Transforming History into a Novel
My process of concocting fiction from fact is based upon immersion. The research habits I follow now are identical to the ones I used when performing in period plays. I frequently worked with a director who required his actors to create a complete and detailed character profile for each and every role. And because I had parts in plays from Shakespeare to Moliere to the Restoration to Sheridan's 18th century comedies of manners to Chekhov's Russia to World War I, research into past times was essential. Digging into social history, biography, and fashion history became second nature.
On stage I was also wearing the clothes, whether restrictive (corsets!) and billowing (full skirts), learning how to move and to speak. (I still sometimes have occasion to dress in period costume, as the recent photo indicates!)
As a scholar of the Tudor, Stuart, and Georgian eras, I regularly sought information in libraries and special collections and art galleries.
I continue to haunt the most renowned research institutions--the British Library, the Public Record Office, the Folger Library, and so many more, studying orginal documents and such primary sources as manuscripts, prints, and maps. But my interest is no longer purely academic. I'm seeking facts as foundation to my story world, and everything I learn is filtered through my imagination. As novelist, I have a license to make things up.
Seeing the places my characters knew is a pleasure and a privilege. Though the centuries have altered so many of the locations they frequented, I appreciate walking corridors they walked, gazing at their portraits, and exploring terrain familiar to them.
The comprehensive slideshow embedded here catalogues the sites in England and Holland that I visited--some more than once--while researching and writing my recently completed novel (whose characters you met on the Books page.)