Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Digging Up Gettysburg: Behind the Scenes Research Hart's Latest Novel
Allow me to introduce you to a very good friend of mine, Sandra Merville Hart. Sandy and I met through ACFW and frequently share rides to our state chapter meetings. I asked Sandy to be the guest on today’s blog because her newest book, A Rebel in My House just released this past week. Sandy is passionate about the possible behind the scenes stories emerging from the Civil War era. For todays post, Sandy offers tips for new writers on conducting research to make your own work stand out. Enjoy! And be sure to leave your comments for Sandy.
Every new author with a story idea wonders, “Where should I start?” For those who want to write historical novels, begin with research.
Reading articles from trusted sites online—such as those ending in .edu or reputable history sites—is a nice place to start. These may give more questions than answers.
The next stop is probably the local library. Inspect the library’s catalog for nonfiction books pertaining to a novel’s setting. If an event (a battle, a train wreck, an earthquake) touches your story, take detailed notes from sources that include the page number to make it easy to find again should the need arise.
If resources allow, consider visiting the novel’s setting. Local museums—and staff—are wonderful sources for historical background. You can never use all you learn, but your story gains a new depth from careful research.
For example, I had written an unpublished novel that included the Battle of Gettysburg so I already had lots of notes when beginning my writing journey for A Rebel in My House. Yet those notes focused on other details not included in my new novel. I started over.
I began researching for this novel with a trip to Gettysburg. A battlefield guide, Clay Rebert, tailored a ranger tour around my novel questions about Tennessee troops. Three Tennessee regiments fought the beginning battle on July 1st and didn’t fight again until they joined in Pickett’s Charge.
A fun tidbit about our ranger is that our time with him went over and he was in danger of missing lunch. He accepted a couple of my homemade chocolate chip cookies and a bottled water to tide him over.
Other ranger talks taught different aspects of the battle. They brought those long-ago days to life in my imagination.
My husband and I explored multiple museums including Gettysburg Museum of History, General Lee’s Headquarters Museum, Jennie Wade House, Shriver House Museum, and “The Women of Gettysburg Tour.”
We walked the town’s streets around the “Diamond” or the town square where women and children suffered through an occupied town. I had to show what the citizens endured.
What if a Gettysburg woman fell in love with a Confederate soldier? What if they both made promises to loved ones? Some promises are impossible to keep …
I spent the next five to six months reading battle details, soldier diaries and accounts, and Gettysburg resident accounts. I studied period accounts to understand prevailing attitudes and beliefs. When I felt like I’d been there, I knew I was ready to write the story.
Your novel may not require this level of research, especially if the historical period isn't your main aim. However, acknowledging local or national events during the time period your story takes place lends authenticity to your story.
About Sandra Merville Hart:
Sandra Merville Hart, Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com, loves to find unusual or little-known facts in her historical research to use in her stories. Her debut Civil War romance, A Stranger On My Land, was an IRCA Finalist 2015. Her second Civil War romance novel, A Rebel in My House, is set during the Battle of Gettysburg. It released on July 15, 2017. Visit Sandra on her blog at https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/.