Every author dreams of opening a box that’s just been delivered to her house and finding the first copies of her new book inside. The joy that comes from holding the finished product of long hours of work can be overwhelming. But no one wants the nightmare of receiving an irate letter from a reader stating displeasure over the fact that something in the book is incorrect. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes, but there is a way to cut down on the possibility of that happening. The answer lies in one little word—research.
Although research can be tedious and time consuming, taking the time to make the story authentic will be worth it in the long run. Research can take many forms. The internet gives us access to the world, and we don’t have to leave home to visit foreign settings or find out about customs in other places. Libraries contain books that are great sources of information, and librarians are always eager to help a writer. Also you’ll find individuals in your hometown with expertise in areas that you may need help. Most people are delighted to help, especially if you tell them they will be thanked in print for helping make the book possible.
In my latest book Angel of the Cove, I have a scene where a mountain midwife is delivering a breech baby. This scene proved very emotional for me to write. Women today in childbirth have all the advantages of modern medicine to assist them. In 1894 that wasn’t true in a remote cabin in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. Although I’d searched the internet and felt I’d described the process accurately, I ran my scene by a local obstetrician, and he informed me I was correct.
One tool that I discovered not long ago is YouTube. Recently I was going to write a chapter that dealt with a group taking a hike up a mountain. Not being an outdoorsman, I had no desire to go hike that mountain myself. However, lots of other folks have done it in the past, and some of those nice people made videos and posted them on YouTube. I’m thankful I found this resource.
Angel of the Cove from Harvest House Publishers is the first of three books in my Smoky Mountain Dreams series,a generational series that follows a fictional family who lived in Cades Cove, Tennessee, a remote valley in the Smoky Mountains. Approximately 2,000,000 people visit Cades Coves each year to see the preserved cabins, churches, and barns that show what life was like before the residents were forced to sell their farms to the government for inclusion in the park. I realized the setting and the way of life there had to be accurate, and I have spent untold hours researching the area. I pray I’ve done those hardy mountain people justice.
Whether you’re researching a period in history or police procedurals, the author must make every effort to give the reader accurate facts. Not being able to find something can certainly lead to madness, but it can become a sense of accomplishment when you can prove a point because you took the time to do your research.
Sandra Robbins is a multi-published author who lives with her husband in the small Tennessee college town where she grew up. At present she has eleven books published and six more contracted. Her books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Contest for excellence in mystery writing, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for romance, the Holt Medallion, and the ACFW Carol Award. I