Saturday, May 06, 2006

Research For Your Book

I just finished reading the very enjoyable historical novel The Queen's Fool by the incomparable Philippa Gregory. Ms. Gregory is known for her fabulous readability and meticulous research. A novel of the reigns of Edward VI and Queen ("Bloody") Mary, The Queen's Fool delivered. I'm no scholar, but I am always interested in reading anything about the Tudors. As far as I can tell, there were no historical inaccuracies in this book, nor would I have expected any from this author.

However, I found one little detail, one tiny omission which reminded me that no matter how much you research your novel, it's still possible for even the best authors to overlook something. When Elizabeth I was told of Mary's death (thereby making Elizabeth queen), she said, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." This phrase comes from the Book of Psalms, but the author of The Queen's Fool put the words into the mouth of Queen Mary as Mary's own clever saying, which Elizabeth later copied. Elizabeth was actually quoting scripture when she said that, whether she first heard it from Mary or not. The point is that it was not a phrase that Mary or anyone else would have come up with on their own.

I dread making an error in my writing because I did not research something thoroughly enough, or overlooked some small detail that was known to others but not to me. For Gino's Law I have research folders for Law, Medicine, Religion, Real Estate (with subfolders for Eminent Domain and Landmark Status), plus the esoterica of Gino's world, including such things as Rattlesnakes, Reindeer, Cryogenics, and Injection Molds (thanks very much to my father-in-law for that last one!) These are not all of the research folders, just a few. Obvy, the possibilities of my overlooking something are truly endless.

Gah! It's bad enough just worrying about spill chick and typos.

The Net is a great resource, of course. It's a good idea to put feelers out for people who have expertise in the areas you need, too. In addition to my father-in-law, I've found that a man in my writers' group speaks fluent Spanish, and he corrected the mistakes I had already made in my MS. I've been told of another resource for answers to the legal questions I wasn't able to find on my own. I've also spoken with a doctor about alcoholism and diabetes. I've already blogged about the trip Tomcat and I took down to Lampassas to get the feel of the land.

Everything is going to have to be searched and researched until the day (if I am so fortunate that it arrives) I send the galleys off. If I've done my job right, my heart won't thud to the bottom of my stomach with fear and doubt. Maybe I'll be able to say, "It is marvelous in our eyes." No wait - that's much to grand. I'll probably just say, "Well, that was a bitch." (That's not from the Psalms, btw.)