Researching the novel….did you really do that?!
By Nancy Herriman
I have had many folks ask what was the most interesting thing I’ve done while researching my historical novels. I presume they’re expecting (or hoping) I’ll answer: Spent a month in Ireland in an 18th century cottage!! Became an expert at whist!! Sewed my own period gowns and danced regularly with a Regency reenactment group!! To all of which I can only say–I wish!
Alas, the truth is a great deal more pedantic. At least, for me. I do have friends who have done amazing things to provide verisimilitude to their novels. Friends who dress up in corsets and ball gowns to accurately understand how it feels to move–or perhaps not move–in clothing of the times. Others who have travelled far and wide to better visualize the world of their heroine and hero. I even have a friend who went sky-diving and included the experience in one of her books. I can assure you, I won’t ever be going that far.
Not to say that I haven’t had my adventures. Indeed, I have dragged my long-suffering husband to a display of 19th-century gowns at a local art gallery, where I discovered I couldn’t comprehend how many of the gowns were put on, the closures so carefully concealed by hidden ties and the deft work of needle-and-thread. My husband was not as intrigued as I was. And then, during a vacation to Williamsburg, my children endured visits to the printing house and the apothecary and a long landau ride. The latter made me, and them, realize we would all suffer from sea-sickness if carriages were our only mode of transportation. When I proposed a vacation that included a visit to a carriage museum, you might understand why I got voted down.
Truthfully, I rarely leave the comfortable confines of the room where I write, the internet taking me where I need to go for research. There are many excellent resources. Sites such as the trial transcripts from the Old Bailey in London where I discovered the court case that provided the inspiration for The Irish Healer. The endless first person accounts of Victorian London that can be found at victorianlondon.org, a fabulous resource. The historical image collection at The City of London website that provided me a visual, albeit a painterly one, representation of numerous sites around London and beyond. The list is truly lengthy. And though I’ve never learned how to play whist or what it feels like to wear a bustle, I hope my research provides the reader with a feeling of ‘being there’. Wherever ‘there’ is in my books.
And, if anyone knows of a nice 18th century cottage in Ireland for rent, send the address.
Acquitted of murdering a child under her care, Irish healer Rachel Dunne flees the ensuing scandal and vows to never sit at another sickbed. She no longer trusts in her abilities—or God’s mercy. When a cholera epidemic sweeps through London, though, she is forced to nurse the dying daughter of the enigmatic physician she has come to love. James Edmunds, wearied by the deaths of too many patients, has his own doubts about God’s grace. Together, they will have to face their darkest fears…and learn what it means to have real faith.
Nancy Herriman abandoned a career in Engineering to chase around two small children and take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. Her debut novel, The Irish Healer, will be published by Worthy Publishing in April, 2012. When she is not writing, or gabbing over lattes about writing, she is either watching history shows on cable TV or singing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and sons, and wishes there were more hours in the day. You can learn more at her website, www.nancyherriman.com, where you will also find a link to the opening chapter of The Irish Healer and a book trailer.