If at all possible, I talk with someone who lives with the disability I’m researching. That isn’t always feasible, so I also use medical journals, and documentation from the period about which I am writing to see how the disability in question was managed. For example, what we call PTSD nowadays was referred to as “shell shock” during the Napoleonic/ Regency era … and I was able to draw on information concerning how it was treated for Clytie’s Caller.
I researched mental health treatments for women in the 19th century extensively when I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder and In The Eye of The Storm, because one character dealt with what was called melancholia. I wanted to know how that ailment was managed. There are two characters with physical disabilities in those books as well, and I use treatments of the time to describe their situations.
I think what draws me most to historical fiction is the glimpse into how people lived in other eras. I have always found that fascinating. Social mores, fashions, even food! I recently completed a course on royal food and feasting from the Tudor to Victorian eras.
I enjoy the process of researching a story, and I love the richness of detail that comes from doing that work. I’m one of those rare birds who treats research as a treasure hunt rather than a chore; the hardest thing I experience is limiting how much research I do, because it is far too easy to go down a rabbit hole and never do any writing!
It took me four years to write each of the full-length Phantom novels (In The Eye of The Beholder and In The Eye of The Storm, respectively) because I spent so much time doing research; the rabbit hole for the second one was the modern art movement in Paris.
As an author, I get asked questions about my books. That’s only natural. One of the most frequently asked questions is “Where do you get your character names?”
There are sources out there that show what names were popular during a given year. I work backwards to when a character would have been born and look at the lists. I also consider trends in naming (e.g., there were eras when names from classical mythology were all the rage), as well as name meanings. Erik (who features in my Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series), means ‘”one ruler” or “autocrat.” That comes through in his personality! He’s balanced out by wife Claire (“light”) and friend Gilbert (“bright promise”) … and he names his daughter Veronique (“victory”).
With Bayou Fire, it was a little trickier in a couple of cases. Diana Corbett, my female protagonist, didn’t have her name until I was about a quarter of the way into the manuscript. Her placeholder name, while I figured out who she was, was Emma Cartwright. Thank goodness for find-and-replace! It also took me a while to figure out the names of some of the minor characters.
One character, though, gave me no trouble with naming: Amos Boudreaux. I knew I wanted to call my Cajun protagonist Amos because of a 1970 Jerry Reed hit. Enjoy this performance of “Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed and Glen Campbell.