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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Q and A

You ask, and someone will attempt to answer. Our topics this week covered using Google maps, writing what you don't know, travel for research, and researching clothes.

So if you've a question relating to these topics, or to an earlier post, ask away. We're standing by ready to chat!



At 9:33 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Janet, thanks for the info on the riding habit!

I have another question. I have a copy of The A to Z of Regency London, and those maps are fabulous (although I need a magnifying glass to read some of them.) Shortly after pouring over them I thought "Goodness, there should be a companion book that offers explanations and descriptions of the varies sections of town."

Is there such a book?

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Gillian, I have a book called "Georgian London" which you might find useful. Any other suggestions? The problem is that London was the biggest city in the world with a shifting population and the function of various parts of the city changed.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Margay said...

My question is this: If you can't actually travel to the places you want to write about, how do you write about them with authority? Can you do that?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I think you can write with authority even if you haven't been somewhere. Do as much research as possible and then write. As authors we really want to get it right, but most readers will forgive a mistake or two if they love your characters and the story.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Margay said...

Thanks, Mo H, this is a great help to me because it's something I worry about as I write. Now I can do so with a lot more confidence! Thank you for the prompt response.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Thanks, Janet. I'll be sure and look that up.

Margay, I think some of it depends on what type of story you write. Some people's plots really center around a location and it's variables, so that would be harder. Other stories are so character driven that the h/h could easily be in a variety of settings with little consequence to the story.

I get worried, too. Sometimes it helps me to consider what exactly about the location I need to know and convey to the reader (the smells of the docks? the sounds of a party?) and concentrate my research in that area, so as not to eat up all my time.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

The book I turn to to find out anything I need about London is The London Encyclopedia

There is a new edition due in August, but you can find used versions at

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

margay, to bring a setting alive even though you have not been there? Use your imagination. You bring characters alive without ever knowing them; it is the same for setting.

Just try to get as many details correct as you can. Search for as much as you can on the internet and use Terry's FABULOUS idea of seeking information from a real estate agency or chamber of commerce. For my English settings I use and lots of travel sites.

I sold my Regency set Historical to a BRITISH publisher Mills & Boon, without ever having set foot in England. If I can do it, anyone can!

And Nora Roberts doesn't visit all the places she writes about. She uses the internet too.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

More about The London Encyclopedia, gillian.

It has over 1000 pages, over 5000 entries.

If I want to know about Covent Garden, I look it up. I've set my wip near there so I also looked up Adam Street (where my hero lives). I looked up Somerset House. Drury Lane theatre. There are often cute little details, like the fact that hedgehogs were sold as pets in Covent Garden; they eat beetles that are a pest in buildings there.

The entries almost always give a history of the place with dates so you know what was there and when.
It includes references to building that no longer exist, too.

It is an expensive book, but well worth it! You might want to see what the price is for the August edition. It hasn't been posted yet.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Thanks so much, Diane. I poked around and found it for around $40 on that site. I'm sure the new version will be much more expensive. For now, I think I'll check with our library so I can peek at it.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

I'm recycling a question from yesterday from Doglady about essential reference books for the Regency and wondered whether anyone had any favorites. I like "England in the 18th Century" by Roy Porter and
"Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels" by Deirdre Le Faye.

Any other recommendations?

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Reference books for the Regency.

By far my favorite is Emily Hendrickson's A Regency Reference Book, available on CD from her website

To learn about the time period - OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY: HISTORY OF REGENCY ENGLAND by Carolly Erickson

I tend to use PRINCE OF PLEASURE by Saul David a lot, too.

I own The Regency Companion by Laudermilk and Hamlin but it is going for $280 these days and isn't quite worth that much.

The London Encyclopedia, as I mentioned before.

Those are just off the top of my head....

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Margay, I believe in writing historicals the author has no choice but to write about what she cannot visit. Most of my books set in England were written before I went there. But think for a minute about writing medievals or perhaps ancient historicals. Almost all of that world is gone now, so all we can really see are ruins. Imagine how the White Tower in the tower of London looked when it actually was gleaming white! Did you know most stone castles were painted or whitewashed? Did you know the interiors of churches, chapels and cathedrals were gaudily painted? How much can you actually learn from visiting walls so crumbled only the rubble core remains?

And the things that are most important in making a story come alive are the people and how they lived. Today we can only learn of those things from historical accounts, archaeology and the like.
There's no way to really go there.

When I first put Willam II, called Rufus, in a book, I became astonished at how much the later books I found contradicted the earlier ones. How enigmatic the man was! And how his biographers hated him so much, they just plain lied! How does an author deal with that!

So what is the real truth about the past? We can't go there. It's gone. We can only do our best, and from that, used our imagination.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Even Nora Roberts makes mistakes. I don't recall the title of the book, but perhaps not even if she had visited Oregon to research it, she might not have come across one tidbit of information: Oregon is the only state in the US in which it is illegal for a person to pump his own gas.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Delle: Ha! I never knew that!

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Margay said...

Delle, thank you so much for your response to my question/concern. It was very informative and put my mind at ease about some concerns that I had. And who knew about the gas thing? Illegal to pump your own gas? Wow, you really do learn something new every day!

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oregon isn't the only State where it is illegal to pump your own gas.... As anyone who has driven the New Jersey Turnpike knows very well. New Jersey is very proud of the fact, too.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

There you go, Diane! My research didn't extend East of the Mississippi! I just took someone else's word for it. But the thng is, Nora did do her research on
Oregon, and quite thoroughly. The gas pumping was something she took for granted, it never having occurred to her there was a place where it didn't happen.

So just write your story when you believe you're ready to write it. You CAN'T be 100% right, or it wouldn't be fiction.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

And readers will forgive mistakes if you deliver a great story, as Nora does with great regularity!

Try your best to be accurate but accept that you just can't know what you do not know.

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I just had another thought. Ask yourself questions. Don't, for example, assume all police cars are the same color as they are in your area. Ask yourself, as much as you can, "I wonder if I'm right on this."

I've had that situation with Regency facts. If I've made a valiant attempt to find out and I can't, I assume that the fact I'm searching for is equally obscure to most Regency readers. But I know SOMEBODY out there probably knows the fact.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger doglady said...

Just got home after attending a Readers Luncheon in Huntsville. I had a wonderful time! Met Trish Milburn and Janice Lynn and a number of other authors.

Thank you Janet and O Divine One for these fabulous references! Is it just me or does it seem that the more you learn the more you realize there is MORE to learn? Does that make any sense?

At 6:54 PM, Blogger doglady said...

Dumb question here. Why is it illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon and New Jersey?

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

In New Jersey, I think the intent was to protect jobs, but also to increase safety. All the gas attendants in New Jersey go through training on safe ways to handle gasoline.


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