Research is inevitable when writing a book whether its fiction or nonfiction. It was only after working with elder Marguerite Ensminger for three years did I decide to write Change of Heart for my sons. Later I followed up with Heart of Courage.
Not only did she teach me the difficult guttural sounds of the Arrow Lakes, (Salish) language, but she taught me stories and a way of life that we can all learn from.
A life of:
Importance of family
To appreciate what is important and to forget what won’t matter in a few years.
I spent several years as her friend and three years as her student before her massive stoke that carried her to a life in a nursing home and impending death.
But I still had to research. Information was not hand delivered and typed onto the pages by someone else. I had to research specific local herbs. I’m thankful many years earlier I inherited my grandmother’s book of Herb’s on the Colville Reservation where I reside and the setting of Change of Heart and Heart of Courage take place.
I had to research the area and its terrain. Just because I lived there didn’t mean I knew everything there was no know about life in the 1800’s.
I had to hone my horse behavior analyzing skills so I could put actions to words. I worked with a local trainer Steve Rother who uses Natural Horsemanship techniques and have watched countless hours of horse training videos from various trainers.
A couple local young Natives of the Colville Confederated Tribes agreed to let me interview them. Both Loren Marchand and Ashley Zacherley Caudell have both won Native American flat track and pony express or relay races.
Even though research can lead us on various rabbit trails, it helps to tighten our search goals. There were many times I would look up the needed herbs for pain and contusions and next thing I knew, an hour later, I had listed herbs for everything but what I was scanning the pages for.
List specifics that are needed to make your story authentic?
Location: terrain, weather patterns, vegetation
Herb used for pain in mid 1880’s.
How horse and rider travel through belly deep rivers at high speeds.
How to train horse and human for a relay horse race.
These are just a few examples of what I needed for my Heart Trilogy to be authentic and come alive. I learned to stay on task and not wonder off into other horse related how-to’s. Only then is research an adventure that spurs me on get writing that next book and not just another exhausting check off on the to-do list.
What research do you need to scope out in order to make your story come alive?