When you discover you have to spend 2 hours searching online for reference photos and details of 1939 Ankara, Turkey just to get a 3 page chapter written, you tend to question whether or not it was a good idea to write a whole novel set at the onset of World War 2.
Or at least, I have. This book may take me a really long time to write.
Well, most of your research should be in the setting I imagine so once you get grounded there you should have to research every detail...well I guess I assume it's a historical fiction so at some point you are making things up as opposed to historical non-fiction.
So the setting should be authentic, but once the trappings are in place you should pick up, I imagine.
My last aborted novel was ostensibly set somewhere in the USA in 1947...I had a good grip on the period, I thought, but not every details. I bulled forward, and when I had characters run across something I wasn't sure of, I made a note to "check this out."
One time I had my heroine getting a home dye-job...I wondered what a home dye kit would look like in 1947...but a quick search online came up empty and I put it off for later. One of many things, actually, that I put off.
(Never got as far as a major checking out...the novel aborted 'cause I'd gone one hundred thousand words in and had no real idea who my heroes were opposing---aliens, ostensibly, but of what nature?---but, someday, I may take another crack at the material.)
The thing is, if you set a story somewhere in the past, and you get a detail wrong, and somebody notices it, it kind of kills the story for them.
Not just fiction, either. I was just reading a new book about the Cuban Missile Crisis, where, early on, the writer mentions one "Adolph" Hitler. Now, Adolf Hitler's name was spelled with an "f," and if this book is wrong in that detail it might be wrong in others. Haven't yet picked the book up again...
Thus my fears. Though really, I imagine I'm concerning myself with this far too early. I should probably just be writing right now, and ignoring the fact that history is trying to give me a backhand across the cheek.
One of my favorite historical fiction series is Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" books.
In an article about writing he had this to say about research:
quote:Do as much research as you feel comfortable doing, write the book and see where the gaps are, then go and research the gaps. But donít get hung up on research - some folk do nothing but research and never get round to writing the book.
My bad. The book I mentioned isn't about the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's about the Bay of Pigs invasion. The former I know too much about, the latter I'd like to learn more. But with that kind of mistake in it, I just don't know.
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The problem with writing in a particular peroid is you're going to be wrong in someones eyes no matter how much research you do. Historical records often contradict each other. I dug through a British text book on WWII, for example. According to it, they had a larger role in the retaking of western Europe than the Americans. Look at an American text and the English Army appeared to be there to guard a flank and that was about it.
It is impossible to get everything right. Focus on historical figures and geography first. Make sure you don't insert technology or an item that doesn't fit (like color TV's during WWII). That can be the hardest part.
I have an idea that involves the Mongols and pre-Columbus Amerind cultures. I know the Mongols had iron weapons but did they forge them? Or did they borrow the technology from neighbors or conquered cultures? Indians never made a gun and I doubt they had a clue how gunpowder was made, were the Mongols as reliable on their enemies for their weapons? That is just a small part of a larger problem that I have pursuing this idea.
One of the pleasures of writing is what you yourself learn. When I wrote THE KABBALIST, I had a general knowledge base of Jewish mystical philosophies and historical figures,but at times I needed to go into more depth as well as broaden my scope. For example, the Archangel Sandalphon (who was once the prophet Elijah), is also the angel of prayer and sometimes depicted as a male gardener and an ice princess, and is the tallest of angels. I worked all of this into the weave of the story. And also discovered the poem Sanadalphon by Henry Wardsworth Longfellow [ http://www.litscape.com/author/Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow/Sandalphon.html] that begins:
Have you read in the Talmud of old, In the Legends the Rabbis have told Of the limitless realms of the air, -- Have you read it, -- the marvellous story Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory, Sandalphon, the Angel of Prayer?
Longfellow studied the Talmud? Love it.
The more I research, the more satisfaction I get in my writing--even if it is only getting a correct word or finding the correct ancient text (every mystical tome I reference in my novel is a real text, mostly esoteric, and some lost in history and known by name alone).
Recall, that Elijah is not the only human being to be "taken up" by G-d to Heaven. The first was Enoch who, in Jewish mysticism and folklore, became the Archangel Metatron.
Unlike Metatron, however, Sandalphon/Elijah has far greater affinity with human beings, human concerns, and the physical world. S/he is the Archangel of Malkuth (i.e. "the Kingdom"--our physical universe), the lowest of the ten sephira that emanate from G-d to Creation.
In Jewish tradition and folklore (and also in Christian and Islamic ones), Elijah not infrequently visits earth. It so happens, s/he'll be here tomorrow during the Pesach/Passover seder dinner in every Jewish home around the world. I've just finished polished his wine cup! I humbly suggest that an Archangel's puissance would nicely explain the pulling off such a feat.
In THE KABBALIST: THE FOUNDATION OF THE KINGDOM, Cane literally drops in on Sandy in the tenth sephira. In the second novel, tentatively entitled THE KABBALIST: THE PROPHETS, Cane's gonna get an uninvited guest (Sandy) as a 2012 Armageddon scenario plays out -- though I don't suspect I'll finish the thing until 2013...