Interview at Donna's Book Blog
Monday, February 12 Review at Bookworms Anonymous Feature at View from the Birdhouse Tuesday, February 13 Feature at A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, February 14 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Thursday, February 15 Feature at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 16 Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Monday, February 19 Review at Clarissa Reads it All
Thursday, February 22 Feature at A Holland Reads
Monday, February 26 Review at Cup of Sensibility Feature at The Lit Bitch
Tuesday, February 27 Review at Curling Up by the Fire
Wednesday, February 28 Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of The Once and Future Queen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules: Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.  Giveaway is open to US residents only.  Only one entry per household.  All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.  Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Once and Future Queen

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting The Once and Future Queen, Tony!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

    ReplyDelete

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