Found: Five Fun Facts About Historic Research!

Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Found: Five Fun Facts About Historic Research!

Sunday evening I visited a friend. I wanted to return some books he let me use while researching my most recent children’s mystery, The Nearly Twins and the Secret in the Mason Jar. I also wanted to give him a copy of the book. We had a great time talking about local history and I could have come home with several more books about the history of Western North Carolina. Mr. Pooch Pace is not just a respected veteran of the Korean War, but, as I have discovered, a valuable local history source.

When I set out to write my first book I certainly didn’t plan to write historical fiction. In fact I chose to write in the present because I didn’t want to deal with historical research. It seemed too hard. I just wanted to tell a story about cousins at their grandparents’ ranch. The only history I really wanted to talk about was mine!

But then the second book happened and in the process it became imperative and even—gasp!—interesting to find out more about the town where the mystery would be set. After all, the history would inform the plot of my book. And so it began. Now I start with learning about the history of the town then let that give me the plot.

In the process I have learned several things. I thought I would share a few with you!

 

Sharing stories is a gift that gives both ways.

People sometimes thank me for writing stories they like to read. But, the truth is I get as much, or more enjoyment from learning about the town. I had no idea that Saluda, NC, had such a varied and rich history. Now I dream of time-traveling back to Saluda for a summer. In addition, the people you meet along the way, or the friendships that are deepened, are gifts that will keep giving.

 

Every place has history that can add value to our current life.

I learned about the power of music in the treatment of patients with dementia while researching for this most recent book. I am a nurse. My two worlds collided and I’ve actually used music in a room to help calm a patient. In addition, when you learn the history of your area it opens up opportunities for fun family activities like museums, historic sites, even just an awareness of what was on your piece of land before you arrived. What value do you suppose you could gain by learning some of your neighborhood’s history, or researching a new topic?

 

There is always more history under the surface.

History layered on history. – As I’ve researched for my books it’s become difficult sometimes to decide which historic element will be used in my story. Saluda was like that. There was history from before the Revolutionary War, clear back when the first settlers made their way into the mountains. There was Native American history. There was Civil War history, 19th century history, transportation history, twentieth century history, medical history . . . do you get the idea? I bet you could find an historic element from your area that hits on one of your unique areas of interest. No kidding!

research books

Most communities have a written source of local history.

I am a huge fan of the community project local history books available in most towns. Someone local decided that they need to record their community’s history. They interview elders, gather photos, and compile the book, then get it printed. One day, along comes an author and she jumps for joy! You see, stories from elders and letters are what’s called “first person accounts”. They are the most valuable research material because they are the most accurate. Check out your local library and bookstores. Ask for a local history, preferably written by a local person. They won’t necessarily have glossy covers and professional bindings, but they are no less valuable than those which do!

 

Research is fun and it’s a great way to build friendships!

It makes me laugh to even write this. Fun was the last word I would have used for research a few years ago. Now, I would love the job of traveling from town to town researching history. Does anyone pay for that? Plus, as an extrovert I’m always looking for people activities. Who knew I could meet such wonderful people this way? You might even find that you are learning new things about some of the elders in your life!

Pooch Bear in Downtown Hendersonville, NC honoring Pooch Pace for his service and the work he does with the honor guard at military funerals.

Pooch Bear in Downtown Hendersonville, NC honoring Pooch Pace for his service and the work he does with the honor guard at military funerals.

How about you? Maybe you’ll find yourself doing something you once thought impossibly boring. Just look around and see what came before. Look at your own back story. Research your town. Try it, you’ll like it!

Have you learned something from research? Share it in the comments below!