If you write historical romance, part of what you are selling is the chance to live in someone else’s skin. Maybe your character is Marianne, a half-Jamaican hotelier seduced by a spy during the Crimean War; or Laura, a diplomat’s daughter who rescues a wounded American Marine in the Boxer Rebellion. Either way, flat descriptions from encyclopedias won’t cut it. You need to mine primary sources for the convincing details of everyday life. Where else will you learn how Marianne chased off a thief with her rusty horse pistol, primed only with coffee? Or how Laura saved her favorite white pony from becoming dinner for starving Americans in Beijing? This workshop is designed to introduce the writer to primary sources: how to find them, how to assess their reliability, and how to keep track of the information within them. The emphasis will be on free resources found online, including books, memoirs, newspaper articles, magazines, maps, photographs, and note-taking software. Any period of study is possible, but the best online materials are found for the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, including Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, British India, and American Western periods.
Jennifer Hallock is the author of the Sugar Sun Series, historical romance set during the Philippine-American War. She has lived and worked in the Philippines, but she currently writes at her little brick house on a New England homestead—kept company by her husband, a growing flock of chickens, and two geriatric border collie mutts. She spends her days teaching history and her nights writing historical happily-ever-afters. Before the internet made it easy, Jen worked as a fact-checker for several academic publications. She also researched and published an article on human trafficking for a peer-reviewed journal. These days she teaches generations of history students how to write research papers, and she has even helped a handful of these teenagers get their own work published.