This is a fun week! Lots of authors who are willing to share their secrets and help us learn to improve our writing.
Christine's book is set in Italy. Ah, beautiful Rome. The city that stole my heart. I threw coins in the Trevi fountain, so I will return someday. But I have the most wonderful memories...
Italy is where I reclaimed the artist within & resolved to live the life of the creative. If it weren't for that trip, I might still be stuck in a dead-end job. Instead, I'm a writer, and I have the privilege of interviewing fellow authors. Today Christine is going to tell us how she did her research for her book, A Daughter's Promise, set during World War II. Scroll down to a previous blog for more into about Christine and her book. Thanks for joining us, Christine!
Research is Unique
By Christine Clemetson
Researching for a book is unique. Whether you’re researching a setting, world building or simply learning a career for one of your characters, you have a lot of information to digest and somehow sprinkle into your story. But just like soup, too many spices don’t work well for the taste. So with our stories, we need enough research to make the story believable, but too much can make it more of an information dump.
When I was researching my book, A Daughter’s Promise, set in WWII Italy, I needed to research everything, from the ground up. To get the richness of the time period, and the people who lived in it, I had to dig in deep and be creative in my research methods.
So where to begin?
I used the internet and library to form the foundation of my research, including the timeline of events in Rome, what churches were still standing, and also what an Italian funeral would have been like. Here is a great tip—believe it or not—in the library, I found good information in the children’s section, including a lot of great diagrams of soldier’s uniforms, procedures, etc. These books break down the information into simple diagrams, and easy-to-find information about common foods in Italy, cultural traditions, etc.
One of the research methods that helped me the most was an eyewitness account. From networking, I found a woman who had lived close to Rome during WWII. She told me many things hard to find in books, including how people felt about the war conditions going on around them, how bad the food rations were, how people moved around Rome, and how it felt for the Germans to be patrolling their neighborhoods. Also, I read many biographies. Whether you’re writing a contemporary or historical, a person’s biography holds a wealth of knowledge!
In general, I’m a pantser-type writer, which means that I know the beginning and end of the story and the major plot points, but the rest comes as I’m doing the actual writing. This is the same for research. I know the basics of the place in which I’m setting the story, and also the major historical references I want to use, but the research details unfold as I’m writing. For example, I knew the bulk of my story would take place in a family-owned restaurant. I did high-level research on the types of drinks popular during that time period, but I waited until I wrote those actual scenes to determine which kind of wine would work with the scene’s mood. For me, it all adds to the discovery part of writing.
Here's an excerpt:
They both knew Serene’s turn had come. She took in a deep breath and touched his arms in a stiff embrace. She hugged him the way she had rehearsed in her head over and over, the way a mother would hug her son going off to war.
“I don’t care who sees,” he said gruffly, pulling her closer. He pushed her chin up with his
fingertips, and bent his head to kiss her.
She took his lips, his body, all of him, into her heart for the last time. Feeling the rapid beating in his chest, she fought the urge to mold her most intimate part against his.
When their lips parted, his warm breath on her neck made her body shiver. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she buried her face into his jacket. “I’m not ashamed about
what I said to you last night or what happened between us.” Her voice cracked. “It’s a sin, I know, but it was the most beautiful—”
“Ashamed? I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of love again.”
Trembling, she stood back a little, clinging to her emotions with the delicacy of a spider web. “But you were right. We made the most logical decision.”
“Jesus, Serry. I want to tell you so bad that I—”
“You’re all set, then?” Sam said, coming back into the house.
Serene let go of Miles, letting her one finger intertwine with one of his pinky fingers. She couldn’t let him go.
Slowly, he released her and went to the door, putting one foot on the outside pavement before hesitating and turning back. His eyes were red, and she clutched the stair banister to keep from running to him. How much she loved him would be a secret
she’d take to the grave.
Carrying a bottle of whiskey, Marcus passed him at the door and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I came to give you a goodbye, Coulson.”
Serene stood up straight and froze.
Miles jerked himself away. “Change of heart about me?”
His answer was Marcus’ deep kiss on Serene’s cheek and an arm around her waist. “I realized, Coulson, that I’m proud of her for taking the responsibility for you. I thought it was about time that I offered my apologies for the undiplomatic way I acted. We’re all in this for a cause, no? Why don’t we share a bottle to celebrate?”
“No, your change of heart doesn’t rub me the right way.” Miles offered an apologetic glance to Serene and then shifted his gaze back to Marcus. “You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. You understand me?”
“Have a safe trip,” Marcus drawled.
Serene watched the driver help him in and her knees weakened. As the truck’s engine started, she braced herself against the wall.
“Don’t worry. Serene. Just think of this as a wedding present from me. No more worries about your American. He is well now and gone for good. Your only thanks is to marry me.”
She couldn’t hear him. Her throat ached and she made no effort to wipe the tears spilling freely from her eyes. She started for the door, but he grabbed her by the shoulders.